Inter-disciplinary artist Thuli Gamedze is a self-described ‘cultural worker’ whose practice is situated between curating and ‘the production of things’.
She is also a member of the art collective, iQhiya – a network of young, black female video and performance artists based in Cape Town and Johannesburg. In this interview by writer Nkgopoleng Moloi, Gamedze speaks about her artistic processes, her ideas around knowledge production, the power of writing and what she terms ‘the hidden curriculum’.
Nkgopoleng Moloi (NM): Your work spans across multiple disciplines; curating, teaching, writing —what is the thread that weaves these different aspects together?
Thuli Gamedze (TG): I’ve always been interested in making things out of whatever was around and experimenting across different practices. I had a number of failed projects as a kid. I once tried to make a pair of shoes out of newspaper, but they didn’t even survive the walk to school. If there’s a chance these experiments communicate an important point in an interesting, funny, or unlikely way, then I’m excited. Ultimately I would say my approach to everything is as an artist. The guiding principle is to figure out how to articulate, share and listen to ideas. I try not to be too worried about whether this takes shape through writing, teaching, curating or making art.
Shifting the structures that determine how we meet with each other, finding ways to be multiple within ourselves […] making constant attempts to flee the machine.
NM: Can we talk about the concept of knowledge and knowledge creation? Who are you producing knowledge for and why?
TG: I believe conversations throughout history are circular. Our concerns, desires and curiosities are repeated through time and space, and so while we are not necessarily creating new knowledge, we are constantly re-inventing and reworking formats in order to explore things together. Finding ways for people to exist collectively and share ideas, thoughts and feelings – even on a very small scale – is radical. This is what I associate with knowledge production. It’s shifting the structures that determine how we meet with each other, finding ways to be multiple within ourselves, despecialising, being playful, and I guess making constant attempts to flee the machine, ‘the man’ or whatever you want to call it.
NM: I am more familiar with your work as a writer and am always moved by the intensity, rigor and beauty with which you write. Can you describe your process?
TG: Thank you. To be honest with you, my approach varies drastically depending on how engaged I am. There are commissions that demand my soul, and others that just demand some solid writing. I believe in the importance of both. When it comes easy I start from the middle and talk to myself loudly until it’s done. It often just flows, but it is tough because sometimes writing about art makes my brain feel empty.
NM: Let’s talk about the art collective iQhiya that you’re a part of. How has it has evolved since its inception in 2015?
TG: iQhiya started when we were all at Michaelis School of Fine Art at University of Cape Town (UCT). We gathered together to work on an exhibition, that addressed the lack of representation of black women artists not only in the art world in general, but also within our own university gallery. Coming into contact with the politics of trying to get that done is what made us decide to stick together, and make more work. The journey has been a collective learning process, and we’ve moved between doing local performances, exhibitions and panel discussions, to being part of some heavy international art events. When we started out, we had no idea where it was all leading to, and many things have changed over time. For one thing, now we are rarely all in the same city at the same time, and of course, we are a group of people whose ideas, politics and goals have progressed in different ways over the last few years.
NM: It’s with iQhiya that you speak about the ‘hidden curriculum’ that would have a number of people believe that they do not in fact exist? Can you talk about how we can create emancipatory narratives and realities to disassemble this latent syllabus?
TG: This is an enormous question. [Essentially] the hidden curriculum theory describes the kinds of guiding principles that lurk beneath the explicit curriculum. At school, for instance, ‘girls and boys’ are given different uniforms and shown different activities to do. In sports, for example, boys play rougher, their teams are celebrated more, and their physical skills valued. The hidden lesson here could be that gender exists and that it creates inherent differences between people; that ‘boys’ are more valued, more fun, and more adept at things. Their passion is to be taken seriously. These lessons of differencing, colonising, racialising and gendering, are everywhere, in everything… Disassembling ideas like this means creating new hidden curricula that are affirming and accepting of people just as they are. For me, I’m interested in education and in designing freer formats for learning, while encouraging students to be in conversation with one another. Writing does some of this work – often as an exercise of digging up and examining things that are not immediately evident.
NM: What questions are you grappling with in your current work?
TG: There are always a hundred and one questions on my mind: Are novels the best way to explore theory? What can reality TV tell us about reality, that reality can’t? Is humour the most radical pedagogical method? What do land reparations mean in a capitalist world? Is queer anarchy where I’m at? …
NM: I’m interested in the ways in which you are able to enter, interrupt and disrupt spaces of dominance – in so far as the art world remains white and about old money? What are your reflections on the ways in which you move around in this world?
TG: Yoh, the art world makes me so tired, but I’m not really interested in finding ways to move around it, because I am certainly not trying to change it. It’s a useful place to reflect on, because it is an industry of images. It functions as a really strange and sinister corner of capitalism, where criticality and private wealth seem to cohabit so effortlessly …We really need an art world reality TV show. While there are tons of wonderful people in these spaces, there’s a strange energy that comes with the money side of it. Collectors and museum boards are often just on the hunt for the next big ‘woke’ thing, and so the inclusion of queer, trans, black, disabled people and women is usually not a genuine practice towards a more kind and equitable art world, but rather shows underhanded attempts at keeping up with the market viability of ‘decoloniality’.
NM: What are your thoughts on the future of publication as a practice – its relevance, ideals and processes?
TG: Publication is important. As a writer, you often get these weird exploitative contracts attempting to grab your copyright, to revise and change your work without your approval, and to have your content circulated as part of deals you are not privy to. In the same way that artist-run spaces are such crucial interventions for artists dealing with the gallery-system, I think independent and writer-run publishing spaces are important for nurturing writing, and protecting writers. It’s for sure something I see in my future. I think things like independent publications or independent project spaces allow informal unionising, collectivity and information-sharing. This is crucial because we don’t only want to produce content – we want to house that content in ways that are welcoming and generous outside of ourselves.
An article by Nkgopoleng Moloi
Featured image : Thuli Gamedze, “Snow is white and very cold”, 2018, mixed media collage. Exhibition “Cape To Tehran”, in Gallery MOMO, 13 february – 29 march 2018, Cape Town, South Africa.
→ Thuli Gamedze’s website
→ About iQhiya’s
This interview by Nkgopoleng Moloi is part of an editorial collaboration between The Art Momentum and People’s Stories Project (PSP) under the umbrella of the British Council’s arts programme across Africa.
Articles are published in their original language | Les articles sont publiés dans leur langue d’origine