Downloading a transference of hope
with Lungiswa Gqunta
The product of defiance, Lungiswa Gqunta’s multidisciplinary practice reasserts black life back into landscapes through performance, printmaking, sculpture and multi sensory installation. Disrupting grief charged legacies of patriarchal dominance and colonialism with care that centres black femmes as a priority she reflects on the disregarded ways we have survived systemic social, physical and spiritual fatalities. Regarded in the context of her current solo presentation at WHATIFTHEWORLD, titled Sleep in Witness, this week’s Re:View surveys the tangible ways intangibles manifest in her practice.
Upon entering WHATIFTHEWORLD, visitors are greeted by a large scale black and white photograph. In it, four smartly dressed teenagers or young adults are seen seated outside around a table looking through photographs, on what looks like a warm summer night. “That’s my mother,” says Lungiswa Gqunta pointing to one of the women. Taken in the 1970s, at the height of Apartheid, this rested, joyful display begins to disrupt the ways mainstream historical texts inform our perception of Black women.
Surfacing feelings and ideas around spatial fluidity, the difference between invisiblity and transparency, a take on intangible modes of dissemination and the dotted lines between observation and participation, Gqunta’s Sleep in Witness is many things. One of them is a passage between two periods: pre-democracy and post-apartheid. A line where women then can talk to women now, through dreams, the show is an invitation to download the love-charged defiance that kept ancestors going.
Employing embodiment as a part of her curatorial affect for Sleep in Witness, Gqunta’s interventions ask the audience for active engagement. “I’m always trying to figure out how else you can experience the work or the idea apart from just visually. It’s considering how people move in a space that offers me the ability to dictate or affect you physically rather than just by offering you the opportunity to just look at something on a wall,” explains Gqunta.
Marking off a large sum of the gallery by covering its floor with barbed wire, Sleep in Witness limits the places audiences can tread on. She goes on, “That kind of a space can be quite disruptive, violent and like, extremely uncomfortable because of the ways it challenges our understanding and experience with access, especially in spaces like these.” Even with these physical limitations, something about knowing that the first people to tread the fresh ground were jovial Black women is comforting and affirming.