Commissions Exhibitions

Still We Rise

27 September - 6 October 2018

Inspired by the writing and poetry of Maya Angelou (1928-2014), a leading American civil rights activist, Still We Rise was an uncompromising set of installations and live performances by international femme and non-binary media artists.

Supported by the British Council and UNESCO Creative Cities of Media Arts, the artists selected were Ulungile Magubane (South Africa), Neo Musangi (Kenya) and Brandon Covington Sam-Sumana (USA).

Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem “Still I Rise” spoke of her experiences as a black woman in America, highlighting the importance of reigniting one’s self-worth and power in order to combat oppression.

Today inequalities remain rife and even permeate the technologies that pervade our lives – from a holocaust denying twitter bot, to the gendered labour of artificial intelligence.

In this context, Still We Rise examined the systems which perpetuate inequalities from the perspective and locale of an international group of women, non-binary, femme-identifying people.

eMBIZENI

A mixed media installation by Ulungile Magubane

Ulungile Magubane peeled back the glossy façade of Johannesburg’s hypergrowth to reveal the tensions seeped in disparity, tradition and greed. Told through a visual EP, eMBIZENI was an intimately personal and provocative perspective of the black body in the face of toxic oppression, the lasting legacy of colonialism, and the rampant consumerism and anonymity often associated with the fast, unforgiving nature of change.

eMBIZENI, from isiZulu word ‘IMBIZA’, meaning ‘cooking pot’, contained the complexities of Ulungile’s relationship with her home city as it grew beyond recognition and where inequality still reigns supreme.

Ulungile Magubane performing eMBIZENI, Still We Rise © York Mediale
Ulungile Magubane performing eMBIZENI, Still We Rise © York Mediale
Still We Rise — York Mediale
Ulungile Magubane performing eMBIZENI, Still We Rise © York Mediale
Ulungile Magubane performing eMBIZENI, Still We Rise © York Mediale

“Lightning tour of the awesome York Mediale – highlights included Neo Musangi’s The Way of the Cross and Brandon Covington Sam-Sumana’s Life is… Grand at the Stained Glass Centre. It’s been really inspiring to see such a familiar city in an entirely new light, and the opportunity to experience such a breadth of work against usually unseen spaces is a real privilege.”

Simon Canaway

audience member

The Way of the CrossPerformance and video Installation by Neo Musangi

The Way of the Cross explored the role of religion, specifically Christianity, in modern day interpretations of gender in Africa.

Neo Musangi portrayed significant acts of violence at the behest of religious doctrine and colonialisation and interrogated the overpowering constraint of their binary narratives.

Performance projections transported audiences to places associated with these dual forces as the deep-rooted motivations to these crimes. The protest was then mobilised in the form of a mesmerising sculptural outfit – a patchwork of images from the colonial photographic archive of Nairobi. Neo wore the outfit through the streets of York and invited passers-by to consider the impact and legacy of colonial forces in Kenya.

Neo Sinoxolo Musangi performing The Way of the Cross for Still We Rise © York Mediale
Neo Sinoxolo Musangi performing The Way of the Cross for Still We Rise © York Mediale
Neo Sinoxolo Musangi performing The Way of the Cross for Still We Rise © York Mediale
Still We Rise — York Mediale

“The Way of the Cross is a very Catholic thing in Kenya, where it’s done every Easter, re-enacting Christ’s journey. I’m still a good Christian, but I’m also non-binary, which is illegal in Kenya, as is homosexuality: you can be sent to prison for 14 years for being homosexual. So when I found out my installation was going to be in an old church, I became very excited. It’s the perfect way to frame my work”

Neo Sinoxolo Musangi

Still We Rise Artist

Life is… GrandMixed media installation by Brandon Covington Sam-Sumana

Life is… Grand explored the way Black femme identities are portrayed in pulp fiction literature.

With particular focus on the writer Mesha Mesh’s ebook pulp works, the installation adopted a mixture of photography and video re-enactment – creating a new immersive environment venturing beyond obscured truths.

The installation highlighted how the heroines found in the literary fiction and black pulp of women writers are both hyper-visible and masked. The writers simultaneously depict themselves as thriving and empowered while trapped in systems built on their consumption and pain.

Key scenes were re-staged in a combination of large-format photography and video shown on small screen – the two extremes of visibility fighting for the audience’s gaze and attention. Paraphernalia from the recreated scenes accompanied the installation, offering fragments of a story to be pieced together.

Brandon Covington Sam-Sumana © York Mediale
Brandon Covington Sam-Sumana © York Mediale
Still We Rise — York Mediale
Brandon Covington Sam-Sumana © York Mediale

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