Noka Ya Bokamoso

Seen on July 8, 2016 @ National Arts Festival

As you enter the exhibition space a first video is playing on loop. Against a motived red background Lerato Shadi is in conversation with her mother. Both women seem to be at ease with each other and taste each other’s story. One with sugar on the tongue, the other with salt. A somewhat incomprehensible ritual is taking place as the two rest in each other’s company.

Turning your gaze from the video the artist is seated at the far end of the gallery, corchetting an enormous ball into a red carpet or a long scarf. For eight hours a day she continues her performance during the full length of the festival. There is no bottle or lunch box to be seen. She does not speak. This self imposed fast and silence makes the thousands and thousands of women visible who daily engaged in crafts making useful items like scarfs and hats to keep themselves and their children warm. And so the carpet becomes a tribute to those unsung heroes that have been silenced by history, but made their mark in the lives of those they cared for.

Another performance is the writing on the wall, again in red. Three big circles contain a story, erased and written again, an attempt to rewrite one’s own history as a black woman in South Africa.

The last installation is a video installation with two screens. We see a human body from top to toe dressed in a red latex costume walking and dancing in nature, distant, out of place. On the other screen the artist is binding her tong with some red wool and almost swallowing her tongue that has been made captive.

Every part of Noka Ya Bokamoso has a disturbing element, the red of the earth and of blood returning, exploring the visibility and invisibility of the black woman. The set up of the space leaves a lot of room for contemplation and is an invitation to wonder about what the artist is doing.

What and who needs to be seen and heard? What kind of future do we imagine if so much of history has been erased?