Our Regional Mobility Partner in Harare, Njelele Art Station, has developed a new podcast series of conversations traversing the myriad permutations and experiences of love. Concepts of Love evolved out of Suzana Sousa’s residency in August 2019 when she and Dana Whabira began thinking through and discussing notions of love with other artists. One of these conversations (the first one recorded for the series) was with South African artist Breeze Yoko during his residency at Njelele in November 2019. The series has been developed by Suzana Sousa & Dana Whabira. They explain the germination and evolution of this project:
Concepts of Love started as a conversation amongst friends, more from humanity than artistry. The relevance and broadness of the theme prompted us to engage with others and establish an exchange of thoughts and ideas. We are particularly interested in the small things, that are not necessarily apparent, which shape this complex feeling.
Through a series of conversations we question love and its implications in various realms of life. We contemplate history, tradition and popular culture and how they help to shape concepts of love and its expression. We discuss and learn from each other, navigating between the universal and the culturally specific. A process of understanding love as a practice and its plural.
With a focus on the African experience, our guests engage with the art world through their work and use it as a conduit to interrogate life, everyday experience and memory. We hope you enjoy these vulnerable and open discussions that address a myriad of issues in an attempt to deconstruct the concept of love.
The listening journey will begin on 26 February 2021 and begins with a heartfelt homage to Bisi Silva and the exhibition ‘The Progress of Love’ which encapsulates many of the concerns of the series. Concepts of Love episodes will be available weekly on SoundCloud and njelele.art/radio.
Concepts of Love includes the following guests: Taiye Idahor • Wura-Natasha Ogunji • zethu Matebeni • Lerato Bereng • Joyce Jenje-Makwenda • MADEYOULOOK + Danai Mupotsa + Pamella Dlungwana • Virginia Phiri • Lineo Segoete + Joshua Chiundiza + Wanlov the Kubolor • Pamina Sebastião • Billie Zangewa • Tawanda Appiah • Breeze Yoko + Saki Mafundikwa
26 February 2021 | The Progress of Love Pt.I
An homage to Bisi Silva and her legacy, this episode delves into The Progress of Love, the exhibition she curated in 2012 in collaboration with the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. As curatorial assistant for The Progress of Love, Taiye sheds light on the main premise of the show, how different questions were thought through an African point of view and challenged cultural views, such as same-sex relationships or even PDA, public displays of affection. Through her own artwork and practice, Taiye discusses love as process, as well as themes including history, race and memory reflecting on concepts of love through different forms of manifestation.
Taiye Idahor lives and works in Lagos Nigeria. She studied Fine Art at the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos Nigeria and graduated in 2007 with a Higher National Diploma (HND) in sculpture. Idahor has worked consistently and significantly within the concepts of identity exploring women’s issues using “hair” as a visual language in her work. Tangled through the issues of trade, beauty, the environment and globalisation, she examines how these factors build women’s identity including her own. She uses collage, drawing, sculpture and mixed media to contemplate these ideas through the lens of memory, culture and modernity, directly confronting the issues surrounding women in Nigeria, their daily struggle, interaction and navigation of culture and tradition in the modern world. Idahor has exhibited both locally and abroad, and her work forms part of the permanent collections of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Cape Town, Wellesley College Massachusetts, Princeton University Art Museum New Jersey, and the Brooklyn Museum New York.
Taiye Idahor, Iguodala, 2017, Collage, pen and color pencil on paper. (Photo: Taiye Idahor)
05 March 2021 | The Progress of Love Pt.II
In the second part of an homage to Bisi Silva and her legacy, an episode with Wura-Natasha Ogunji, we discuss The Progress of Love curated by Silva in collaboration with the Menil Collection and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, in which Wura participated with the performance A Tortoise Walks Majestically on Window Ledges (2012). Focusing on several of her works, the conversation encompasses the concept of love through time, family contexts and histories, religion, social history and the body. Ultimately, we attempt to untangle a critical question brought up by The Progress of Love ~ what is universal and cultural in the definition and expression of love?
