“I was her and she was me and those we might become” at the Seven Hills, 2nd Kampala Biennale.
Vide still from “My Story No doubt is me Older than me” (2015) 5’56sec
My installation “I was her and she was me and those we might become” was selected for and exhibited in the 2nd Kampala Biennale, Seven Hills. The Seven Hills of the Kampala biennale theme have, for me, a resonance with a conception of deep time, a time of multiple histories that overlap, contest but are ultimately intertwined as co-producers of what has come to shape it as place. There is the time of the post colonial, the time of the colonial, a time of a de-colonial contestation as old as the colonial itself, a much deeper and longer time since the pre-colonial that runs through them, and enveloping them all a geological time of the earth – the hills that have been witness to all the comings and goings, shifts and upheavals – that have shaped the space, over time, into a place. They are layered upon each other to become palimpsest on a site that has been the constant present.
To imagine a history of place and people is to necessarily imagine these numerous times intersecting across shifting axes. It is in the shiftiness of the crossroads where space intersects with its many temporalities – both the pasts and projected futures – that I locate a productive arena to engage with ideas of mobility of peoples and cultures as they move in and out of settled form. It is an unstable ground on which to locate and define selves, both at the level of the personal and amongst a collective people. This project is in some ways a gesture, making a case for this instability of the shifting silt of deep time and history that make us; that we are produced though displacements, migrations as they have taken place and continue their ebbs and flows despite the impulse to lock down local identities as discreet, contained or finite.
The work I presented in the biennale is a visual articulation of this idea of palimpsest of multiple times. The work is part of a broader ongoing process, a series of experiments and installations comprised of audio visual fragments I have been collecting as I have travelled. In each iteration of the project I explore ways of bring fragmentary reflections together around and in response to a place. The project grows and augments, shape shifting in response to place much like the shape shifting time travelling figure of a woman at the centre of most of my videos. She is a nomad in time, a person of the world shaped by their local without being tethered to it.
Visually the work “I was her and she was me and those we might become” takes on these ideas by articulating the concept of Sankofa (An Adinkra concept loosely meaning one has to look back from where they came to see where they are going) through the use of tools and resources of the internet age. As a visual articulation of this translation between the ancient and the contemporary I source imagery and symbols online that speak to deep time and space as they are understood through different mythologies and epistemologies and constitute an image of palimpsest through these images. While privileging Sankofa as a concept located in an African Adinkra episteme, the visual articulation of the concept draws from, and without contradiction, utilises imagery of star charts from as far a field as the ottoman empire (temporally) and Polynesia (spatially) to describe the concept.
I presented 3 videos in the space of the installation. Two were projected onto adjoining walls of a space and the third was displayed on a screen within and interrupting the wall with one of the projections. The video in the small monitor located the body of a woman in the context of the images of time and space enveloping the demarcated screen. The projection on the adjoining wall consisted of the same woman with the constellations mapped on her body. She shifts (marked by changes in clothing as cultural marker) through different versions of herself. On the intimacy of her body we see the markers of a world in relation much broader than her individual self and she carries with her the traces of the complex intersections that formed her.
The work speaks to ideas pertaining to movement and migration of overlapping imaginaries and identities using imagery that locates it in relation to this idea of ‘deep time’ while the method relies on the most of contemporary of mediums (video) and source (the internet). It is a gesture towards how we, individually and collectively, personally and culturally shape shift as our world shifts. As we are constantly becoming in communication and in translation with those we inevitably come across in those cross currents of time and space, the work produces and functions at that intersection of temporal and spacial [the Place] of becoming imaginatively and in relation. It is where there is an agency to orchestrate the things that make us, those things that are always in flux, so they might produce a shape we see fit for ourselves.