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Lhola Amira

Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase

SMAC Gallery, Cape Town

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Lhola Amira
Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase
11 min 4 s
Format & Technical

Single channel, colour, sound
Edition of 3 + 2 AP

According to Achille Mbembe, Africa is rewriting itself within a global history of the arts, as a deterritorialized, restless body in motion. It is, then, the image of a vibrant pedestrian culture on a continent that still is a crossroad of migrancy, traffics and conquests, what Lhola Amira puts into scene in her sepia tone video piece.

For the South African artist who travelled to Ghana, her walk through the crowded roads of Accra turned into a militant re-mapping of the (de)colonial legacy in the urban spaces of the first country to gain independence in the continent. Subverting the practice of walking mainly adopted as a form of performance by western, white male avant-garde artists since the past century, Lhola Amira turns her “derive” into an affirmative “appearance” in eternal motion: aimed at restoring the totality of a politically dehumanized, queer black body, her proud pace breaks the tension between media hypervisibility and historical erasure.

To know more about Lhola Amira’s journey, one can ask Khanyisile Mbongwa, who shares her body with the artist and whose practice is better described as “curation”. The video, she would tell, results from Lhola Amira’s collaboration with three Ghanaian artists from different disciplines. She entrusted the camera to Wanlov Kubolor, a renowned filmmaker, while she asked the musician Eli to produce a new sound piece for this video. All she had to worry about was to enact her powerful presence, to embody her astonishing beauty, asking the camera’s eye to record her defiant wandering for six hours. On 6-inch heels, with iTshoba (Zulu divination stick) in her hand, wearing a brownish jumpsuit and a head-wrap, hers is a restless searching for a promise of freedom and a decolonized gaze. Noble, firm and proud, sometimes she interacts with the fellow pedestrians. From a street market, to a public toilet and a bus station, the surrounding moves sometimes fast, other times slow. Then a biker drives her through the traffic, toward the outskirts of the metropolis. Only in the end of her derive, when Lhola Amira arrives to a beach and walks into the ocean, the power of the waves is able to falter her pace, raising a smile in her face. She speaks to the horizon with a divination gesture and, only then, in contact with the water, her exhaustion is made visible.

Being the central piece of a constellation of travels memories and gifts that includes photographs by Francis Kokoroko and installation, the video turns into the penetrable surface through which we can access Lhola Amira’s journey.

Mariella Franzoni



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