Wura-Natasha Ogunji is a visual artist and performer. Her works include drawings hand-stitched into tracing paper, videos and public performances. Her work is deeply inspired by the daily interactions and frequencies that occur in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, from the epic to the intimate. Ogunji’s performances explore the presence of women in public space; these often include investigations of labor, leisure, freedom and frivolity. Recent exhibitions include City Prince/sses at Palais de Tokyo; A Slice through the World: Contemporary Artists’ Drawings at Modern Art Oxford; and Every Mask I Ever Loved at ifa-Galerie, Berlin. She was an Artist-Curator for the 33rd São Paulo Bienal where her large-scale performance Days of Being Free premiered. She has also exhibited at the inaugural Lagos Biennial; Kochi-Muziris Biennale; 1:54, London & New York; Seattle Art Museum; Brooklyn Art Museum and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. Ogunji is a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and has received grants from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Dallas Museum of Art and the Idea Fund. She has a BA from Stanford University [1992, Anthropology] and an MFA from San Jose State University [1998, Photography]. She currently resides in Lagos where she is founder/curator of the experimental art space, The Treehouse.
The first performance of I loved you by Wura-Natasha Ogunji (Photo: Adeola Olagunju)
12 March 2021 | Love & other things
Black love seems to be perceived as a marginal situation rather than the norm in a similar fashion to what happens within the LGBTQI community. zethu Matebeni explores love between life and death; and argues how revolutionary love is in our interaction with the Other. In her rendition of ‘black man loving black man is the revolutionary act’ she addresses years of colonial violence and discourse that denied love, the feeling and its expression to black people infusing the black body with meaning that transcended it and deployed it of its humanity. In this episode, love is examined as an open and engaging concept that has the ability to truly change lives and world views.
zethu Matebeni loves hiking, growing food and thinking about women. As an activist in the academy, zethu spends most of her time writing and rewriting African queer theory for everyday use.
zethu Matebeni (Photo: PXuza)
19 March 2021 | Love & SEX
Lerato means ‘love’ in Sesotho, a conversation that begins by positioning love in Lerato Bereng’s curatorial work and practice. The episode draws its title and departure from the exhibition SEX she curated in 2016 at Stevenson Gallery, delving into sex in social and political contexts, as well as the interplay of sex and language. The conversation navigates through intricacies of social construction and meaning to contemplate ideas of intimacy, tenderness and love. We question ~ does the overexposure of both love and sex contribute to the establishment of a certain set of ideas in society rather than an open discussion of all the nuances that could lead to deeper understandings of such matters?
Lerato Bereng was born in Maseru, Lesotho and lives and works in Johannesburg. She is a partner at Stevenson gallery, Johannesburg and Cape Town. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Art and a Masters of Fine Art majoring in curating from Rhodes University, Makhanda. Curated projects include SEX, Stevenson Johannesburg (2016); Conversations at Morija (Maeder House, Morija, Lesotho 2017; 2015; 2013); Nine O’Clock, the National Arts Festival, Makhanda(2015); Out of Thin Air (Cape Town, 2012) and Featuring Simplicity as an irrational fear (Cape Town, 2010). From 2008 to 2009 Bereng took part in CAPE Africa Platform’s Young Curator’s Programme for which she curated Thank You Driver, as part of the Cape ‘09 Biennale. In 2021 Bereng will curate How to make a Country, at FRAC Poitou-Charentes, France, under the umbrella of the Insitut Français’s Africa Season 2020.
Frida Orupabo, In bed, 2020, Collage with paper pins
Credit line: © Frida Orupabo. Courtesy of Stevenson Cape Town, Johannesburg and Amsterdam.
Photo: Mario Todeschini
26 March 2021 | The womb is a big girl
“The womb is a big girl, she doesn’t talk about what she eats.” Joyce Jenje-Makwenda shares knowledge on African tradition and a woman’s role regarding family and her own body. In this episode we learn about a community that takes care of the woman and respects her own needs in the family context. Also, we unveil forms of thinking about family and relationships that don’t erase the self but engage obligations, freedom and sexuality; and how these structures as well as language were impacted by colonialism and western Christian religion. The concept of love is here shaped by African knowledge systems and views not as opposition to other possible concepts but by considering the specificities of African ways of expressing love. The role of gifts, sex, touch, the meaning of proverbs and how love grows are just many of the themes we discuss.
