During the dry season, rural Tanzania is covered in a blanket of red dust which produces a myriad of monochromatic landscapes. For the video Vumbi, which means dust in kiswahili, Kapwani Kiwanga cleans away dust from foliage. ‘It questions how we look at land, particularly when our gaze is towards whatever gains might be had, questions of ownership and power struggles over land itself.’ Kiwanga wipes each leaf in a redundant attempt to overpower the natural environment, for the foliage will quickly be buried under a new layer of dust.
Alfredo Jaar's series of lightbox photographs Gold in the Morning depict the Serra Pelada opencast mine. The pit, dug by human hands, is the result of a massive influx of over 80,000 self-employed miners to a remote part of north eastern Brazil. In 1985, Jaar travelled to Serra Pelada, and over the course of weeks, he documented the miners and their work. In giving ‘visibility to those our world denies it to’, Jaar invites us to examine the social, cultural and political motivations for their labour. This illuminated photograph unveils the ecological and human demand of the industrialised world and gives faces to the hidden workers that supply it.
Agridoce I and Agridoce III (meaning 'Bittersweet') are from a series by Haroon Gunn Salie and Aline Xavier which explore the land and people directly affected by the environmental disaster in Mariana, Brazil in 2015. An iron ore tailings dam in Minas Gerais collapsed, resulting in toxic flooding that destroyed the village of Bento Rodrigues and killed 19 people. The project is in collaboration with locals who had their properties flooded with layers of mud and toxic heavy metals. In the photographs death, as well as the destruction of real estate and of the region’s ecosystem are the aftermath of the accident.
Planets in My Head, Young Geologist is from a series of sculptures by Yinka Shonibare CBE set against the current context of global anxiety about the planet. The sculptures all incorporate a globe-like form in the position of a head, which ties into the idea of breaking with traditional and established Western canons of knowledge. This concept is illustrated using the figure of children in the sculptures, who all bear Western tools which subvert our ideas around a European-inspired understanding of the world. These figures have seemingly departed Earth, entering other galaxies where they may resist the formalisation of knowledge that the West has set up. In turn, the sculptures re- imagine our dominant bodies of knowledge to create a new globalised perspective.
Deep Down Tidal, 2017
Length: 19 Minutes
Edition of 3
Deep Down Tidal by Tabita Rezaire explores transcoceanic networks and the political and technological significance of water for communication. As modern information and communication technologies (ICT) become omnipresent in Western lifestyles Rezaire examines the cultural, political and environmental forces that have shaped them. Looking at the infrastructure of submarine fibre optic cables that carry and transfer our digital data, Rezaire unveils how cables follow colonial shipping routes. The seabed becomes the site of celebrated advancements, yet it masks violent deeds of modernity. Deep Down Tidal navigates the ocean as a graveyard for Black knowledge and technologies. From Atlantis, to the ‘Middle passage’, or refuge seekers presently drowning in the Mediterranean, the ocean abyss carries pains, lost histories and memories while simultaneously providing the global infrastructure for our current telecommunications.
you looked for a beginning but there was none by ruby onyinyechi amanze is one of the artist’s mixed-media drawings of imaginary places and constructed spaces include a unique cast of characters float, dance, stretch, embrace or otherwise interact with nature and each other. amanze’s body of work establishes an introspective dialogue and personal quest in an attempt to materialise her experience of displacement and dislocation. The motifs and symbols of amanze’s works create non-linear narratives which articulate and delve into ideas surrounding free play as an act of revolution and post-colonial, non-nationalism as an accepted norm in western societies.
Tailings dump after reclamation, Owendale Asbestos Mine, Northern Cape. 24 December 2007 (4_A0223), 2007
Tailings dump after reclamation, Owendale Asbestos Mine, Northern Cape. 24 December 2007 by David Goldblatt explores the toxic destruction from mines in South Africa and their human impact. This work is from a mini-essay ‘Asbestos’ within a larger body of work titled ‘Intersections’ in which Goldblatt depicts the damage suffered by humans and countryside in a land whose people have had to reorient themselves entirely following the demise of apartheid. The ‘Asbestos’ works look specifically at the damage wrought by asbestos mining, decades after the mines closed the lethal material remains.
Drawing for City Deep (Zama Zama Pits) is a charcoal and red pencil drawing made as part of William Kentridge’s film City Deep (2020), his eleventh from the Soho Chronicles series. Continuing on themes found throughout the body of work, but particularly in Kentridge’s 1991 film Mine, this work explores the mining history of Johannesburg and its impact on the city. The landscape depicted in the drawing is of ‘Zama Zama pits’ - abandoned and ownerless mines - worked illegally by ‘Zama Zamas’ (which translates from Zulu to mean ‘take a chance’ or ‘try your luck’). Large open scars on the landscape, drawn without the surrounding machinery found in industrial mines, shows the damage to land done long before informal miners arrive. Within the film ‘City Deep’ Kentridge situates the landscape and its informal miners in artworks at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, itself built during the gold mining heyday of Johannesburg, and contextualising the mining trade within the history of the city.
Kiluanji Kia Henda’s work Mare Nostrum (Black Birds) is a composition of photographic images taken from the salt pans of Arles on the French Riviera in Provence. Historically the Mediterranean is a site of development for civilizations and solidarity between different populations, but also a space of death and disappearance. In this work, the crystalline transparency of the salt pans is contrasted by black shapes that interrupt the white salt and allude to the stories of those who try to cross the Mediterranean towards Europe. The title ‘Mare Nostrum’ translates from Latin into ‘Our Sea’ and is the term used by Romans for the Mediterranean denoting it as a historic site of racial, commercial and military control; a state that has returned in recent years.
Nolan Oswald Dennis
After-Land (Fall), 2018
Ink, letratag label, silicon tube and aluminium tape on paper
The ‘Afters’ series of drawings by Nolan Oswald Dennis maps entangled and bodily relations to African time and space. The ‘Afters’ series asks the question: what comes after the world, what comes after the land; and finds answers in the interior of the body, where the entanglement of cosmic mythology, political fantasy, decolonial metaphysics, dream notations, blood microscopy, comic book conventions, neuro-ganglia and anatomical drawings. After-land (Fall) explores the after-life of political fantasy(s) through an imaginary entanglement of forces at the site of the body. Which is to ask: what does the fall-out of our ongoing social and political crisis mean at the level of the body. The body in these drawings is not a coherent unified subject but a fragmented and sampled synecdoche for the body at multiple scales - microscopic , psychological, spiritual, medical, social and cosmic.
In the work Chromatograph, Sunstrum investigates her interest in the volcano as a psychologically heavy visual symbol and thinks about the volcano as a narrative device. The artist recalls the storyline from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, in which a group of radical geologists adventure into the bottom of the earth and discover another earth under our earth. The only way to access this second earth is through a volcano.
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum
Single channel animation with sound
Length: 1min 36s
Edition of 7
The animation POLYHEDRA by Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum was created as part of a body of work that also included drawings on paper, drawings in space, and sculptural objects. Sunstrum began with the idea of ‘seeing through’ - seeing through the earth, bodies, stars- using a visual language that superimposes geological, astronomical and human forms in order to see the congruencies between them. The animation contains references to early understandings of mathematics and star mapping, and superimposes mythological characters into celestial bodies through the sky. The animation also includes archival photographs and plates by 18th century pioneer volcano photographer, Tempest Anderson. Sunstrum writes: ‘The body of a volcano becomes a portal through which we might glimpse the inner workings of the earth. That those inner workings present themselves as so powerfully destructive made me recall notions of beauty and the sublime.’