I’ve Grown Roses in this Garden of Mine

by | Contemporary African Art, News

I’ve grown roses in this garden of mine takes its title from Gabrielle Goliath’s latest work This song is for…, a cycle of dedication songs chosen by survivors of rape, that evokes for audiences a sensory world of memory and feeling. This work sets the framework for a wider exploration of processes of healing from multiple geographies and generations.

The exhibition reflects Goodman Gallery’s long-standing commitment to artists whose practices confront entrenched power structures and champion social change. It is anchored by seminal works by major contemporary artists: Ghada Amer, El Anatsui, Broomberg & Chanarin, David Goldblatt, Alfredo Jaar, William Kentridge, Shirin Neshat, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Mikhael Subotzky, Carrie Mae Weems and Sue Williamson.

A new generation of international artists originating from Africa and the Middle East are introduced to UK and European audiences, including Kudzanai Chiurai, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Gabrielle Goliath, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Grada Kilomba, Gerhard Marx, Misheck Masamvu and Naama Tsabar. Many of these artists address postcolonial contexts by placing emphasis on personal experience and ‘alternative’ approaches to healing while rejecting the possibility of being cured.

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami An evening in Mazowe, 2019 Oil on canvas – Work: 180 x 130 cm

A number of featured works use language as a lens to confront wounding experiences of ‘othering’. Whereas Kudzanai Chiurai perceives language as a silencing, colonizing tool, Grada Kilomba embraces words as a means of owning the narrative.

Alfredo Jaar and Shirin Neshat also treat language as a valuable tool, believing in the power of words to connect people and, in the case of Jaar’s text-based neons, to inspire empathy with the demonized ‘other’. Neshat’s meticulous hand-written Arabic inscriptions overlaid onto portraits of Iranian and Arab youth poignantly link contemporary Iran with its mythical and historical past.

Broomberg & Chanarin’s recent series Bandage the Knife not the Wound layers photographic images, using deconstructed cardboard packing boxes as the printed surface to play with contemporary ideas around image overload. The piece selected for the exhibition is a homage to the South African landscape merged with an image of a man taking his pulse. It is displayed unframed with perforated folds exposed, lending the work a frail, bodily quality.

In her experimental practice, Naama Tsabar invests in the power of charged everyday materials as subversive tools for transformative thinking, challenging oppressive gender roles.

Ghada Amer’s explicit embroideries use a needle and thread as radical tools of seduction, creating obscured pornographic forms that transform this traditional ‘women’s craft’.

Ghada Amer -WHITE GIRLS, 2017 -Acrylic,embroidery and gel medium on canvas Work: 162.6 x 182.9 cm

 

Racial bias in contemporary America and apartheid South Africa is exposed in the photographic works of Carrie Mae Weems and David Goldblatt respectively. Mikhael Subotzky expands on this interrogative approach by deconstructing colonial maps and piecing them back together using sticky-tape, which appear like plasters over a battered image. Using a distinct visual language of ‘folds’, ‘collapses’ and ‘entanglements’, Gerhard Marx also works with reconfiguring fragments of decommisioned maps, working to shift perception and disrupt hierarchies.

Yinka Shonibare’s famous ‘African print’ sculptures convey the hybrid nature of cultural identities, challenging an ‘essential’ visual language that is assumed to be African. Also embracing fragmentation to create iconic large-scale works, El Anatsui uses discarded materials to reveal the ongoing effects of colonialism on consumption and the environment. Here thousands of tightly stitched together bottle tops form grand glistening metallic tapestries and become a tool for radical transformation.

Yinka Shonibare CBE – Planets in my Head, Young Navigator, 2019

The exhibition presents as yet unseen work in the UK by Paris-based artist Kapwani Kiwanga and digital healer Tabita Rezaire who have recently produced significant projects at London institutions. Both artists address the exhibition concept by uncovering African narratives of healing.

Kiwanga engages with methods of colonial resistance taken up during Tanzania’s Maji Maji war (1905-1907) – one of the first major uprisings on the African continent – by highlighting the rallying impact of traditional healer Kinjeketile and comments on how this has been ethnographically documented in Europe’s museums.

Kapwani Kiwanga – Rumours that Maji was a lie…, 2014 Mixed-media installation -Variable Dimensions
Photo: Romain Darnaud / Jeu de Paume

Through a lens of uncompromising self-care, Rezaire lays out the insidious histories of systemic social prejudice and uses ancient African technologies to restore physical and spiritual health with an emphasis on elevating women of colour. Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s vivid paintings draws on digital representations of Diasporic black bodies to ask questions around colonial routes, displacement and spirituality.

Works by artists Misheck Masamvu and Nolan Oswald Dennis highlight  a layered web of post-colonial wounds through distinct abstract visual languages. Masamvu’s pioneering approach to oil paint-on-canvas combines German Expressionism with visual commentary on the Zimbabwean context, lulling audiences into a sense of familiarity in order to evoke a surprising sense of discomfort. Dennis’s site-specific approach to exploring ‘a black consciousness of space’ brings diagrams and drawings together to unveil hidden narratives of oppression alongside healing technological and spiritual systems in view of reconfiguring the limits of our social and political imagination.

My wounds will never ever heal completely, and I grow them (I have grown roses in this garden of mine). I care with much tenderness for this little corner of myself, because I know there is no cure, there are but ‘remedies’ taken in small doses to alleviate the symptoms of this silent wound.  

A woman who chooses to withhold her name, in Gabrielle Goliath’s, This song is for…, 2019