In Context / this past was waiting for me / 2018


Goodman Gallery Cape Town
30 August – 29 September 2018

Curated by Liza Essers and Emma Laurence

John Akomfrah // Ghada Amer // Yto Barrada // Lisa Brice // Nolan Oswald Dennis // Regina José Galindo // Ja’Tovia Gary // Yuki Kihara // Grada Kilomba // Misheck Masamvu // Zanele Muholi // Beatriz Santiago Muñoz // Wangechi Mutu // Shirin Neshat // Yinka Shonibare MBE // Mickalene Thomas // Naama Tsabar // Kara Walker // Carrie Mae Weems

In Context: this past was waiting for me takes its cue from contemporary women artists – hailing from America, Guatemala, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Kenya and Samoa (many with ancestral roots in Africa) – united by an ambition to unfurl suppressed stories.

This is the third iteration of In Context, an ongoing curatorial initiative started by Liza Essers in 2010 in response to South Africa hosting the World Cup and temporarily becoming ‘home’ to the world. This sparked reflection on the complex dynamics of home, which artists like Kara Walker, Yinka Shonibare and Candice Breitz addressed in work dealing with slave narratives, structures of power and institutionalised racism. These themes extended to the second iteration of In Context, titled Africans in America (2016), which was curated by Hank Willis Thomas and spoke to the flows, exchanges and continuities between the continent of Africa and the United States. ‘The project was envisioned as a way of adding to the representation of South Africa, broadening the narrative and taking note of voices from surprising quarters,’ says Essers.

this past was waiting for me continues to mine tensions of place and the body, bringing narratives and identities into focus which have been obscured by history. In reference to colonialism, Grada Kilomba describes this complex interplay between the past and present as ‘a wound that has never been properly treated – an infected wound that always hurts and sometimes bleeds’.

Addressing this ‘wound’ requires acknowledging its existence. Yto Barrada, Wangechi Mutu, Shirin Neshat, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker and Carrie Mae Weems, among others, unpack the complex historical dynamics that have come to dictate the ways in which lives are valued and bodies are controlled. The reflection prompted by this work creates a liberating but charged space for transformation – a concept contained in the word ‘waiting’ in the exhibition’s title, which conjures current frustrations around the lack of urgency for social change in South Africa and internationally, giving way to Fallism, Brexit and the rise of Trump. The title of the show, this past was waiting for me is from a Lucille Clifton poem, which speaks to the exhibition’s concerns to revisit and re-construe hidden histories and identities, stating:

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it

Artists like Naama Tsabar and Yuki Kihara channel this transformative potential through their work. Using sound and sculpture, Tsabar envisions a utopian world in which attentiveness, passion and solidarity outweigh dominance and discrimination. In Kihara’s film work a reference to the Polynesian demigod of transformation, Maui, embodies the redemptive ability of art to transcend suffering – an ideal that defines the essence of this exhibition.

  • An Audience / Rhapsody

    Kara Walker

    An Audience / Rhapsody, 2014

    Digital video with sound

    Edition of 5

  • The Tate Modern

    Carrie Mae Weems

    The Tate Modern, 2006 - present

    Digital C-print

    Frame: 185.4 x 156.2 x 6.3 cm / Image: 125.7 x 125.7 cm

    Edition of 5

  • Blue Notes

    Carrie Mae Weems

    Blue Notes, 2014

    Archival inkjet print with silkscreened color blocks

    Frame: 99.1 x 78.7 x 5.1 cm / Image: 73.7 x 53.3 cm / Paper:...

  • Blue Notes (Claudia Lennear #1)

    Carrie Mae Weems

    Blue Notes (Claudia Lennear #1), 2014

    Archival inkjet print with silkscreened color blocks

    Frame: 99.1 x 78.7 x 5.1 cm / Image: 73...

  • You Are A Lady

    Ghada Amer

    You Are A Lady, 2015

    Acrylic and embroidery on canvas

    Work: 182.9 x 162.6 cm

  • Parting at Dusk-Gold Study (After Rothenstein)

    Lisa Brice

    Parting at Dusk-Gold Study (After Rothenstein), 2018

    Metallic Renaissance gold medium on Giclee print on coated paper

    Work: 41.5 x 29.2 ...

  • Jet Blue #4

    Mickalene Thomas

    Jet Blue #4, 2018

    Oil paint, glitter, tape, charcoal and oil pastel on paper

    Work: 138.4 x 111.8 cm

  • No compensation is possible (working diagram)

    Nolan Oswald Dennis

    No compensation is possible (working diagram), 2018

    Wallpaper, chalk, found objects

    Variable Dimensions

  • Work on Felt (Variation 7) Black

    Naama Tsabar

    Work on Felt (Variation 7) Black, 2015

    Felt, carbon fiber, epoxy, wood, guitar tuning peg, piano string, piezo, amplifier

    Work: 247.6...

  • Single event upset

    Nolan Oswald Dennis

    Single event upset, 2018

    Ink and collage on paper

    Work: 46 x 61 cm

  • Illusions Vol. II, Oedipus

    Grada Kilomba

    Illusions Vol. II, Oedipus, 2018

    Two-channel video installation, HD, colour, sound, 45’ 26’’. / Two-channel video, HD, colour, sound<...

  • Maui Descending a Staircase II (After Duchamp)

    Yuki Kihara

    Maui Descending a Staircase II (After Duchamp), 2015

    Single channel digital video, silent, 6 min 9 sec

    Edition of 7

  • Ox-Pecked

    Wangechi Mutu

    Ox-Pecked, 2018

    Painting on Mylar, ink and paint

    Paper: 201 x 147 cm

  • Installation picture [In Context / this past was waiting for me / 2018]