Video Still from “By and by some trace remains” (2015) 10’59
This piece was selected for and presented in the Rencontres de Bamako: Telling Time Biennale in 2015, Bamako, Mali. In this work I engaged the vestiges of stories that don’t get told, that get hidden or written out in the processes of narrativising and constructing canonic ‘official’ narratives. The work settles into form and takes shape between the lingering non-narratives, the elided and the imaginings beyond what is immediately discernible. It was a reaction to the experiential impact of being in and inhabiting the historically loaded space which acts as a marker of histories of trauma beyond the walls of the ramparts of Constitution Hill in which the the piece was shot. The room in the video has a kind of stillness that feels like it has not been interrupted for a long time.
In the stillness a woman appears. She moves about cleaning the room. Here she cleans the room that is out of sight of the world, hidden where things that are unrecorded and un-remembered happened. It is a room that has been witness to things of such a nature that they were obliged to be carried out deep underground, buried beneath the earth away from the living before they transpired. As the woman cleans her gesture echoes the actions of women jailed in the women’s jail of Constitution Hill and in this act of cleaning her body references the bodies of generations of black women in South Africa (and beyond South Africa) whose restricted opportunities have been confined to the strictly regimented social space of servitude. That she is tasked with maintain palatability for others points to a kind of perversion where those most dispossess by power are the one set the task of keeping things pleasant for the powerful. She cleans the space that was implicated in the systems of oppression that subjugated her. Here, as she is “caught in the act” of sanitising the haunting eerie filth of the dungeon, her gesture becomes both a critiquing of erasure and a making visible of the processes and the cost-to- someone-else in erasure and eliding – the preoccupations that frames this engagement.