Unearthing the past in Jo’burg

By Confidente Reporter

ISABEL Katjavivi, a well-known Namibian creative, has gone one up with her exhibition titled ‘Unearthing’, currently on display at the Goethe Institut Gallery in Johannesburg. “The exhibition explores sites of trauma during the colonial era, and creates a response to commemorate the ancestors,” Katjavivi said.

Continuing what was begun in her award-winning exhibition, ‘The Past is Not Buried’ (Bank Windhoek Triennial 2017), Katjavivi builds on her work of sand, sculpture and stone in a stirring and experiential installation that quotes James Baldwin on the wall: “All your buried corpses now begin to speak” as a call for a reckoning with histories left in the sand.

She uses the earth – exploring the soil as a malleable form that retains memory and stands witness. Unearthing is also an extension to Katjavivi’s 2018 exhibition titled, “They Tried to Bury Us” at the Namibian National Art Gallery, which created a scene of remembrance to those killed in the OvaHerero and Nama genocides over a century ago in Namibia.

Unearthing includes voices of the descendants, and connects the loss of land to the current realities caused by the unresolved resonance of the genocide in the memory of the survivors and their descendants.

“Unearthing” is part of the multi-part exhibition series IZWE: Plant praxis organized by Johannesburg curatorial duo MADEYOULOOK, and will run until February 2020. The exhibition will be accompanied by a discursive programme.