- 21 January 2022 - 27 February 2022
- Main Gallery, Mezzanine Gallery, Park Gallery
KZNSA is pleased to present eBhish', a solo exhibition by Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose (b.1994, eThekwini, South Africa).
“We considered the archive not as a talisman or a fetish, but as a document. The archive is meaningful in its context, it is not ‘truth’, it belongs to an entire social environment.1”
— Françoise Vergès
‘‘We must be willing to understand how cleaving to a certain dead rhetoric forces us to go on repeating empty critical rituals associated with past authority and perpetuating the anxiety that what we take pleasure in will not be sufficiently welcomed...2”
— Samuel R. Delany
For his first solo exhibition with KZNSA Gallery, Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose presents eBhish’. The exhibition coalesces photographs and a video installation taken on the eThekwini beachfront between 2018 and 2020. Drawing from his Master’s research (eBhish’ - articulations of Black Oceanic Presence eThekwini) at the University of Cape Town, eBhish’ is a characterization of radical freedom within spaces that are not themselves free or that were previously unfree. Performing itself as an archive, the body of work suggests a relationality of space where Black beachgoers remake and reconstitute the place.
Contextualizing his interest in the beachfront Nyawose writes; “The legacies of colonialism and apartheid echo in many forms of social practice in contemporary South Africa. Ibhish’ laseThekwini (the Durban beachfront), a seaside public space, is imbued with a racialized tension. Historically, the beach was the nation’s premier seaside destination and drew crowds of white beachgoers. The beach culture was established and sustained through visualisation, particularly popular culture and media, which exclusively catered for white people. Since the 1990s, the crowds have changed, making the central beaches predominantly Black, particularly in the summer. eBhish’ is an intervention on the archive.”
This intervention on the archive points to the notion of critical rituals within Black life —rituals of gathering with loved ones on the beachfront during the December holidays for different purposes; rest, celebration, prayer, communion. And of course, these rituals are to be protected and cared for so that they don’t become what American author Samuel Delany refers to as empty rituals - hollowed out by dead rhetoric forces that splinter the strength of what was long established within Black life. Read through this lens of critical customs and practices, these are images that reflect experiences of being but also of people in the throes of becoming.
In Nyawose’s photographs “being” finds different expressions —mothers carefully watch over their young ones as they test the waters, lovers embrace affectionately alongside the shoreline, old friends sit close to each other - sharing intimacies, maybe conspiring. Young adults pose petulantly, painfully aware of their bodies in relation to others while the elderly sit on the edge of the sea - sleeping, watching, conversing, possibly offering advice. What we witness is the sea assuming an attitude towards a temporally shifting sensorium. Reflecting on this sense of intimate temporality Nyawose notes; “What the space [beachfront] does for me quite beautifully is to show notions of temporality — through seeing kids I was able to revisit the rich memories of my childhood of the summertime in water but also remembered quite vividly being scared of the ocean. I was transported back to the awkward teenage years when you were so uncomfortable in your own body and then later gained that confidence through adulthood. I was able to see tender moments of fatherhood, of mothering and grandparenting. For me, all of these moments warm me up to the possibilities of the future.” What is clear in these images is that Black leisure does not have a singular meaning, instead, it is marked by different frequencies that find resonance in a myriad of contexts — what theorist Tina Campt has written about as “the sonic frequencies of the quotidian practices of black communities.3”
Historically, ‘Black’ has functioned as an organizing category among communities with very different cultures and traditions, particularly within histories of oppression and violence that continuously necessitate a politics of resistance. This classification is useful in so far as it allows a common language but it can also be harmful —particularly because any attempt to fixedly define and contain what Blackness is, however positive, runs the risk of perpetuating the epistemic violence originally inflicted by colonialism and slavery. And so even as we speak of Black leisure we’re reminded that eBhish’ portrays very specific examples of Black leisure. Nyawose balances this perilous position with care, through specificity that roots the work in a precise location (eThekwini beachfront) at a precise time (2018 - 2020).
The challenge of course is how to think about the troubling history of spatial racial segregation without losing the texture and beauty of the image. In relation to this tension, in a conversation with Sadiya Hartman as part of a series titled “Black Outdoors: Humanities Futures After Property and Possession”, Fred Moten instructs; “anybody who thinks they can come even close to understanding how terrible the terror has been without understanding how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of that terror, is wrong. There is no calculus of the terror that can make a proper calculation without reference to that which resists it.4” And so similarly, against the grain of what it seeks to resist (dehumanization through racial oppression), eBhish’ offers us a lyrical and beautiful archive through images that are gentle and personal.
In the quote presented at the beginning of this text, Delany gestures to anxieties that “what we take pleasure in will not be sufficiently welcomed”. As a matter of fact, at times what we take pleasure in is banality, ordinariness and nothingness where not much happens —children swimming and laughing while the elderly nap and bask in the sun— outside of the expectation of how Black people should behave…should be. eBhish’ allows us to contemplate this “ordinariness” and to reflect seriously on what we take pleasure in.
Aware of the consumption that is inextricably linked between the production and display of images of Black life within a capitalist society, Nyawose places himself in the work as a way to speak of his own experiences and subjectivity. This is a personal archive as much as it is a collective one. It functions as a set of exchanges reflecting on the conditions of place where leisure undeniably sits alongside catastrophe and senseless death as evidenced by the riots which claimed many lives in KwaZulu Natal in July of 2021 — blithe sits alongside catastrophe and freedom alongside subjection. In this sense, eBhish’ engages critical multiplicity, on the one hand it documents and historicizes through subversion; challenging the notion of Black life as fungible. On the other hand, it inspires a poetic, oceanic and fluid reading and articulation of Black life.
To think oceanic is to think with the sea. To think oceanic is to think motion because motion is the very essence of our being but also a strategy of survival as well as a way of being together. In very obvious ways eBhish’ is about motion and therefore it is also about unbound collectivity.
Exhibition text by Nkgopoleng Moloi
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Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose
Untitled 21 (January 1st, 2020)
Françoise Vergès (2014). The Postcolonial Museum: The Arts of Memory and the Pressures of History. Iain Chambers, Alessandra De Angelis, Celeste Ianniciello, Mariangela Orabona and Michaela Quadraro, UniversitÃ degli Studi di Napoli 'L’Orientale', Italy. Routledge; 1st edition (March 20, 2014).
Samuel Delay as quoted in “Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity” by Alexander G. Weheliye. Duke University Press Books (May 20, 2005)
Tina M. Campt. Listening to Images. Duke University Press Books; Illustrated edition (April 7, 2017)
Fred Moten through a recorded conversation; “The Black Outdoors: Humanities Futures After Property and Possession”. https://humanitiesfutures.org/papers/the-black-outdoors-humanities-futures-after-property-and-possession