Looking For Ghana & The Red Suitcase
04.02.17 – 01.04.17
And all I ever wanted as a young black girl was to be visible, but all the spaces I entered, performed an extreme violence of either making me silent or loud. But I might be known if I die or when I’m killed. (Lhola Amira)
As Lhola Amira approaches center stage, in a medley of sculptors, painters, and photographers all of whom have had their practice inseparably preceded by the term ‘African’, she disputes and rejects this simultaneously sparse and generalized description. In her signature fusion of politics, economics and arts, Lhola Amira has developed Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase as the first of many more physical investigations into assumptions, contradictions and associations placed on contemporary definitions of Africa.
This exhibition presents a selection of photographs, an installation and video piece that are all rooted in Lhola Amira’s recent project based in Ghana. This project saw the artist engaging with local and current issues through a number of appearances and interactions in Ghana. The project, described by the artist as ‘Looking for ‘Africa’ in ‘Africa’, engages with contemporary discourses around decolonization, nationality and race.
Lhola Amira is primarily considered a ‘performance artist’ however; she refuses to adhere to any preconceived theories of ‘art’ or ‘performance’. She unashamedly intertwines definitions that academia attempts to separate, such as ‘activist’, ‘poet’, ‘philosopher’, ‘artist’ and many more. Lhola Amira questions connotations of performance, such as ‘farce’ or ‘play’ from which audiences can take an interval; in her own words; “You cannot perform being black. It is only the black body, that tends to be viewed, by society, as in a perpetual state of performance.”
As she stalked the streets of Accra, Lhola Amira tackled her own preconceptions of the first sub-Saharan country to demand independence from colonialism. Not only were the artist’s own expectations of Ghana unsettled but this recent sojourn also served to emphasize the futility of attempts to fully understand issues and controversies facing an area without extended personal experience. Lhola Amira remained a visitor during her time in Ghana, seeing and experiencing only a small collection of lifestyles possible in the country. Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase should not be seen as a summery of an entire country; Lhola Amira intentionally highlights the inadequate borders and geographical divisions that continue to enforce colonialism in Africa.
Lhola Amira worked with local photographer, Francis Kokoroko and filmmaker Wanlov Kubolor to produce a body of work that took place in Ghana but left residues that could be exhibited in South Africa and elsewhere.