All Our Ancestors
Cardboard, bolts, thread, bottles
260 x 260 x 200 cms
•6 November to 13 December 2014, Commune 1 Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, curated by Conor Ralphs and Leigh-Anne Niehaus
Artist residency and collaborative exhibition at the First Floor Gallery Harare with Zimbabwean contemporary artist Moffat Takadiwa. Assisted by sculptor Terrence Musekiwa and others.
Conceived and curated by Valerie Kabov, director of First Floor Gallery Harare, Zimbabwe.
Supported by the Arts Council England Artists International Development Fund
This demountable cardboard work was fabricated over two intense weeks from initial research, conversations, drawings and models. It hovers between architecture and sculpture in scale and structure; it synthesises pattern and ornament from European Christian traditions, African Shona, Ndebele and other traditions into a style we dubbed "Afro-Gothic”.
It was inspired both by the sacred architectural geometry of the European gothic and the complex mathematical patterning of Zimbabwean and Zambian traditional crafts and architecture. It was conceived of as type a shrine or temple, it seemingly floats over the floor and surrounds an inner sanctuary with its semi circular wings. All Our Ancestors It has an implicit social function, drawing people to it as an enigmatic object of many possible readings and functions.
Christianity and the Shona/Nbebele religions are monotheistic.
-Mwari “He who Is” Shona
-Amadhlozi “He who Is” Ndebele
-YHWH "I am who I am" Judeo-Chrisitanity
Self existent Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
Ancestors in Shona/Nbebele are thought to be present in the lives of their descendants in spirit form and are the seen as the conduit for communication with Mwari via living mediums. Christ the redeemer becomes incarnated within Shona/Ndebele culture as Mudzimu Mukuru, the great ancestral spirit. The geometry of the All Our Ancestors work attempts to reflect this in the way its quarter and semicircles elide into each other so each face is simultaneously part of more than one semicircle; a spatial embodiment of religious syncretism - the sophisticated negotiation of multiple belief systems.
All Our Ancestors meshes spiritual and humanistic values of two cultures, which share a colonial and a religious past. An aim of the proposal was to rehabilitate Zimbabwean tradition from the stigma of Christianisation enabling establishment of a peer-based dialogue and relationship on the basis of shared monotheistic worldview, spiritual plurality and traditions acknowledged and validated through art.