arundhati roy – excerpt from ‘war talk’ (2003)

Arundhati_RoyOur strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.

― Arundhati Roy, from War Talk (South End Press, 2003).

opening tomorrow: lerato shadi – noka ya bokamoso

lerato shadi
NOKA YA BOKAMOSO: A SOLO EXHIBITION BY LERATO SHADI

2016 National Arts Festival – Grahamstown
Alumni Gallery, Albany History Museum
30 June – 10 July

Lerato Shadi invites you to her latest solo exhibition and debut National Arts Festival appearance, Noka Ya Bokamoso. This exhibition by the Mahikeng born, Berlin based video and performance artist is one of the six visual art showcases chosen for the main programme.

The exhibition features four of Shadi’s latest works; two performative installations Makhubu and Mosako Wa Nako as well as two video works Sugar & Salt and Untitled.

Curator, Joan Legalamitlwa says,

“The works on the show were purposefully selected as they weave together history as told by and through the Black female body, in its truest and sincerest form, as it should be. Noka Ya Bokamoso is about the Black subject being in control of its own narrative and also about encouraging the visitors to do some introspection when it comes to matters of identity and representation.”

Makhubu is a work performed in the days preceding the festival, executed in absence of an audience. This performance involves Shadi arduously writing in concentric circles with a red pencil, then erasing the writing, leaving traces of the text on the wall and red remnants of the rubber eraser on the floor. This work looks at the historical erasure of the Black subject within the context of Grahamstown’s problematic history as well as historic erasure in the national narrative and how that has impacted on the kinds of stories that we currently tell. The absence of an audience becomes a corporeal metaphor, emphasising the ways in which South Africans, continue to construct a sense of nationhood unaware of significant violent acts that have shaped them.

For Mosako Wa Nako, Shadi will be seated one end of the gallery space for an uninterrupted six hours a day, over the eleven days of the Festival, crocheting what looks like be a red woollen carpet. Sugar & Salt, a video work featuring Shadi and her mother consuming a mineral in the form of salt and a carbohydrate in the form of sugar, makes references to the complexities and intricacies of mother-daughter relationships.

Untitled, Shadi’s latest video work, having its world premiere at the National Arts Festival, will be shot on location in her home village of Lotlhakane, in June 2016. The work consists of a two channel video work conceptualised in three parts: the first deals with the utmost extremes of individual resistance; the second deals with how Shadi experiences the impact of colonial language; the final part is an allegory of resistance.

Shadi’s work explores problematic assumptions projected onto the Black female body and how performance, video and installation create a space for artists to engage with those preconceived notions, making the body both visible and invisible. Using time, repetitive actions as well as stillness, she questions, ‘How does one create oneself?’ rather than allowing others or history to shape one’s person.

The key aim of Noka Ya Bokamoso is to re-center Shadi’s works to its primary audience – the South African audience. Shadi has practiced and exhibited in New York, Bern, Dakar, Moscow and Scotland and now seeks to utilise her work to foster and encourage dialogue around questions of historical knowledge production and its inclusion and exclusion of certain subjects. Her ultimate goal is that she, along with her audiences, will be encouraged not only to consume, but consciously engage in the processes of unearthing subsumed histories and producing critical knowledge.

Lerato Shadi lives and works in Berlin. She completed a BFA in Fine Art from the University of Johannesburg. She was included in The Generational: ‘Younger Than Jesus’ artists directory published by the New Museum, New York. In 2010 she was awarded a Pro Helvetia residency in Bern. In the same year she had her solo exhibition Mosako Wa Seipone at Goethe on Main in Johannesburg. From 2010 to 2012 she was a member of the Bag Factory artist studios in Johannesburg. In 2012 her work was featured at the Dak’art Biennale in Dakar, Senegal and in the III Moscow International Biennale. She is a fellow of Sommerakademie 2013 (Zentrum Paul Klee) and completed in the same year a residency program by invitation of INIVA at Hospitalfield (supported by ROSL). In 2014 she was awarded with the mart stam studio grant. She is currently completing her MFA at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee.

Noka Ya Bokamoso is made possible through the generous support of the National Arts Festival.

chimamanda ngozi adichie – the danger of a single story

[W]hen I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon illustrations that my poor mother was obligated to read, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to.

My characters also drank a lot of ginger beer, because the characters in the British books I read drank ginger beer. Never mind that I had no idea what ginger beer was. And for many years afterwards, I would have a desperate desire to taste ginger beer. But that is another story.

