Wezile Mgibe is a South African multidisciplinary artist. His ongoing project ‘The Politics of Displacement’ is a research body of work exploring narratives behind unwelcoming spaces, the dynamic of return and reintegration of identities in Southern Africa using interdisciplinary practice encompassing performance, visuals and installation. In early 2020, Wezile was awarded an ANT Mobility grant to support a research residency at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
My experience receiving ANT Mobility funding was fruitful in various ways. Residencies are spaces for me to unlearn, face and forgive some difficult realities about myself. I have met interesting artists that made me look at my practice in different way. My research residency in Zimbabwe was an eye-opener and very insightful in relation to the subject matter “The Politics of Displacement”. I was looking at this topic in different national contexts and was interested in the concept of demand and supply, the historical motives behind the concept of forced removal and how displacement can be undeniably destructive and traumatic in multiple ways and how this produces beneficiaries and creates new practices of power and accumulation for specific individuals.
During this journey, I came across very interesting conversations which related to my research subject and informed the creation of a new work. Umdiyaya is a performance work I created that is inspired by collective memories and seeks to trace historical events in black households during South Africa’s turbulent recent past. In the work I encounter kindness and softness within rough and uncomfortable spaces and situations, suggesting that there can be love in spaces you might consider “broken”, and that, in some instances, beautiful memories half-hidden deserve to be remembered.
The video of this work premiered at the Spier Light Art Festival in Stellenbosch and the Umdiyaya live performance and installation was included in the Curated Programme at the National Arts Festival.
My ongoing research project on displacement has received further support from the University of York Centre for Applied Human Rights CAHR. This opportunity has opened a number of conversations including a talk on “The Role of Art in keeping Civic Space Open” hosted by the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, and a talk titled “There is Love in place: Displacement” hosted by Dr Gcobani Qambela and the Department of Anthropology and Department Studies at the University of Johannesburg in partnership with Gauteng Anthropology.