by Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi
The Same Track is a new video work playing on screens and in venues around the city of Birmingham, as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. It uses archival footage of Commonwealth Games athletes, spectators, and administrators cut together with images of economic and promotional activity in various British colonies and Commonwealth states. The Same Track draws attention to the fact that the Games, including its current iteration, is implicated in an ongoing political project centuries in the making. It is part of a multi-site video and multimedia artwork titled Equations for a Body at Rest, which tracks the history and symbolic presentation of the Commonwealth Games, and by association, the Commonwealth body itself, from its genesis in empire to the current day.
by Gabrielle Goliath
In Chorus, members of the University of Cape Town Choir sound a lament for Uyinene Mrwetyana – not as song, but the internally generated resonance of a hum, collectively sustained as a mutual offering of breath. In the utter loss marked by this labour, a certain recuperative gesture is nevertheless achieved, in the communal recognition of Black feminine life. The performance resonates in intimate relation to the haunting presence of an empty rostra, its quietude marking the absent presence of four hundred and sixty-three individuals listed on a commemorative roll, whose lost lives similarly call for the long, collective, and as we must hope, transformative work of mourning.
by Mohau Modisakeng
ZANJ is a continuation from the performance Land of Zanj, recently commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial. Here, Modisakeng created a choreographed procession as a symbol for the movement of bodies and trade between the Gulf area and the east African coast. This strategy is mimicked in the artist’s latest photographic series, which shows figures cloaked in black moving across a rocky terrain. Who are and were these veiled subjects? Could they have been Africans captured to be pearl-divers, led between home and circumstance? Or could they be deporting migrants, a contemporary relic of the aforementioned history? Modisakeng urges the audience to engage with these figures as poignant markers of this legacy of movement, using invocations of violence as a tool to evoke empathy in the viewer.
by Mohau Modisakeng
In each of the artwork’s three projections, we are confronted with a character – a woman with a hawk perched on her arm, a young man in a Trilby hat and a woman wrapped in a Basotho blanket. The arched shape of the boat frames each passenger with their heads pointed towards the prow of the boat, they are each traveling with a single possession. As the passengers lie motionless on their backs looking up at the sky they begin to perform a series of actions that move between gestures of struggle and resignation. A pool of water gradually forms beneath their bodies. The rising water gradually floods the well of the boat eventually leaving the passengers submerged while the boat is slowly sinking and eventually disappearing.In Passage, the ebb and flow of water, as both life giving and deadly, symbolizes the many who have arrived or departed from South Africa in trade, as cargo or as transient bodies belonging to no particular state. In South Africa, systems of indentured labour and slavery were instituted by the Cape Colony in 1652 to meet the growing demand for labour. Dutch settlers imported people from the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Madagascar, East Africa and Angola, putting them to work on plantations and at ports. South Africa became a jostling ground between the Dutch and British, its native people rendered as mere commodities moving through the establishment of an industrialized mining economy, as labourers and as soldiers in the Anglo Boer and world wars. In Setswana the experience of life is referred to as a ‘passage’. The Setswana word for life, botshelo, means ‘to cross over’. As such, all human beings are referred to as bafeti (‘voyagers’), a word that points to the fact that the experience of life is transient; it has a beginning and an end, as with any voyage.
by Alexander Opper
by Nandipha Mntambo
by Alexander Opper
by Bridget Baker
Jetty SCOUR suggests the surface markings and scrapings left on a ship or jetty during docking periods in harbours. Here is the present day ‘arrival’ of the human-transporter, a replicated 19th century cane-woven basket or ‘lift’ to a harbour in South Africa. The original would have been used off the coast of Algoa Bay in South Africa from 1890-1920 to lift colonial settlers to and from ships at sea before the development of harbours. Here BB works with the object as historical witness, to engage with contested sites and legacies linked to the arrival of her own ancestors, a British settler family, to that same bay in 1820. The film, whilst documenting a contemporary working harbour within the economy of international trade, marks this space and place with historical encryptions, the smallest tensions, that refuse a “blanking out” of history.
by Nandipha Mntambo
Marie Sara continues the artist's long-held fascination with the sport of bullfighting. Mntambo explains:
Marie Sara is a French bullfighter who in 1991 was Europe's only female rejoneador, a bullfighter who fights the bull on horseback. She is now retired and trains younger fighters from her farm home in Nîmes. Her experiences in this male-dominated arena were my initial interest and motivation for making this video work. I wanted to get an insight into the world of bullfighting through her memories - what she chooses to tell me, what she may not want to tell me and the things she may forget to tell.
On the first screen we see a series of video studies of the Arena of Nîmes, once an important site for bullfighting in Europe, now a monument to the past. The amphitheatre itself and sculptures dedicated to past matadors are treated as still lifes through a sensual, slow tracking of surface. The second screen introduces us to Marie Sara herself, but denies easy access (she speaks in French and the conversation is partially subtitled), instead asking that we use Sara's indeterminate gesture, tone and movement to complete the story she tells. As we move back and forth between the screens we are caught between fixed meaning and the ineffability of experience.
by William Kentridge
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