Joyce Jenje-Makwenda is a journalist, producer and performing artist. She is an independent scholar, archivist, historian, researcher, author, lecturer and ethnomusicologist with more than thirty years of experience covering areas of early urban culture, music, politics, education, religion, media, fashion, sex, sexuality, cultural issues and women’s histories in Zimbabwe. As a writer, Jenje-Makwenda authored a number of books and novels, including Zimbabwe Township Music (2005), Gupuro (2006) in Shona and English, USenzeni (2007) in Ndebele Zulu, both books on women’s issues and the girl child respectively. In 2013 she published Women Musicians of Zimbabwe 1930’s to 2013: A Struggle for Voice and Artistic Expression, and in 2015 she released sequels: Women in Film in Zimbabwe: Modern Storytellers, Women Writers and Poets in Zimbabwe: The power of the written and spoken word and Zimbabwean Women in Theatre, Drama and Comedy: An Artistic Way of Communicating. She has produced and directed several documentaries on music. She established the Joyce Jenje-Makwenda Collection Archives, a private social history archive located at her house in Harare, hosting materials such as video and audio interviews on music, transcriptions, press cuttings, photographs, vinyl LPs and artifacts, including instruments, gramophones and typewriters that can be accessed for scholarly and historical purposes.
Joyce in 1999 (Photo: courtesy of Joyce Jenje-Makwenda Collection Archives)
02 April 2021 | Love letters to Tofolux and other stories of black love
MADEYOULOOK + Danai Mupotsa + Pamella Dlungwana
In this episode the artist collaborative MADEYOULOOK invites the writers Danai Mupotsa and Pamella Dlungwana to reflect on articulations of black love and their engagement in Corner loving, a past collaborative project on love. Using love letters as a point of departure, the conversations touch on explorations of black interiority, the potentials of tenderness and vulnerability, finding new forms and language to better reflect the complexities of black love, as well as discussing the growing visibility and discourse around love in the years since the initial Corner loving exhibition.
MADEYOULOOK is an interdisciplinary artist collaborative between Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The works of MADEYOULOOK make a claim for everyday black lifehood and relationality as constituting knowledge and having the ability to model ways of practicing and being. These everyday practices have the potential to bring about different perspectives to broader societal issues, enable epistemic shifts and create new possibilities.
Danai Mupotsa is a feminist teacher, researcher and recently published poet. She works at the University of the Witwatersrand as a senior lecturer in African Literature. Her collection of poems feeling and ugly gathers the various statuses and locations she moves across, as daughter, mother, teacher, scholar and writer. She describes the collection as a long love letter to those who are willful.
Pamella Dlungwana is an arts administrator and writer from Durban, South Africa.
Toffo (Photo: York Press ]
09 April 2021 | Lobola, love & youth
Virginia Phiri takes us from reality to literature in this episode to engage with topics including lobola and youth education in African contemporary societies. Talking from Zimbabwe, we discuss the role of families and communities on the relevance of maintaining African traditions in a way that is inclusive and generous to younger generations whilst also preserving original meanings. As such, we reflect on lobola as a token of appreciation for the family of the bride, a gift that brings together two families and unites rather than merely forming a financial transaction.
Virginia Phiri, a retired accountant, is widely known for her work with Zimbabwe Women Writers, Zimbabwean Academic and Non-Fiction Authors Association, Women Writing Africa Southern African Region, Feminist Press of New York 2003 and as current Vice President of African Literature Association Women’s Caucus. She is author of “Desperate” 2002, “Destiny” 2006, “Highway Queen” 2010 and “Grey Angels” 2019. In addition, Phiri was commissioned by UNIFEM for a poem “Women and Peace” for the launch of “Progress of the World’s Women” Rehn and Johnson Sirleaf 2002 Volume 1; and commissioned by Peter Hammer Veerlag for a portrait of Professor Wangari Maathai, the first black African woman Nobel Peace Prize winner, for “Visionare Afrikas” published in German in 2014 and subsequently published in English in 2019 by Sub Saharan Publishers as “African Visionaries.” She presented her experiences as an African woman writer at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2008. Phiri is an African orchid expert who sits on the IUCN Species Survival Commission and has co-authored over 70 articles in orchid journals. As a result of her accounting and literary background she sits on several Boards.
Virginia Phiri reading (Photo: Zimbabwe International Book Fair)
16 April 2021 | Love on a visa
Lineo Segoete, Joshua Chiundiza and Wanlov the Kubolor
In this episode, Lineo Segoete, Joshua Chiundiza and Wanlov the Kubolor explore the politics of love and its many dimensions in the realm of African mobilities and economies. Segoete leads a public discussion, recorded in a live setting during her Open Studio at Njelele Art Station on 7 December 2019, that forms a meditation on the concept of Pan-African love and encompasses the practice of love languages on a budget. We reflect on the role of culture in love and family matters within circulations across the continent and diaspora, and on a transcontinental love approach through our intertwined histories as the gateway to stronger mutual understanding. Fundamentally, love is a political act ~ could love as a construct benefit from being decolonised and redefined to suit individual choice rather than societal expectation?
