Umhlaba — Earth, Soil, Land
Ulahleko — Loss, being lost, wandering
Curating an art-centered project around such seemingly intractable issues as land and food in South Africa adds layers of complexity atop contestable layers of troubled socio-political and socio-economical histories. South Africa, whose uneven socio-economic structural frame was brutally exposed by the ravages of the Covid-19 Pandemic and, still reeling from the impact of a collapsing political infrastructure, remains, by measure of the Gini coefficient, the most unequal society in the world. In many instances, ours is a history awash with bloody tales of bodies planted in the soil as a sacrifice to the rapacity of colonial and latter day capitalism.
At the generous invitation of Tania El Khoury and Gideon Lester and spanning two cities, Umhlaba Wolahleko is a compilation of collaborative and curated events that intentionally attempt to speak to the restitution of collective as well as individual ownership of practices and land upon which birth is given to life, community, food, culture, stories, histories, etc. Smuggling activist tactics and applying art-making tools, the project brings together diverse practices in an attempt to engage with ancestral connectedness to seed harvesting/archiving, acts of land restitution, indigenous cultural practices through hybridized installation forms of film, performance, documentary art and storytelling.
Conceived to be in two phases; Umhlaba Wolahleko | Prodigal Land is in collaboration with filmmaker Mocke Jansen van Veuren and his Wits School of Film & Television students and is located in Johannesburg. The collaboration develops further upon the ongoing work between the school and Prince Rashid Juma’s Go Green land restitution project in Eldorado Park, which is engaged in the reclamation of derelict land.
On earth as it is in here is the second phase and is located at camaguTshawe in Gqeberha. This phase constellates all the installations, performances, video and sound materials of the collaborators and invited artists around the farm compound where the onsite events will take place.
Using art as a ruse to trigger or expand dialogue around topical issues of historic, as well as contemporary import, the project does not purport to be a megaphone for the voiceless, but only a tool that can, hopefully, be sharp enough to penetrate bubbles of our, at times rigid, convictions of the incontestable truth of our stories. If that fails, the hope is that we’ll have had a brief, hopeful moment to breathe and share laughter, a story and a good meal together.
— Boyzie Cekwana
The projects below are ongoing and will continue to be updated here: