Identity, gender, memory, colonialism. These are the topics the German–Kenyan multimedia, installation and performance artist Syowia Kyambi deals with. She takes a critical stance on the cultural power structures that shape the construction of the self in the post–colonial world.
The exhibition Double Consciousness refers to a central concept of the American philosopher and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, who is considered to be a leading figure of the civil rights movement and a mastermind of Pan–Africanism. Syowia Kyambi draws attention to a specific aspect of the term double consciousness, which describes the internal division or fragmentation of identity that individuals develop under conditions of general civil, political, and cultural inequality as a result of colonial history.
The exhibition shows a multimedia–based installation, a heterogeneous spatial situation consisting of several elements: While clothes together with double–sided mirrors hang from the ceiling, two projectors show sequences of a sky, striped with slight clouds, on two walls. Next to them, a series of works on paper shows gestural body prints of black pigment, which in their controlled randomness refer to performative actions. The imprints contain a temporal dimension that correlates with a surrounding sound, the ambient murmurs of a foreign rural environment. On another wall, a diptych hangs, on whose panels two identical Kaunda suits, marked with the years 1964 and 2018, are placed next to each other.
The hanging clothes point to three central figures: a modern businesswoman, a domestic servant, and another figure whom the Kaunda suit — a common garment in Africa made popular by Zambia's first president Kenneth Kaunda — makes appear to be male. The installation allows visitors to interact with the figures in a specific way: While looking at them, they can look at themselves in the mirrors. In doing so, they immediately experience that they can also be looked at by other visitors directly or through the mirrors. This creates an experiential moment that leads to the sense of double consciousness.
Syowia Kyambi’s presence in the global art world is reflected in numerous solo and group exhibitions as well as artist residencies in countries like Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Sweden, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and the USA. In the course of her career, she was awarded several prizes and scholarships, such as the UNESCO Award for the Promotion of the Arts and the Art in Global Health Grant from the Wellcome Trust Fund in the United Kingdom.
Senator für Kultur Bremen, Waldemar Koch Stiftung, Arbeitnehmerkammer Bremen
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