Theme of Interest:
“Indigo Waves and Other Stories”
with Ravelle Pillay
In this week’s Theme Of Interest we feature Indigo Waves and Other Stories: Re-Navigating the Afrasian Sea and Notions of Diaspora. Currently exhibited at the Zeitz Museum of African Contemporary Art, the show is in conversation with Pillay’s solo. However, although it too centres water, we reference a Yoruba proverb in an attempt to imagine water working for the good of those it previously harmed.
In 1975, Fela Kuti released the album Expensive Shit. His twelfth album, Expensive Shit chronicles the consequences Kuti was subjected to because of his anti-militaristic views. During this period police considered the Afrobeats artists, and his compound, a social and political threat to. Home raidings and arrests became his norm.
Ridiculing law enforcement’s attempts to censor and discourage him, one of the album’s acclaimed tracks is Water No Get Enemy. A reference to a Yoruba proverb the song references the use of nature, particularly water, in political negotiations and navigations, whether civil or violent.
Take the Indian Ocean. Covering some 20% of the world’s oceanic area, the Indian Ocean goes from the East African coast, to the borders of Northern Asia, surrounding Australia in the east, all the way to the Southern Ocean. As a site, holding memories of forced and unforced migration as well as colonialism, the Indian Ocean connects Africa and Asia. Knowing this, the exhibition approaches the Indian Ocean as a communal joint, a fluid joint event, from which to read Afrasian histories of forced and unforced movement, indentured labour as well as colonialism.
Together with the Zeitz MOCAA curatorial team, Indigo Waves was conceptualised and realised by art historians Natasha Ginwala (Berlin), Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (Berlin) and Michelangelo Corsaro (Greece) who have previously studied the politics of water.
An intercontinental, cross generational and multidisciplinary show featuring thirteen contemporary artists, historians, filmmakers, musicians, writers and thought leaders, Indigo Waves and Other Stories: Re-Navigating the Afrasian Sea and Notions of Diaspora centralises water, studying its lasting effects.
On the curatorial affect front, Indigo Waves chose a diverse approach. While some works require the viewer to come nose-close, others, like images from Luvuyo Nyawose’s eBhish, engulf the audience as if to place them in the work’s context. Then, with installations incorporating olfactory and sonic elements, beyond the expected visual, the show grounds its audience with multisensory cues beckoning the viewers to linger.
Searching for resolve, themselves and a way forward, the show’s participants connect. So even though the show is centred around an object akin to trauma, the presentation offers an alternative. A support group, coming together and site to be seen, Indigo Waves does not platform the pain, it addresses it. Formerly a tool to disconnect, the ocean now becomes a junction of and for affinities and realignment beyond state state lines.