Buhlebezwe Siwani, Amahubo, 2018. 3-channel Digital 4k projection video installation, sound, 13 min, 1 sec. Courtesy of the artist.

‘Goddesses of Healing’ at M.Bassy, Hamburg

The group exhibition ‘Goddesses of Healing’ presents video works by contemporary artists Tabita Rezaire (*1989, Paris), Berni Searle (*1964, Cape Town), Lorna Simpson (*1960, New York) and Buhlebezwe Siwani (*1987, Johannesburg), each exploring the black body as a vessel for addressing cultural wounds, history, memory and place.

From its beginnings, when it entered the international art scene in the 1960s, the video camera was embraced and appropriated mainly by women artists. The possibilities of experimentation and self-representation that it offers as well as the absence, as a new medium, of the prejudicial rules that govern the arts, has made the field of video art a space of expression prized by the avant-gardes. Using the camera as a catalyst – for therapeutic, educational and expressive purposes – many contemporary artists have since dedicated themselves to empowering others by re-building a reliable sense of self and identity politics. Thus, the corporality involved in performing in front of the camera offers a rare opportunity to claim control of one’s own body and to position oneself, on one’s own terms, in the public space.

The exhibition ‘Goddesses of Healing’ is a powerful healing journey through historical and social injustice. It is the complex layers of displacement, identity and belonging that are subtly explored in the video works of the Afro-American artist Lorna Simpson, the Franco-Guyanese artist Tabita Rezaire and the South African artists Berni Seale and Buhlebezwe Siwani. In these performative narratives, the relationship to colour, ethnicity, gender, land, race and sexuality is evoked as are the timeless emotional, physical, and spiritual trials associated with the politics of cultural erasure and structural exclusion. By highlighting and embodying silent narratives, the artists seek to challenge the roles assigned by our societies as well as to change perceptions of Western notions of history. Accepting, incarnating and speaking about trauma and unresolved feelings of injustice is paramount to the healing process of individuals and collectivises.

The viewer explores as the first piece of the show at M.Bassy, Lorna Simpson’s video work Cloudscape (2004), a theatrical scene of a solitary image of the black male figure in a dark setting (performed by Terry Adkins), whistling the old tune ‘Cloudscape’ – a Negro Spiritual as sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the 1920s – appearing and disappearing ad infinitum in a cloud of mist. The role of race and gender attributed to the black man in American society is questioned here, as well as the recurring ups and downs of racial struggles for equality. Presented in the second space of the exhibition, Berni Searle’s double projection Snow White (2001) is a narrative performed by the artist. It is a scenic representation of her naked body on which white flour is raining, kneeling on the ground and enveloped by a black background. During this long dramatic sequence, the artist kneads the dough created around her. Her body foster the awakening of the viewer on expression of discrimination and the deep psychological impact resulting from our violent history of apartheid and colonialism that is passed down through generations. The incessant exoticisation, fetishisation, obliteration and suffering of the black female body is equally central to Buhlebezwe Siwani’s three-channel installation Amahubo (2018). Here, a ceremonial is performed by a group of women dressed in white in an astonishing landscape of the South African countryside.

In regard of the video’s voice-over, we listen to the poet Christie van Zyl, reciting a poem that recounts the history of the country and its vivid memories of segregation, sexist and racist discrimination. The work addresses the spoliation of African lands, the way they were taken from the populations and how they subsist in these spaces. It also fosters awareness of the weight of expectations towards black women in these structures of control and their systematic obliteration in the discourses of history. The title of her word AmaHubo refers to self-love and the love of the god(ess) within oneself.

The exhibition ‘Goddesses of Healing’ will be joined by a screening of video works by Tabita Rezaire at the space of Frappant e.V. between the 27th and 28th of November 2021. As a powerful agent of healing, the artist’s multi-dimensional practices merge digital, bodily and ancestral memory, networked science and scientific imagination. With a millennial aesthetic specific to her body of work, powerfully mixing the influences of ancient knowledge with those of pop and digital culture.

The exhibition ‘Goddesses of Healing’ is conceptualised and organised by M.Bassy e.V. in collaboration with Âme Nue. We give our special thanks to the Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin for their loan as well as to the Ministry of Culture and Media Hamburg, Claussen-Simon-Foundation, Berlin and the Rudolf Augstein Foundation, Kunstfond NEUSTART Kultur for their generous financial support. The exhibition will be on view from the 12 of November until the 12 of December 2021. For more information, please visit m-bassy.org

FEATURED IMAGE: Buhlebezwe Siwani, Amahubo, 2018. 3-channel Digital 4k projection video installation, sound, 13 min, 1 sec. Courtesy of the artist.