Spotlight Series

Spotlight: C&

This summer, Daily Serving is shining a light on some arts publications that we regularly read and love. Wrapping up our week with C&, today we bring you the final selection from editor-in-chief Yvette Mutumba: an excerpt from an interview with artist Kemang Wa Lehulere about his exhibition Bird Song, which at the time was on view at Deutsche Bank KunstHalle in Berlin. This text was originally published on March 31, 2017.

Kemang Wa Lehulere. Installation view Kemang Wa Lehulere: Bird Song at Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, 2017. © Kemang Wa Lehulere, Sophia Lehulere, Gladys Mgudlandlu. Courtesy of STEVENSON Cape Town and Johannesburg. Photo: Mathias Schormann.

Kemang Wa Lehulere. Kemang Wa Lehulere: Bird Song; installation view, Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, 2017. © Kemang Wa Lehulere, Sophia Lehulere, Gladys Mgudlandlu. Courtesy of STEVENSON Cape Town and Johannesburg. Photo: Mathias Schormann.

C&: What do you think of this whole idea revolving around decolonizing knowledge?

Kemang Wa Lehulere: Decolonizing is basically about dismantling this system of power. One piece at a time. I believe the education system is the most important aspect to begin with because it is where people are shaped. At the moment and for a long time the educational system has not produced people that think critically, but rather people who fit in the system. There is a new generation of people acting against this, coming from the Black consciousness movement or Pan-Africanism. There is a resurgence of political philosophy that aims to break down the system, including the education system. Not only is it about changing the curriculum, but also about accessibility to that educational space. This is something I have always been concerned with. For instance, I could not afford to go to university. As a result, I had to do projects here and there in order to get the funds for my studies. And this took away the time I needed to study.

To bring it back to the show here, the materials I worked with are old school desks. I have always been interested in pedagogy. In school I complained to my English teacher because the curriculum was concerned only with English and American perspectives. This same teacher developed a special curriculum outside of the official one for me and a friend of mine. So, while she showed us carefully selected books by writers from African contexts, we would sit and discuss this material during lunchtime. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself where you fit into the normative body of knowledge, then to demand visibility, and at the same time to dismantle symbols of power in how they remain colonial and carry Western White patriarchal elements.

C&: So for this show Bird Song in Berlin, you used deconstructed school desks. What does the idea of installation mean to you? Why did you choose this format, these materials, jazz music, and other media?  

KWL: I always try to search for the materials first. For me it is like a journey. It has been only two years that I have been working with the materials the way I do now. In the beginning it was wood and then the metal components of the desk came in. Aside from that I am currently developing pieces that can be mobile. They would operate as sculptures within performances. In addition, the exhibition catalog includes a pamphlet as a supplement, i.e. a publication in a publication. It is a correspondence with an architect I have been working with. This is going to be the second edition of the pamphlet series. I also had the idea of including some jazz music in the show that a friend of mine, a jazz musician, composed specifically for this project.

Read the full interview here.

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