Lineo Segoete is a storyteller and creative in the form of writer, researcher, photographer and archivist. She was Co-founder and Co-director of ‘Ba re e ne re Literary Arts’, Co-convenor for the Africa Cluster in the global research collective known as ‘Another Roadmap School’ and Hubert Humphrey Fellow at Vanderbilt University in 2016–2017. Segoete is currently the Content curation and distribution manager for Selemela Learning Network, an initiative which focuses on delivering quality education services and resources through collaborative participation. Her independent research practice centres critical literacies, cultural production and heritage preservation. While her writing is mainly creative non-fiction, Segoete identifies as a poet at heart.
Joshua Madalitso Chiundiza is an audiovisual storyteller from Zimbabwe. His work explores his Chewa, Shona and Nguni heritage, taking the form of music/sound recording & performance, experimental film, digital image composition, text and performance art installation. As an artist and musician, he has exhibited and performed in South Africa, Germany, Norway and France, alongside acts such as De La Soul, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Akala and DJ Oil (Troublemakers). Chiundiza participated in Digital Imaginaries – Africas in Production at ZKM Center for Art & Media Karlsruhe in 2018. He is founder of The Husikisiki Studio (2018) and a founding member of the art collective, The Monkey Nuts (2011).
Wanlov the Kubolor is the stage name of Emmanuel Owusu-Bonsu, a Ghanaian-Romanian musician who is one half of the music duo, the FOKN Bois.
Lineo Segoete and Joshua Chiundiza with Wanlov the Kubolor who joins virtually in public discussion during the “Love on a visa” open studio at Njelele Art Station on 7 December 2019. (Photo: Tinashe Hwindingwi)
23 April 2021 | A space for love
Through Pamina Sebastião’s artistic work and personal experience of trauma, we explore the concept of romantic love in the context of black lives and the history of colonialism and economics that result in transactional relationships. In this episode we discuss the social construction of love, affection and various forms of relationship such as polyamory, as well as notions of beauty at the intersection of race.
Pamina Sebastião is a multidisciplinary visual activist based in Luanda. Their work includes text, film, photography and collages, often centring their body as a medium-terrain from which to interrogate coloniality in Luanda’s context. They were a co-founder of the Arquivo de Identidade Angolano, a queer activist archive created in 2017; a member of Ondjango Feminista; part of the team of LINKAGES Angola project and an overall activist on gender in sexuality for many years focusing on stigma and discrimination as well in sexual and reproductive health and rights. Sebastião is also the creator of Só Belo Mesmo, a multimedia project launched in 2020, which engages the intersections of gender, race and sexuality in contemporary Angolan society influenced by colonialism and the coloniality of power.
Pamina Sebastião (Photo: Massalo Araújo)
30 April 2021 | A soldier of love
Billie Zangewa’s work provides a starting point as we discuss self-care, domestic life and its nuanced impact on the quotidian. The conversation deeply engages the language of Billie’s work regarding life, resistance and love as a first instance in our relationship to the world whether as women, mothers or citizens.
Billie Zangewa (b. 1973, Blantyre, Malawi) lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. She creates intricate collages composed of hand-stitched fragments of raw silk. These figurative compositions explore contemporary intersectional identity in an attempt to challenge the historical stereotype, objectification, and exploitation of the black female form. Zangewa has exhibited widely, including solo shows at Galerie Templon, Paris, France (2020); Afronova Gallery, Grand Palais, Paris, France (2017); Johann Levy Gallery, Paris, France (2008); and Gerard Sekoto Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa (2005). Group exhibitions include Alpha Crucis, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (2020); I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. (2019); Second Life, Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakech, Morocco (2018); Pulling at Threads, Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa (2018); Making Africa, Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM (2018) and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2017); The Half-Life of Love, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA (2017); A Constellation, Studio Museum Harlem, New York, NY (2016); Making Africa, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Barcelona Spain, and Kunsthal Rotterdam, Netherlands (2016); Women’s Work, Iziko National Gallery of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa (2016); Body Talk, Wiels, Brussels, Belgium; Lunds Konsthall, Lund, Sweden and Frac Lorraine, Metz, France (2015); Making Africa, Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain and Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany (2015); How Far How Near, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2014); and The Progress of Love, Menil Collection, Houston, TX (2012).