What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify. Now, things changed when I discovered African books. There weren’t many of them available, and they weren’t quite as easy to find as the foreign books.

But because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye, I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized.

Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature. So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story of what books are…

… If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images,I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.

mary reid kelley – you make me iliad

Filmed in 2011 at Mary Reid Kelley’s home and studio in Saratoga Springs, New York, the video artist and painter discusses her video work “You Make Me Iliad” (2010). In researching the lives and experiences of women who lived during the first World War, Reid Kelley was struck by how few first-hand accounts she was able to uncover. Mary Reid Kelley explains her attempts to reconstitute an experience that would have otherwise been lost to history by creating an imagined narrative involving a prostitute, a soldier, and a medical officer.

In black-and-white videos and drawings filled with punning wordplay and political strife, Mary Reid Kelley presents her take on the clash between utopian ideologies and the realities of women’s lives in the struggle for liberation. Performing scripted narratives in rhyming verse— featuring characters such as nurses, soldiers, prostitutes, and saltimbanques—Reid Kelley playfully jumbles historical periods to trace the ways in which present concerns are rooted in the past.

Watch an excerpt from another of Reid Kelley’s works, Sadie the Saddest Sadist on Reid Kelley’s website.

mary-reid-kelley_101146821464.jpg_x_1600x1200Sadie, the Saddest Sadist (7 minutes, 23 seconds), 2009, is set in Great Britain in 1915, according to a free booklet that includes the video’s lyrics. The title character, a munitions worker, wants to learn a trade “so [she] could be a traitor.” She meets Jack, a sailor (played by Reid Kelley in drag), and with “passions inflamed,” she requests rousing war stories. His sung reply: “Calm down sweetheart / Britannia rules the waves.” In pledging herself to him, she offers her “surplus devotion,” and after their off-camera tryst, she sings, “The stains on my sheets / will come out with some lemon / I know that you care / by these Marx on my Lenin.” Live action alternates with stop-motion animation in which dancing refrigerator magnet-style letters spell out the dialogue or toy with it, as when “surplus devotion” is anagrammatized into “spurs devolution.”…

… Reid Kelley’s interest seems to be primarily in historical material, expressed in details such as the patriotic flyers that hang on the walls behind Sadie and Jack when they meet, which urge citizens to conserve food and to fight for king and country. Her fine ear for popular verse makes Reid Kelley’s work rich fun for those who are, as Jack describes himself, “verbally inclined.”

Source: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/reviews/mary-reid-kelley/

stories we tell

Go and see this at the Encounters Documentary Festival, on right now in Cape Town and Jo’burg: the brilliant Sarah Polley‘s genre-defying examination of the workings of memory and narrative related to her own family’s secrets. It’s a gentle yet unflinching interrogation of how truth is shaped by the stories we tell ourselves when making sense of the things that happen in our lives. Humorous, poignant, profound… highly recommended.

out of order

“A minute of silence in images for all the absent images, censored images, prostituted images, machinated images, delinquent images, buggered images, images beaten up by all the governments, televisions and westernized cinemas that rhyme information and repression with trash and culture.”

— Jean-Luc Godard – Le Gai Savoir (The Joy of Learning), 1969

“We can’t really understand. Of course. They’re speaking out of order.”

Continue reading

the notebook: it’s ok to live life offline

Excerpted from a thoughtful piece by Kayli Stollak, over at Hello Giggles.

Painting by Francine van Hove

Painting by Francine van Hove

Online we tell a golden version of our lives filled with accomplishments, strictly (and often unbelievably) fun times, and a never-ending well of wit. The glorified digital narrative that we construct of our lives worries me like a 1950’s housewife watching Elvis wiggle his hips on TV. Our modern-day record keeping seems wildly inaccurate to the truth of our inner lives. What is happening in our too-much-information-nation? But more importantly, what is happening with us? Behind all the selfies and sandwich shots, who are we?

In order to correct the imbalance of truth, I propose we start writing it down. We share so much of ourselves with the web, but do we take enough time accounting for our private lives in realm that is removed from the world of likes, comments and followers? The idea of keeping a journal is nothing new, but we’re living in a time where we could benefit from taking a personal inventory of who we are, lest we deceive our future selves through our revisionist digital autobiographies.

