Masimba Hwati: Sokunge/As if
SMAC Gallery is currently presenting Sokunge/As if by Zimbabwean artist Masimba Hwati.
Sokunge, translated from Shona, describes a phenomenon wherein something presents itself as other than its true nature. When directly translated to English it means as if. The resulting phenomenon exists as an in-between space, referencing the real object while at the same time obscuring it.
The exhibition is based on research around various forms of cultural resistance and the use of symbolism to modify power and contest domination. The works in Sokunge were created at the intersection of sculpture, sound and the body, allowing for an exploration of liminal spaces in the post-colonial context. It reframes this space as a breeding ground for unfamiliar sounds, forms, hybridity, confusion and dissonance. The works allow for a sonic bodily engagement with the sculptures, opening up a nuanced lexicon of resistance and negotiation with power giving the viewer an opportunity to experience a state of surrender.
Human behaviour can be likened to sound waves with regard to navigating obstacles. The way sound moves around and through matter is sometimes diverted through contact with other matter. Sound studies have become popular with behavioural scientists and anthropologists as a way of providing another perspective on human behaviour and social politics. Sokunge /As if focuses on the way people operate like sound, in terms of how they structure and configure themselves around dominant powers. In situations of repression, instead of confrontation, people may negotiate with or navigate around power. Sound exists on a spectrum from super audible to almost inaudible, speaking to matters of visibility politics or class politics, wherein some people are hyper-visible and some are invisible. Some are heard and some go unheard.
In Harare, the city that does not sleep, there is a constant flux – a continuous, restless configuration. This insomnia becomes a state of restless socio-political awareness. It often feels like a deep-seated instability while simultaneously being a survival tactic. The political situation in Zimbabwe produces a confused rage of responses against the brutality of a repressive political machine. Depending on where you stand, the subjects/people either seem to be negotiating with power in order to modify it, or appear to be playing a dangerous game of resistance – while at the same time passively enabling the system, when it serves to benefit them.
Achille Mbembe describes this as playing with power – in his words, “This is what allows us to assert that, by dancing publicly for the benefit of power, the ‘post-colonized subject’ is providing his or her loyalty and by compromising with the corrupting control that state power tends to exercise at all levels of everyday life (over benefits, services, pleasures…) the subject is reaffirming that it is incontestable-precisely in order the better to play with it and modify it whenever possible.”
– Achille Mbembe, on the Post Colony (2001)
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