Photo Essay: Aesthetics from a heritage: Knowing through Revealing and Concealing

Photo Essay: Aesthetics from a heritage: Knowing through Revealing and Concealing

Nkcubeko Balani is a South African artists who explores issues of heritage, modernity and identity in this photo essay. We took some excerpts from the essay but encourage you to take a look at the essay in its entirety.

Vissuda – Vishuddha refers to one’s throat or expressive chakra. A nourishing of it grants one the air to speak and to do so boldly. The title comes to me as a result of the freedom that I’ve felt decolonial spaces give for conversations with postcolonial subjects from different cultural contexts. In many ways decolonial spaces undo the obsessively controlling effect that colonialism and apartheid has had – and continues to have – on conversations between different cultures.

Vez’ Ithanga – This image is influenced by many things but primarily two. The first is the idea of isigcebhezana that could only be done by o-sisi in the township when I was young. The second is musician Kelela’s artwork for Take Me Apart – an album on being able to enter someone else’s space in a true way. Also being someone who’s prepared to have another person be subsumed in their space like that. Both of these positions come with glory – not in a clichéd sense. Both of them are also a playful manifestation of the art of revealing and concealing as I’ve known it from how Xhosa people don imibhaco. This image also contemplates what becomes of a meeting of the conservative and the experimental and reminded me of Mandela’s conservatism-informed arraignment of Boom Shaka’s sexual-positivism. The arm and ankle bracelet, though strikingly beautiful, are numerous ways the charm that comes with reveal can be consuming and subduing.

Mother King – The title Mother King is inspired by the fierceness of single motherhood. Single mothers are easily ostracized by a heteropatriarchal narrative when they in fact represent one of the ways in which women are able to groom and reclaim power in a status quo that disallows them. In the image I use myself in order to focus on the singularity aspect of being a single mother, as well as the power that I feel many single mothers – including my own – exude in merely being.

Digital lione
 – I look at my digital streams and realize how much of it is imported. And the importation is inevitable where the internet provides so much versatility of person. I admire the friction between the importation and a culture that I’ve felt curated by a one-on-one interaction in a Xhosa conservative family. The title Digital Lion is borrowed from a James Blake song of the same title. The song, for me, is a hurling of different emotions and feelings in deeply entangled electro. It feels a lot like the music I surround myself in when in my room.

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