PART III: NANKONDO, 2017

(Video and Text bathtub installation)

This artwork is part of a bigger project that I have been working with since 2012. The project uses the motif of ritual performances to explore nuances in gender and generation. My curiosity with rituals started with a personal interest in historical (herstorical rather) narratives that rooted from personal stories of my mother’s, grandmothers’, and great grandmother’s generations of hardship due to discriminatory social, economic, and political systems. They used cultural and spiritual ritual and performances such as rites of passage—birth, marriage, death, etc. as mediums for moulding, resisting and subverting the status quo. One can easily look for clues in ritual performances, where factors such as class, generation, the construction of gender and other identities are inscribed and demonstrated.

PART III: NANKONDO is created in collaboration with my mother, who creates text responses to my visuals [Intergenerational conversations have become an important element to my work]. In this work, we explore African spirituality, following a story of my mother’s great grandmother, Nankondo. The work exists as a video and text installation on a bathtub, but it is also meant to take form of a shrine, one that is meant to summon Nankondo’s presence for us to have a conversation—for me to make sense of her times and in the process, I begin to understand and make sense of my own situatedness. Nankondo, my matrilineal ancestor five generations back, disappeared from her village, and as it was common during this time in history, it is believed she was abducted and taken in to slavery, transitioning through the Pangani coast to most likely end up in Zanzibar (or beyond).

History tells us that by 1895, an estimate of some three-fourths of Zanzibar’s population were either slaves or recently manumitted slaves, most of whom labored on clove plantations owned by the islands’ Omani aristocracy. Many of these were captured by Swahili traders from the interior, in areas that we now know as present day, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Kenya. Therefore, there are many of us coming from, or owing our ancestry to these regions who are in one way or another (unknowingly) epigenetically connected to the memories and traumas emanating from this history. The abolition of slavery was succeeded by colonialism which literary rode on the back of the which literary rode on the back of intersecting oppressive relations and cheap labour. The installation consists of a video taken during a night prayer session, accompanied by a letter written to and in conversation with Nankondo, by my mother, projected on a bathtub filled with water and surrounded by lit candles. The work tries to make sense of the self-loath and spiritual abyss as displayed by modern day society as residues of history.