As an interdisciplinary artist from South Africa, Lhola Amira adopts the use of photography, video and sculpture, while defining THEIR practice as ‘Appearance’ – a term that draws from African Nguni spiritualism. As part of THEIR work as a black, queer artist, Lhola Amira conceives THEIR existence in plural – that is, plural existences in one body – which is reflected in the use of identification terms in capital letter (THEY, THEM, YOU, YOUR, US, WE). Lhola Amira’s ‘Appearances’ are gestural forms that draw from ancestral spirituality, as well as in walks and drives through urban or rural landscapes. Lhola Amira’s appearances have taken place across South Africa, Ghana, Sweden and Brazil amongst others.
Lhola Amira’s ongoing journey through different sites, events and traumas of European colonialism and slavery trade, has both spiritual and political character. In DITAOLA, this journey is presented as a mystic and collective healing gesture and a strategy of emancipative subjection at the same time.
– Text by Mariella Franzoni
Central to Lhola Amira’s practice are gestures toward collective healing, emanating from an examination of the wound left by colonisation and systematic discrimination, as well as its continued weeping. She addresses the demand from the present to engage with the past and the future.
With Black history in mind, Lhola Amira subverts the gaze on Black Bodies; the gaze to the “stage” the pedestal and the spectacle of performance by calling her practice ‘Appearance’. The embodiment of ‘Appearance’ draws from southern African Nguni spiritualism, that denotes plural existences in one body – Lhola Amira shares a body with Khanyisile Mbongwa – as well as an understanding of the Zulu notion of Ukuvela which contextualises an individuals’ existence in relation to collective historical and future narratives. Confronting the historical and contemporary precarity of Blackness, ‘Appearance’ acts as de-colonial practice moving from Black Bodies that perform to Black Bodies that ‘Appear’ on their own terms. In this sense, a Black Body that ‘Appears’ is imbued with POWER – the power to be, to protest, to imagine, to dream, to subvert, to laugh, to drink wine, to self actualise.
Lhola Amira’s work translates into film, photography and installation. A residue of her ‘Appearances’ are the arresting images and films that reiterate her engagements with past and contemporary history. Lhola Amira problematizes the spectacle-spectator relationship as there is no pre-conceived show to see, no script, or stage direction – instead there is purposeful embodied ‘presence’ and the gestural. These gestures, within de-colonial practice, position ‘Appearance’ in accordance to critical subaltern agency and the contestation of cultural value systems which have been monopolised by colonial hierarchies.