While our faces are buried in our phones, we risk missing the smaller details in life. If we don’t remember the bad, how can we possibly enjoy the good to the highest degree? With time, I’m concerned we’ll look back at our Facebook timelines and mistake the façade that we presented of ourselves as fact for who we actually were.

As a writer who spends a large (and probably unhealthy) amount of time writing about herself, I often hear the condemnation of navel gazing. Sure, it is narcissistic to think your life is exciting enough to put to paper, but is it really more self-centered than a side-angled pouty pose of you enjoying your fun-filled Saturday night in the club, posted to Instagram with hopes of garnering likes from your followers, confirming that, yes, you are hot? I would venture to say that the former is self-reflective and productive, while the latter is vapidity and belly-button eagle eye-ing at its worst.

I’m not recommending you go all “dear diary” and start documenting your daily rhythms by laboriously chronicling what you ate for breakfast, the jerk who cut you off on the freeway, or what your plans are for the weekend—if that works for you, do it, but there’s no need to pen a three volume memoir. What I’m championing is the process of jotting down your feelings, thoughts, conversations, inspirations, events that meant something to you now that you might benefit from reflecting on in the future. This is a dose of honesty for you today, in five months, in ten years, at 97. To look back on after your next break up, when you’re contemplating marriage, on your graduation, before a big interview, or simply on a rainy day.

Your notebook should be far from the manicured image you pimp out on Instagram, Facebook, OKCupid, etc. In Joan Didion’s 1966 essay “On Keeping a Notebook”, written before our over-stimulated minds were flooded with technology and its never-ending distractions, she explained, “We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensées, we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.”

For me, a piece of ‘mind string’ is the harmonica chords to ‘Piano Man’ scribbled in my notebook from 2008. A stranger might assume a bizarre Billy Joel fixation, but when I revisit them in my journal, the mess of notes and the triggered sound insist on memories of a motorcycle trip through Spain and feelings of maddening love. All you need is sentence, a word, a thought, and suddenly you remember who you actually were.

If I skip forward in my notebook to 2009 I stumble upon a string of doubts, the point where this love began to unravel. The same way the smell of sunscreen can instantly bring back memories of summer,  a list labeled “Pros and Cons” reminds me of the creeping anxiety I felt for planning my future. My Facebook timeline, however, tells a different tale of a giddy girl with bangs who enjoys raves, beaches, and doing the limbo.

Didion advocated for the importance of preserving a part of yourself that in time you can return to. She wrote, “It all comes back. Perhaps it is difficult to see the value in having one’s self back in that kind of mood, but I do see it; I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not… We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what screamed, forget who we were.”

Notebooks are fantastic tools for keeping in touch with our former selves that go far beyond the sculpted image we present on the web. I love delving back into my journals from middle school to the present, not because I’m a fan of the person I see there, but rather because I understand the benefit of knowing her.

francine van hove 02

Painting by Francine van Hove

I want to yell at my thirteen year-old self to please take off that padded bra andstop being in such a rush to grow up. I want to hold my fourteen year-old self and explain to her that you are the company you keep and the sooner she starts loving herself the better. I want to bitch slap my sixteen year-old self, she was one angsty girl. I want to tell my seventeen year-old self not to mistake lust for love and to please stop talking to that boy in the band that told you he learned how to play “Brown-Eyed Girl” for you when, in fact, your eyes are green. I want to stay up all night talking to my twenty year-old self, feeding off her energy and drinking up her thirst for spontaneity. I want to see the world through her eyes, she reminds me to believe in magic. I want to whisper in the ear of my twenty-three year-old self, and tell her that soon enough she will see that it really was a means to an end. I want to tell my twenty-five year old self to trust her gut and not settle, I want to remind her what love looks like and tell her that this is not it. But I can’t tell her any of that. All I can do is learn from her mistakes, be reminded of what to hold meaning to, take note of her intuition, celebrate the coincidences, and enjoy all the beautiful moments and connections made.

Although I already know how most of the stories end, it’s important to track the progress I’ve made, reminding me who I am and who I was. To draw my own attention to the larger patterns my tendencies and predilections make when I can see them from a bird’s eye view. A notebook can serve as a wake up call on what I may be rightly or wrongly romanticizing and what I may be purposefully forgetting. Notebooks give us a shot at staying honest and in touch with ourselves, something I think we should strive to be in this digital age.

Read the full article HERE. Thanks to Stella for sharing it.