Miriam Watsemba, Beyond the Scars (2019). C-Print.
By choosing a relatable component of life, a mother, in the exhibition title: My Mother Is Forgetting My Face, the curator seeks to grab the attention of whoever has time to read. But, after this, the title takes on a metaphorical meaning, where the mother is actually the nation and the face is actually the respective citizens of the concerned nation. In essence the exhibition seeks to speak to the unspeakable injustices that nations render to their citizens. As a starting point, the exhibition speaks about three specific nations about which the exhibiting artists took interest; Myanmar, Uganda and South Sudan. Maria Brinch is commenting on the resilience in Myanmar, Bathsheba Okwenje and Miriam Watsemba are talking about the South Sudanese war and the consequent refugee crisis in Uganda and most recently Lilian Nabulime speaking about the Covid-19 pandemic in Uganda which has registered a set of inconsiderate policies to the citizens in the name of combating the virus spread.
How do we even harvest the right words to speak about an ongoing crisis without igniting trauma, especially among victims of war? Since 2013, South Sudan has been embroiled in a Civil War. Over four hundred thousand people have perished and four million others displaced, majority of whom are living in refugee camps in Uganda. Because of the enraging war in South Sudan, the country continues to disfigure the faces of its citizens and to expose them to terror, destitution, and homelessness.
Beyond the Scars, a photography documentation by Miriam Watsemba, narrates the story of one of the victims of the South Sudanese Civil War. Watsemba presents a visual narrative of the struggle to heal both physically and emotionally. The work is a reminder that even though an amicable end to the crisis is attainable, victims continue to struggle for many more years. They grapple with varied forms of scarring.
Bathsheba Okwenje’s audio piece End takes off with the sound of birds singing amidst the rubbing of machines against the earth. As the clip progresses, it obtains a stable rhythm of the sound of women panting, reminiscing the sequence of moving to Uganda every time war breaks out in South Sudan and having to return as soon as peace resumes, a cycle which has been endless since 2013.
Lilian Nabulime’s art practice has, over the past two decades, worked with making sculptures with the intention of addressing and sensitizing people about HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that has cost and disrupted many lives in Sub Saharan Africa. Her sculpture Angel stands out in this exhibition as a fitting gesture of calm and tranquility. The sculpture is part of the collection of the University Museum of Bergen since 2004. Nabulime has also created new works depicting the Covid-19 situation in Uganda in the series Keeping safe from Covid-19.
The Never Far Away series by Maria Brinch speak of human presence in public space, through everyday textiles. While walking the streets of Yangon Myanmar in 2008 she experienced women in her neighborhood hanging out their washed clothes on their way to work and collecting them on their way back home. In these gestures, Brinch saw a “pattern of hope of something solid and visual substantial in a city under oppression and poverty”.
With Bathsheba Okwenje, Maria Brinch, Lilian Nabulime, Miriam Watsemba.