• 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). The exhibition opens 21 January 2021 and will be accompanied by an extensive public programme - details to follow.

[TEXT BY THE ARTIST]

I was born eThekwini (formerly Durban)1. Growing up ebhish’ laseThekwini2 (on/at the Durban beachfront), summers were often the highlight of the year. My family and I would drive to the beach in a car packed to the brim with camp chairs, cooler boxes and treats. En route, as kids, we would sing gleefully, eBhish’ Durban, ebhish’, bhish’, bhish’, Durban! This excitement reverberated with crowds of other kids who would splash about the public pools. I have fond memories of a mixture of sea water and chlorine. I’d often swim for hours until uMa noma uGogo would drag me out of the pool. 

Ibhish’ laseThekwini holds a lot of personal, as well as political, significance for me. The history of black people’s relationship with the space has largely been marked by discrimination and segregation. Our absence in visual archives reflects this, as they are largely populated by historical photographs of white beachgoers.

Saidiya Hartman (2019) argues that the past is not a time that is over; it is a historical force that produces our now. It is important, therefore, to address the invisibility of black leisure3 in public spaces. Through my work, I’m contributing to a contemporary archive of black life ebhish’, one with humanising, tender and intimate moments, aimed at inscribing our place in the seaside eThekwini. eBhish’ centres “intimacy and embodied knowledge that is enabled through agency, subjectivity and self-articulation… [I]t is not about self-marginalisation but rather an attempt to eradicate totalising interpretations that once serve[d] homogenis[ing]” perceptions of blackness (Ntombela, 2019: 96). 

Photography is more than a form of visual representation. It is a tool for refusing negative portrayals of black people, particularly by white-dominated institutions. My practice is foregrounded in the willingness to be vulnerable4 in the face of the history of photography and to create multivocal imagery which permeates fixed notions of time. The photographs are captured while swimming. Although composition is important, the act of swimming whilst documenting is key. The photographic process becomes fluid. The output is, at times, well-composed and focused; at others, there is a soft focus with a skewed horizon line, discarding the formal rules of photographing and composition. 

Most of the photographic work is shot on analogue 120mm and 35mm cameras using black and white film. Through the use of black and white photography, there is a modification of time5. Achille Mbembe underscores the use of black and white film as a “time of entanglement” which mediates time from linear and homogeneous perception. Black postcolonial subjects experience it as “an interlocking of presents, pasts, and futures that retain their depths of other presents, pasts, and futures, each age bearing, altering, and maintaining the previous ones” (Mbembe, 2001:16). 

eBhish’ is interested in the finer happenings. It is a self-reflexive endeavour: an archive in the making, unfettered by the tropes of representational image making. It critiques the colonial impulse to name and, therefore, to objectify. Instead, it represents black seaside leisure by being held by it, being in it. This relates specifically to the gathering of black people ebhish’ laseThekwini as an articulation of an unnamed and unnameable space, a metaphysical realm which goes beyond what meets the eye and flesh, yet is crucial for our spiritual survival. Keguro Macharia writes, “The name cannot be thought, now, without the problem of the post-taxonomic imagination we have inherited and that we inhabit. This is a problem of how we got stuck in time, stuck by time, stuck as the timeless, but also as the belated” (Macharia, 2016: 37).

Through my multimedia work, eBhish’, I take an in-depth look at the history of ibhish’ laseThekwini. Presented through a historiography, I unpack systemic enactments, allowing us to understand the past that has not passed, but reappears always and ruptures the present (Sharpe, 2016: 41). Drawing from the history of ibhish’ laseThekwini, I critique the photographic archive and its representational politics. By doing so, I hope to foreground the multiplicity and fluidity of black oceanic presence and black subjectivity, as well as the interrelated meanings of water and the sea as spiritual.

 

NOTES

1 Durban was named after a governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, on  23 June 1835.  Prior to that, it was known as Port Natal. iTheku (meaning a port or harbour)  is the proper noun. eThekwini is a prepositional version which means in/at the theku.

2 Throughout the text, I will use ibhish’ laseThekwini, ebhish lase’Thekwini or ebhish’ when discussing the Durban beach. This is in line with the renaming of the city from Durban (a colonial name) to eThekwini. This does not abide by the English convention and naming of the space, but it is culturally and colloquially acceptable. In isiZulu, ebhish’ means at the beach and  ibhish’ means the beach, depending on the context. There are moments in which English requires the inclusion of ‘the’ or ‘at’. In this case, those words are excluded.

3 The question of black leisure represents a tension between racial capitalism and leisure. Leisure is seen as opposed to capitalism: “free time” versus “work time”. It is the fact of not owning one’s own labour (thus time) that's the key issue. In the contemporary, we all exist within the same structure, but the notion of “free time” is designed to make it more possible to accept a capitalist realist conception of the world. Arguably, if we take this into account, then the notion of leisure is fraught with the idea that enjoyment only exists within a constructed framework of class division. To a degree, it accepts a colonial parameterisation around where social enjoyment lives and does not live

4 Whether the photograph captured is problematic or not, vulnerability is always inevitable around the camera.

5 The artwork is untitled, but it is dated according to when the photograph was taken.

 


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