Silence Until is a series of working with existing writings about being, reflecting and imagining into place. Exhibited in the National Gallery of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe as a part of the Reciprocal Narratives - About Place About Home exhibition curated by Mthabisi Phili.
The writings draw on auto-ethnographic and phenomenological methods, documenting encounters, revisiting history and being honest about the inevitable fragility that those experiences hold for myself. These writings were merged with the found semiotic landscape in the streets of Bulawayo; it is the result of this merging that allowed for a new space to emerge through which onlookers were invited to explore.
This exhibition made use of local findings and a photocopy shop in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, situated down the road from the National Gallery where the exhibition took place. The final exhibition explores how the process of documenting history through personal narratives seems to simply be some sort of photocopy of the truth.
I am inside, under and on top of wood. The wood is afloat but weighted down. I close my eyes and lean up against the side of the boat; the wall has now become the floor and the wedge of the corner seems to not hold me well. I feel the sounds coming at me from all sides, flattening my every thought, my every sense of self: thrashing harder and harder on the walls and roof. It can break me, I know.
Underneath is a heavy heaving, a tossing, a rage. Around us is all that is in affect. Swell after swell comes from the side, the boat rolls over their peaks clumsily with all that points up scratching sharp, fast lines into the dark. I hear him outside yelling to the winds, he is in love with her, I can feel it. She whips at him with thick rope as he runs out on the slippery deck trying to grab at her tantrum, trying to tame her, to bring her back to calm. I could be taken by this force. I know. I am nothing now. I am nothing and this storm is everything. He, outside, is something, he has found his place here, but me, I am nothing. I don’t belong here atop this deep mass of water, out in the wild where not a single structure can block the gale. I only need. I need to now trust in a human who I do not know, the one who made this boat so it could withstand this very night that tests it. All falls away and I am left - wild. Wild is the night, wild is my soul, wild is here.
- Delphine, Indian Ocean, February 2009
I am trying to speak, but I cant. I see their faces looking at me, waiting. They are ready to help, but they cant. I tell them something that they don’t understand, and they explain something that I can’t understand. I turn to him and ask him to talk for me and he tries. This time something captured in words floats from mouth to ear and I see them nod. They talk back, excited – but it’s too fast. I am in a market, in a city, on an Island. The stalls are cluttered with dangling artifacts, perfectly grouped by colour and material. I see the objects and I can buy them, this is true. I see their faces and can read them, to some degree at least I think. I hear their sounds and I can marvel at how they make me feel sharper, faster in being. But I can’t understand. I am trying to be sweet, innocent and transparent – but I don’t know how they are reading me. I smile and laugh a little at our failed attempts to connect, and I try to make gestures that show I am human. I ask about him again, who was he? Where did the fight take place? My questions are few; it’s the answers I am waiting for. They have gone silent now. They seem angry. I may not continue this conversation. Who was he? Am I in the fight?
- Markato, Antananarivo, Madagascar, June 2011
I am laying on a mattresses for one, an elephant sangoma sheet between us. I close my eyes. All around there is noise. Inside here though, it is calm. I hear the people, the cars, the beasts; their sounds begin to rise. But I am in a room on top of a house and they don’t come in. She rustles within me, making me alert; I hear more, I smell more, I sense more. The beasts outside are roaming, and I feel them rise. My ears twitch from creature to car, my eyes shoot from street to house. Everything is enclosed in something: metal, concrete, clothes. Everything is moving between things: walking, driving, rising. I see them all in my view; all of them are my own. She steps out of me and stands beside me, her tail swishing. I see her now. She is watching.
- Troyeville, Johannesburg, November 2013
I am sitting on a bench, in a garden, surrounded by mountains. I am trying to be silent. They are standing by the fence, looking out. A bird coos. A fly buzzes. The clouds float white above, divided, but in one sky.
- Franshoekfarm, Freestate, December 2012
I am sitting by a lake, under a tree. The wind rushes for me, but I am protected behind this tree. I can hear ducks talking, taking flight. I am naked and my hair is wet. In front of me the sun slices sharp white along the ripples. The ripples move toward me with the wind.
- Maluti Mountains, Freestate, December 2012
I am sitting at a wooden table. In front of me, live feed from a country I have no name for: men are sporting, team against team, colour against colour. Beside me men are preparing to eat, pulling out chairs, washing hands. Behind me, men are readying vegetables and milk for food. The thump and cheer of the game fills the room. The sweet smell of spices fills my nose. I press on the table, remembering wood by the river, the leaves that grew upon it.
- Fordsburg, Johannesburg, December 2012
The best way to enter a small town is to do so quietly. Otherwise, in time, all your glorious display of colour and noise will begin to stagnate around you, trickling down to form the aura that solidifies as You. All the while the townsfolk look on, amusingly summing you up like a painting on a wall; your glittering explosion falling softly to the floor, too dispersed now to ever recollect. There you will stand, your once-off show never to be repeated, named the fool. If, however, you are planning on moving through the town, like a troupe or a circus act, then these momentary shows of the glorious bizarre could go a long way to opening eyes, even disturbing the deep grooves of life that plods along, every day. You're moment of glory may be extended by an inch before you are again sen for who you are.
But when you plan to stay: it’s best arrive on the quiet.
- Small towns, South Africa, March 2010
The sticks were bound with an old, dirty fishing rope that I found at one of the abandoned houses hiding out on the other side of the hill. The rope was frayed, but not dead. It's entangled grip seemed to have a sort of hardy life, more than I assumed life could have when I lived in the city: it clings longer out here, and grows still, like mould in dark forgotten places. I wound the rope tight, strangling the Bluegum branches into stiff, straight lines, again and again until a useful platform upon which I could sit was formed from the alien vegetation. In the days to come I would often float on that raft, held together tightly by a persisting force, float on the river – removing myself from everything that exists on the land – forcing a deep watery gap to look back over at the villages as I drift away on my little island, my very own chunk of life.
- Keiskamma River, Eastern Cape, March 2013