Theme of Interest
If gathering in grief gives growth
with Helena Uambembe
Currently exhibited at Jahmek Contemporary Art in Angola, Helena Uambembe’s In Memory We Love is an invitation to gather in grief. In this week’s Of Interest, we consider the ways the exhibition’s charge extends beyond her previous interventions.
An interdisciplinary artist, Helena Uambembe moves between performance, installation, photography and printmaking with ease. Filling in gaps and questioning existing narratives on the 32 Battalion, which disbanded before she was born, Helena acts as an intermediary; sensitive and empathetic to her surroundings. Giving in to the urge to play, feel, love and digress in her studio, hers is a practice open to accessing resources whose reach exceeds those confined to Western academia.
On her solo exhibition In Memory We Love, Helena has little to say. “The process of mourning is an opportunity to gather, to reconnect.” An installation fashioned after a funeral, on either side of a narrow aisle in Jahmek Contemporary Art, three rows of three white plastic chairs sit facing a table. Dressed in a white table cloth, the table is adorned with vases of artificial flowers, a book of condolences and a certificate written in Portuguese that reads, “I invite you to sit down and have a moment of pause, reflection and awakening with me.” Bearing Helena’s signature next to the date, it’s not clear whose funeral this is supposed to be.
Although a funeral setting, In Memory We Love is not looking at loss from a point of sorrow. Instead it is an attempt to understand and create room for those left on this plane to continue, connect and transfer knowledge as well as tradition. Like Helena says, “Through the ritual of mourning, the wake and the funeral; language is respoken and archived. Identity and self care are reconnected through hymns sung in Umbundu, Chokwe, Ngangela and other languages spoken in Namibia and Angola.” More a returning than a leaving, Helena’s perspective offers hope, not only to the grieving but the disconnected.