Selected exhibitions I had the privilege to share my artistic and professional inputs. All text is curatorial notes I wrote.
NIPE//NIKUPE – JAN VAN ESCH
ARK Tanzania Gallery, 2020
The culture of giving has long been presented to us as something holy. From religious texts to dubious festive season marketing – we are subconsciously reassured that to give is the most noble of actions. Jan Van Esch deconstructs this narrative by delving into the otherwise ignored psychological motives and power play between giver and receiver.
There are many ways to claim power and to reinforce it. Imagine a game of Tug of War, where both sides are fiercely pulling for power – the side that unexpectedly lets go of the rope causes the opposers to fall. They gave them the victory, but is victory really victorious when given away? When the other is left inferior, laying on the floor with a rope that is connected to nothing. This may be similar to the dynamics of the mitumbas. Jan asks if this “gift” is really a gift.
Throughout the video works and photographs he highlights a lack of dialogue, the cosmic disconnect between the donation boxes in Germany and the Mitumba markets of Karume and Mwenge. He intentionally weaves clothes, movement (or lack thereof), ocean and sound to create a body of work that sets to provide an alternative relationship between giver and receiver – introducing an ideal cyclical dynamic of being both giver and receiver in exchanging motion. Nipe Nikupe.
As an alternative view of the “Mitumba Monster” (emerging from the same waters that brought about western oppression and inequality) the heap of wrinkled, twisted clothes may also be seen as the “Capitalist Monster” – who feeds on the culture of excess. A culture of excess brought to a people who live in anything but. Jan subversively raises another conversation – how much choice do the receivers have when dealing with a gift they did not ask for but are forced to accept? The West remains as an “exemplary” social model – although detached and otherwise unbothered by where all their giving goes.
There is a strong introspective element tying all the works together, and the development of an attempt to correct the issues raised. Cautious to cross the thin line between supporter and white saviour, Jan is conscious in his collaborative approach to when dealing with the intersection of social culture such as music and dance – he is very literally and physically aiming to “level the playing ground” and nurture healthier exchange and intercultural dialogue.
Give me, and I’ll give you; presents a corridor linking one western door to one in the east. It is a personal journey of redefining value, relearning it not only for Jan, but you the spectator. Jan has simply set out the playing cards, the facts and non-facts, the destructive nature of compliant acceptance. Mitumba imefuka – tunazipokeaje?
visit Jan’s website here
Co-curated with Asteria Malinzi
A BAD IDEA
Nafasi Art Space, 2019
A social experiment and a commentary on how we perceive goodness and “badness”.
“Take the things you have rejected.
Look at them again.
Flip your world upside down, Can you grow with only good thing?
I dont know.”
The exhibition featured a scream room where participants were invited to close the door and scream as loud as they could. A needed release from the everyday hyper-politeness of Tanzanian society.
Ultra Light Beams
Visual Art Festival Zanzibar 2019
People learn and grow from imitation and repetition, mirroring in role models, ideas, activities and attitudes around them.
Taking into consideration the Tanzanian context, and the social nuances of Dar es Salaam in particular in relation to global standards, it is easy to fall into the cycle of entitlement – expecting our communities to function, grow and provide for us in an exponential way.
It is human nature to focus on those things which weigh us down, which frustrate us, which we want to change; unaware that this constant emphasis of the negative results in us over looking all that is good.
Ultra Light Beams aims to highlight the moments, feelings, people and places that contribute to the progressive ever evolving narrative of Tanzania. Through the interpretation of local inspiration by sound, video, image and text. A new media art exhibition that will create a platform that showcases the richness, diversity and presence of growth within the country.
An Ultra Light Beam is an idea, a person, a sound or thought that elevates you into a state of appreciation of life itself and that which is around you.
Nafasi Art Space, 2019
As the current inhabitants of earth, we are the result of a long line of ancestors, of sacrifice, of revolutions, wars and hundreds of years of cumulative knowledge and transformation. We are all the by-products of inheritance.
If we consider inheritance only as the physical passing of ownership, we fail to see it in its entirety – as the passing down of life force. Our genetics, the information we are exposed to in our daily lives, sometimes even our dreams and aspirations are products of countless others. This exhibition is a doorway into exploring those things that are beyond touch, stepping into the reality that we are emotional, intuitive and most of all influential beings that are also influenced by what is around us.
The artists delve into the various spheres of inheritance, touching on both the tangible and intangible. They observe inheritance as large scale phenomena, including belief systems, cultural norms and emotive expressions, as well as the possibilities of individual epigenetic inheritance of trauma and memory.