AYANA V. JACKSON
(b. 1977, New Jersey, USA)
Where light and sound bend.
In preparation for Jackson’s first institutional solo exhibition From the Deep: In the Wake of Drexciya with Ayana V Jackson, slated to open at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the artist will present a selection of her animated works created in collaboration with South African Artist Zweli Mbalo and sound design created in collaboration with Zimbabwean producer Marc Blaze. In addition, the artist will provide an olfactory experience she is currently workshopping ahead of her March 2023 show.
Jackson and Mbalo along with SA editor Eran Tahor bring to life three figures based on the artist’s interpretation of the myth of Drexciya. In this world Jackson blends historical fact and speculative fiction by imagining that the pregnant women who were routinely thrown overboard slave ships as “sick cargo” during the middle passage encounter water spirits/mamiwata’s who are somehow able to midwife these babies while the mothers were dead or dying. These projected animations are accompanied by sound design created by South African musician Nosisi Ngakane and Zimbabwean producer Marc Blaze. This work asks the audience to consider the way the myth of Drexciya is “a revisionist look at the Middle Passage as a realm of possibility and not annihilation” as the late cultural critic Greg Tate put it.
(b. 1980, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)
ACROSS THE CURRENTS
Sculpture & Sound
Patrick Bongoy’s latest work Unmarked Graves is yet another evolutionary exploration of materials (rubber and hessian) he has been working with for over a decade. Reinterpreting themes of ongoing human and environmental erosion, violent economic extraction and exploitation and fragility of homes and memory. This work amplifies the haunting effects of past atrocities in his home country DRC. This new work continues to unveil the inextricable and myriad ways in which these devastating historical impacts relentlessly shape the present and threaten future prospects for true recovery. In many countries the inhumanity of slavery and war has led to thousands of missing people, never to return to their homes and kin.
This whole project comes from the concept of the “Ghost memory” which tells the story of what we have so lost but/and we still believe or we are in a complete denial and think that we still have it. The house represents a shelter, a physical identity or environment that brings us within ourselves in discovery of who we truly are_ The letter from the dense forest “distorted speech or statement“ reminds one of all the lies, promises and dreams that we were told that never came true. This artwork allows the observer to [Re] connect with memories of a former life, past and dream. It allows for a chance to [Re] Enter a space in our mind that we tend to lock deep within. “Our environment holds the history of our time, it’s important for humans to be allowed to go back into certain spaces and environments in such a way that we can rediscover and heal”
NELISIWE XABA & MOCKE J VAN RENSBURG
(b. 1980 & 1976, Johannesburg, South Africa)
After being associated closely with the Donald Trump US presidency, the concept of fake news has, in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, become highly pertinent again, with misinformation, conspiracy theories and science denialism running rampant across social media as well as more traditional media forms. The Fake N.E.W.S framework focuses on the contemporary South African socio-political and cultural context, aiming to process these aspects of media politics as well as incorporating a critique of the emergent predominance of virtual presence that has characterised the new pandemic normal. An overhead camera and projection translates seemingly chaotic on-stage contortions into a mediated world with its own absurd physics, mirroring how media and information technologies create and package a seductive world of sense from the chaos of everyday life. The machinations of propaganda are playfully deconstructed with physical performance veering into animation.
The digital technology is exposed as an integral performative component. Lines are blurred between body and screen, reality and mediated image. The power dynamic between live body and screen image is complicated by projection on the body, where the image is literally carried by and contained in the body. The development of this iteration of Fake N.E.W.S was conducted through workshops with staff and students from the Wits School of the Arts as part of an Arts Research Africa Residency.
LUKE RADLOFF, UNIFORMZA
(b. 1985, East London, South Africa)
Using the foundations of his brand, UNI FORM By Luke Radloff, the installation will be further exploring his perspective on everyday uniforms in relation to the brand’s physical location, Johannesburg, South Africa. Through a series of individual installations, Radloff creates a greater dialogue around the themes of identity, race and the intersectional conversations as they relate to uniforms and to himself as a White South African.
Fashion and clothing are often conflated as one, here the designer pushes his relationship to clothing rather than fashion, which by popular theory can be highly glamorized and seen as frivolous. Clothing, however, is directly linked to our everyday existence in multiple ways and is a strong commonality.
The work utilizes specific iconography and totems of uniformed and industrial environments from across different so-called class and racial systems as they pertain to contemporary Johannesburg. From the uniformed construction worker surrounded by cement and bricks, to the suit wearing office employee, sitting on bespoke corporate furniture. They are all environments that exist within this uniformed city.
(b. 1989, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Dance Like No-body’s Land
Scultpture, Installation and Sound piece
In this series of sculptures, installation and film, Blessing Ngobeni explores his persona hardships from living on the streets to serving time in prison. Bringing with him a unique and often daunting critique to political structures and systems that exist in South Africa and across the diaspora. Often, if not always, in Ngobeni’s work corruption, incompetence and duplicity of the current South Africa ruling class democratic ideals. The failure to learn from historical tragedies and the expanding gap between the rich and poor
In this installation the artist uses his expressionist sculptures not only to overtly critique the current status quo, but to ask uncomfortable questions about the African’s experience of the world. His languages also draw inspiration from various bodily movements, political movements which often see humans behave in a Guernica-sque manner. Ngobeni confronts his own experiences of being incarcerated and challenges them in the often-nightmarishly absurd and violent scenes of his film and sculptures. These scenes, though brutal and honest, are also a display of the artist’s visual sensitivities to line, composition and the power of colour.
In his film, Dance Like No-body’s Land, the subjects became invisible, in a way that even when they voice themselves, through bodily heavy sounds, the viewer is left with a feeling of heaviness. Those who became conscious, who stood up against this barbaric act where targeted and taken away from their families, incarcerate into a system that would keep them in the system and cycle.
The black subject hasn’t been given a space to breathe, either a space to practice its freedom of movement. In this installation and film, Ngobeni offers to the viewer a brink moment of what could be.