The Goodman Gallery in Cape Town will be hosting two concurrent solo exhibitions during Woman’s Month with art inspired by women through the ages.
The gallery will be presenting Shirin Neshat and Distant Visions: Postcards from Africa by Shirin Neshat and Sue Williamson between 12 August and 18 September.
Distant Visions: Postcards from Africa
Distant Visions: Postcards from Africa is an exhibition of new works from Sue Williamson, including a series of drawings that continues to portray the artist’s interest in the power of a small-printed image like a postcard. An image such as this can carry news of a specific moment in time to an audience that is far-off – sometimes current and sometimes separated from the event by a century.
Sue Williamson’s earlier series of etchings, The Modderdam Postcards (1978) was based on sketches made over seven days while witnessing the destruction by the apartheid state of an informal settlement near the airport in Cape Town. Postcards she made from A Few South Africans (1983–1986) – mixed media portraits of heroic women active in the struggle for liberation – were distributed wide and far and showcased art inspired by women.
The artist has most recently turned her focus onto vintage postcards of photographs that were taken by European colonisers in Africa early in the 20th century, though. Sourcing these postcards from museum archives or the internet, Williamson reverted to classic drawing techniques. In each drawing within the series, signs of habitation are visible – be it dwellings, boats, a pile of coconuts or baskets. Yet, the people who appeared on the original postcards are no longer there and their absence presents an uncomfortable question: Where are the people who used to live here? What happened to them?
Williamson’s Postcards from Africa series considers a critical moment in history and wrestles with the complex history of colonial expansion and conquest captures through the postcard industry. Postcards hold traces of historical memory and through Williamson’s evocative ink drawings she seeks to confront the painful and unresolved legacies of colonialism. Through her drawings, omitting the people from where they once lived makes the violence visible.
Shirin Neshat – Inspired by women’s dreams
Shirin Neshat’s first solo exhibition in Cape Town brings a video installation Sarah, a photographic still from Roja, as well as Offerings, a series of recent photographic-based works which incorporate Neshat’s interest in the interior lives of women through different means.
Sarah and Roja are part of a trilogy of video installations titled Dreamers, which explore the world of women’s dreams. Each video was shot in black and white, using simple camera devices to produce surrealistic and dreamy visual effects, portraying emotional and psychological narratives that remain on the border of dream and reality; madness and sanity; and consciousness and subconsciousness. Neshat says that she has been haunted by the power of dreams for years and that Dreamers is based on aspects of her own dreams.
Roja’s character and dilemma in many ways resemble her fear of the “stranger” and the “strange land”, and a desire for a reunion with ‘home’ and ‘mother, with the ‘motherland’ that seems welcoming at first, but becomes terrifying and demonic in the end.
The single-channel film, Sarah, is about the unfolding journey of a woman as she recollects and breathes annihilation, as she faces residues of destruction, violence, genocide, and mortality in a state of dream.
“Sarah is an effort to make sense of the more subliminal emotional and psychic universe that lives deep inside of us, but is difficult to explain through words,” says Neshat.
The film is shown alongside still images from Neshat’s recent Offerings series, for which she employed her trademark use of texts in delicate lines of Persian script across the skin of the people and subjects that she photographed. The poetry written on the hands in this series was taken from the 11th century Persian Poet, Omar Khayyam.
Both Williamson and Neshat are known for works that address histories that have been overlooked, as well as the experiences lived by individuals that have not often been prioritised by society. Art lovers can look forward to some brilliant art inspired by women at the Goodman Gallery Cape Town this month.