04 . 02 . 17 – 01 . 04 . 17
And all I ever wanted as a young black girl was to be visible, but all the spaces I entered, performed an extreme violence of either making me silent or loud. But I might be known if I die or when I’m killed. (Lhola Amira)
As Lhola Amira approaches center stage, in a medley of sculptors, painters, and photographers all of whom have had their practice inseparably preceded by the term ‘African’, she disputes and rejects this simultaneously sparse and generalized description. In her signature fusion of politics, economics and arts, Lhola Amira has developed Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase as the first of many more physical investigations into assumptions, contradictions and associations placed on contemporary definitions of Africa.
This exhibition presents a selection of photographs, an installation and video piece that are all rooted in Lhola Amira’s recent project based in Ghana. This project saw the artist engaging with local and current issues through a number of appearances and interactions in Ghana. The project, described by the artist as ‘Looking for ‘Africa’ in ‘Africa’, engages with contemporary discourses around decolonization, nationality and race.
Lhola Amira is primarily considered a ‘performance artist’ however; she refuses to adhere to any preconceived theories of ‘art’ or ‘performance’. She unashamedly intertwines definitions that academia attempts to separate, such as ‘activist’, ‘poet’, ‘philosopher’, ‘artist’ and many more. Lhola Amira questions connotations of performance, such as ‘farce’ or ‘play’ from which audiences can take an interval; in her own words; “You cannot perform being black. It is only the black body, that tends to be viewed, by society, as in a perpetual state of performance.”
As she stalked the streets of Accra, Lhola Amira tackled her own preconceptions of the first sub-Saharan country to demand independence from colonialism. Not only were the artist’s own expectations of Ghana unsettled but this recent sojourn also served to emphasize the futility of attempts to fully understand issues and controversies facing an area without extended personal experience. Lhola Amira remained a visitor during her time in Ghana, seeing and experiencing only a small collection of lifestyles possible in the country. Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase should not be seen as a summery of an entire country; Lhola Amira intentionally highlights the inadequate borders and geographical divisions that continue to enforce colonialism in Africa.
Lhola Amira worked with local photographer, Francis Kokoroko and filmmaker Wanlov Kubolor to produce a body of work that took place in Ghana but left residues that could be exhibited in South Africa and elsewhere.
The artist was born in Gugulethu, South Africa in 1984. She has recently been awarded the AiRS (Artist in Residence Skövde Art Museum) residency in Skövde, Sweden to take place in April 2017. Earlier residencies include participation at the Jiwar Creation and Society in Barcelona, Spain in 2015, and at Vasl Artists’ Collective in Islamabad, Pakistan in 2010.
Lhola Amira has made numerous solo appearances both locally and abroad, most recently; Lhola Amira Looking for Ghana in Accra at The Studio Accra, and Lhola Amira Looking for Ghana in Jamestown at Brazil House, both in Ghana in 2016. Notable earlier appearances include, Lhola Amira Will Make You Cry in Cape Town, South Africa at the AVA in 2016, and Lhola Amira: Acknowledgements, Distinctions and Being as well as De/Colonial Love, both at MITTE-Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain in 2015.
Lhola Amira’s recent group exhibitions include, Lhola Amira in Conversation with Rinamanyanga Hariputirwe at Instruments of Memory (a solo exhibition by Masimba Hwati) and As Long as the World is Anti-Black; Of Course this is Personal at Nothing Personal, both at SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2016, as well as Lhola Amira neZambatho ezoMoya at DETAILS at 6ix Studio, New York City, USA in 2014.
View artist page: Lhola Amira
Article by Astrid Gebhardt in The Lake magazine, February 2017: Lhola Amira Appears – PDF
Interview with Siyavuya Khaya in Vukani Newspaper, February 2017: Gugulethu artist tackles social issues in post-colonial era – PDF
Review by Thuli Gamedze in Cape Times, March 2017: Amira’s political take on Ghana – PDF