Voici le texte de Zasha Colah autour de l’exposition qui se tient actuellement à l’Institut d’art contemporain de l’océan Indien (ICAIO. Elle detient un Master of Arts, Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art. Elle est la curatrice et cofondatrice de la Clark House Initiative (Bombay). Son expérience, vaste, va de Londres à Bombay.
“Violence spoken, and violence under the skin are the two themes around which the exhibition turns. The title is a pop-rock reference, after the refrain in a Sonic Youth song ‘I love you Sugar Kane’, and the name of the character played by Marilyn Monroe in ‘Some Like It Hot’. In popular culture, the brunette actress who ironically represented the cliche of the ‘dumb blonde’ is a pop twist to Frantz Fanon’s pithy ‘Peau noire, masques blancs’ (1952), and the making white of naturally brown sugar cane, that may or may not have been related to nineteenth-century ideas about the primacy of white. Any reflexive construct of the self—and there are so many portraits in the collection that one cannot avoid seeing them as amounting to a project of identity—are identities that seem to be etched by violent rupture, or a neutralised sense of trauma. Faces, carved by inherited ancestral memory, more than by the subject’s colour of skin.
In Prokofiev’s music fable of 1936, the wolf—represented by the horn section of the music, enters the garden gate and swallows young Peter’s friend the duck. He is caught bravely by Peter—represented by the string instruments, who unheeding of his grandfather’s words of caution catches the wolf with a noose made of rope. Simon Gush’s golden shining work is as mysterious as Prokofiev’s parable about Russia’s lurking outside threats; but Gush has suggested his own misgivings about the neutralisation of the political context of the parable, and this reading of the work could be seen as a metaphor for the exhibition. The work accretes another layer in Mauritius, where the wolf-as-threat, relates the work to the figure of the ‘lougarou’ (a creole of the old French, ‘loup-garou’), the shapeshifting werewolf, who re-surfaced in Mauritius after a cyclone in 1994 and the three-weeks of darkness that followed, and again in 2013. The presence of fear, and its manifestation, could be read as an inheritance; while part belief, it may be a carried trauma that finds its outlet in collective sightings of the lougarou.
Mawande Ka Zenzile’s work, textured by cow dung used on floors and oil paint, is an immediate outspoken narrative of sexualised violence underwritten by histories of race, class and colonialism. The woman running away, is a readably American iconography of the ‘mammy’, that domestic, content, middle-aged woman. The orange to red etched faces in the ‘Shame’ prints by Penny Siopsis, layered over and over with different techniques of printmaking and hand stamping, enact a layering of trauma from the unspeakable to incontinent speech. The shame is not only of the victims of sexualised torture—shot through with racial experience, but of the bearing of the shame of the whole ancestral history, that violent inheritance, of torturer and tortured.
Like a punctuation mark in the room, Mithu Sen’s work drips with a single stain of red. The paper is perforated by tiny holes, that hide a flower. Focussed on the most profound self-portraitist, Rembrandt, Ian Grose’s small oil painting, ‘Why u gotta be so violent’, is re-contextualised—a word the artist has used to describe his work—to think of the use of sculpted, painterly technique, to let the psyche speak from the thickness of the painted face. The outstretched upwardly-moving painting of women in Portia Zvavahera’s work, mimic the installed suspended horns by Gush, and offer escape—through their collectivity, through spiritual movements, through prayer, through transcendence. Zvavahera is Zimbabwean, but the work reminds me—I do not know why—of Mauritius’s Le Morne, a sharp cliff-face of refuge for run-away slaves, and a form of escape, through suicide.
Between the rooms, Naiza Khan’s work—perhaps dealing with the unsettled realities of Pakistan—titles this work of scaffolding holding up a parched city ‘The Structures do not Hold’. Shreyas Karle’s ‘Kala Ajooba’ is a work about the search for an idea of a lost identity, showing the comic disfunction of a super hero. The installation by Prajakta Potnis is an epidermis of stress and violence erupting eerily out on to the surface of domestic calm. Anita Dube’s ‘Offering’ echoes Potnis’s work, in which folded hands pustule eerily into eyes for divine statuary, that erupt with the gaze of communal violence, and pulls us into the last room.
It is through the lens of the outspoken first room, that we may read the gazes in portraits that fill the unspoken in the final room of the exhibition. I want to argue that the gazes are constructed from a crucible of violence, or knowledge of tremendous violence. The first subject of Zanele Muholi’s photography, I read, died from the injuries of a “corrective rape”. Her blackly veiled self-portrait with shining eyes is brought next to Nalini Malani’s, woman’s face covered over with a transparent plastic bag. A suffocation lived with? A muffling? Or another means of escape from violence.
Aesthetically vivid, the works belie violence, or seem to have been transformed from the knowledge of tremendous rupture. In Ephrem Solomon’s woodcut, etched over newsprint, identity is coloured with the lettering of politics. Kemang Wa Lehulere’s narrative, theatrical drawings, are personal narratives about collective history, between processes of amnesia and conserving, archiving, saving. In Deborah Poynton’s hyper-real portrait of a man—a love—in a landscape, every hair and every blade of grass is seemingly magnified under her gaze. Nilima Sheikh’s work of two lovers in a landscape is placed beside Serge Alain Nitegaka’s painting of a lone man walking in a vast empty landscape. The painting on wooden packing crates are metaphoric in his work, of his own refuge and migration, from Burundi to South Africa, to escape war. In ‘Fragile Cargo’, is a large painting on latex, that will never be opened —its potential life fixed in a wooden cargo box. Fragility is echoed in Jared Ginsburg’s body part limp on the floor, the form of a leg made of fabric and white masking tape. Cecilia Tripp’s video, ‘Global Island’, is a film made in 2004 in reunion, discussing the possibility of a museum of identity. Identities are not constructed through origins, as much as through the translatability of stories, translatability of pasts.”