Billie Zangewa, Soldier of love, 135 x 110cm, 2020. © Billie Zangewa. Courtesy of Templon Paris.
07 May 2021 | Love as practice
Our conversation begins by looking at curatorial processes through the work of Tawanda Appiah and the questions he raises in his own practice. Thinking through love as practice, we reflect on its role in life and in visual art, and how it impacts our everyday interactions. Tawanda’s curatorial projects are the landscape we navigate in this episode, as we contemplate love as a life and work ethic that opens up alternative pathways to nuanced understanding.
Tawanda Appiah is a Zimbabwean independent curator, researcher and writer based in Malmö, Sweden. He is currently co-curating the GIBCA Extended exhibition 2021. Recent projects and interventions include, No Country Like (Skånes konstförening, 2018); Better Safe and Sorry (Moderna Museet, 2018); Something Happened (Skånes konstförening, 2019); On Practices (Malmö Konsthall and Skånes konstförening, 2019); To Where Are We Beautifully Going? (2020). He is part of Njelele Art Station and previously worked as a co-curator at Skånes konstförening and Curator of Education at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
01 Expectation, process, something/nothingness and such. (Photo: Tawanda Appiah)
14 May 2021 | Love is a Revolutionary Act
Breeze Yoko + Saki Mafundikwa
Breeze Yoko and Mwalimu Saki Mafundikwa speak on love and revolution through the prism of education, social and political movements. In this episode, recorded whilst Yoko was in Harare on residency at Njelele Art Station in November 2019, the complexity of love and struggle, manifest through notions of selfhood, country and career over time in Zimbabwe and the United States. Journeying with Mwalimu, we travel through different forms of learning; knowledge of self, indigenous knowledge systems, the book ‘Afrikan Alphabets’ and the founding of ZIVA Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts; revealed as radical acts (of love).
Breeze Yoko is a South African based multidisciplinary artist and curator specialising in video/film and graffiti/street art. Yoko has participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus, and in urban art projects in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Senegal, Germany, France, Sweden and many more places, where his whimsical yet powerful murals unfurl a kind of humanity and beauty that re-imagine their environments. In a search for new methods to ‘read the city’, Yoko uses a visual vocabulary that addresses a myriad of social and political issues.
His films have won awards at the Tricontinental Film Festival, South Africa; Special mention in the Sienna Film Festival, Italy; and Dak’Art, Senegal. He has curated a number of urban culture events and exhibitions including ‘Street Talk’ (2014), Hazard Gallery, Johannesburg featuring some of South Africa’s prominent street artists; and Deep Memory’ (2017), Kalmar Art Museum, Sweden featuring contemporary artists from around the globe. Yoko is founding director of Ubuhle Bendalo urban contemporary art residency programme.
Saki Mafundikwa is founder and director of ZIVA Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts, a design and new media training college in Harare. He has an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University. He returned home in 1998 to found ZIVA after working in New York City as a graphic designer, art director and design educator. Mafundikwa authored Afrikan Alphabets: the Story of Writing in Africa published in 2004, a book of historical importance and the first book on Afrikan typography, currently out of print. He has been published widely on design and cultural issues and is currently working on a revised edition of Afrikan Alphabets which he hopes will be published in 2021.
As a filmmaker, his first film, the award-winning Shungu: The Resilience of a People premiered at the 2009 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Active on the international lecture circuit, he was a speaker at TED2013 in California, at TED/PMI event Dar-es-Salaam in 2019, and he keynoted the first Pan African Design Institute (PADI) conference in Ghana in 2019. Mafundikwa has also run workshops for design students in Europe, North, South and Central America, and Afrika. He lives, works and farms in Harare.
Nguni love symbols. p.40. Mafundikwa, Saki. Afrikan Alphabets: The story of writing in Afrika. West New York, N.J. : Mark Batty, ©2004 (Photo: Saki Mafundikwa)
Concepts of Love is produced by Njelele Art Station; sound editing: News From Home; music: The Husikisiki Studio; graphic profile: Open Haus; special thanks to Tawanda Appiah.