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In These Streets 

Wezile Mgibe

I have always been fascinated by how things have come into existence, as well as motivations behind certain movements, reactions and behaviours, and how these become symbols of celebration or struggle in Africa. Movement in Africa has always had a deep meaning, and this has influenced me to study the art of movement. I believe black people are constantly performing their life experiences, which often involves their reaction to personal traumatic and post-traumatic events. I grew up in a Christian family. Songs of celebration, hope and movement are what I absorbed from childhood. Even at present, when I experience difficulties and challenges, I refer to those learnt inspirational quotes and songs, to heal myself and ease any pain. The idea of constantly fighting as a black child was something I faced on a daily basis. My parents grew up in the apartheid era, and I was born in 1990, the year that Nelson Mandela was released from prison. That was a significant moment in South Africa, when hope of a better future heightened and terms such as ‘freedom is coming tomorrow’ were regularly and openly expressed. Despite such intense hopes at that time I believe, despite over twenty years of ‘change’ and ‘transformation’, we are still fighting against large structures such as the System, the Oppressors and Alienation from Land. It is clear that the ‘fighting’ narrative was deeply ingrained into our lives, while other narratives such as ‘Black Love’ are more alien to us. I work with traditional ritual practices and contemporary visual performance. The concept of healing in my artistic practice is a vital aspect. In intense ways, Africa is a crime scene, and we as Africans are interrogating some parts of ourselves with which we have been at war. In my practice, I am interrogating the dynamics of site, place and culture by occupying this space. Being present in the space is something I fully exercise, arising from the segregation and limitations our parents underwent in the apartheid era. They had no voice, no representation and no equal rights, and their very existence was essentially denied. I always use the concept of black love and healing as a dialogue in my practice, allowing the process to be an open discussion and a journey of self-discovery through sharing our stories among one another as encouragement. I fully allow my black people to direct me to an open expanse, and I reveal ways in which we lost our souls, often in spontaneous and unexpected ways. I personally have a wide interest in educating our generation in uncovering and using all the tools that we have to better ourselves. The concept of ‘Black Love’ is explored to reveal ways in which we can confront ourselves, sometimes in some very difficult realities, and take us along the path to forgive ourselves.

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