Curatorial Statement

The Stronger We Become

The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The further you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me, you can decide
To turn your face away
No matter ’cause there’s
Something inside so strong

– Labi Siffre (1987)

The stronger we become is a trialogue about resilience. The artists, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Tracey Rose and Mawande Ka Zenzile, probe the politics of self-determination, situated-ness, political displacement and epistemic violence. Resilience – in our time – has become conspicuously inexorable. Under the weight of our complex histories, being resilient is the capacity and the will to resist.

In the post-1994 era, that will to resist has not been eroded by the politics of reconciliation. To remain resilient – to carry on – means dealing with the repercussions of historical injustice. It is a measure of strength, but it should not hinder us from recognising persistent iniquities. As barriers rise and intransigent provincialism escalates, it is the simple things in everyday life – laughter, conversation and play – that become powerful forms of resistance, future-orientated disobedience, disruptive aesthetics and agonism. It is through these gestures that we can venture into our unknown but shared histories, our hidden epistemes, and the intricacy of our neglected knowledge systems.

In this trialogue, Bopape, Rose and Ka Zenzile interrogate gaps and silences as socially located, political struggles. Entwined in this intimate conversation is a reckoning with the failure, misadventure and deficiency of postcolonial, post-apartheid democracy in the context of the abiding persistence of divisive plutocracies. The trialogue is a call to excavate the truths and fallacies in the fantastic ruins of history. And with what we find, make sense of the present.

The stronger we become leaves behind the ostentation of the consumerist world to understand the discord of contemporary life as a past haunted by its imminent futures. It is a space for raw, unembellished and frank conversation. It is in carving emancipatory spaces that resilience as resistance becomes possible. Within emancipatory spaces, the illusive becomes real and the concealed contradictions surface.

Based on politics of space and time – historical and geographical expansion and compression – the trialogue tackles the perplexing questions about land, displacement, mobility and, intimately tied to this, rights. It takes on this task through engaging with affective politics, of anger, outrage, exhilaration, optimism and disappointment. And by doing this it points directly to the quest of our struggles: dignity. To refuse to be fragile is to connect affect or the politics of sentiment with systemic theft of space and time.

With this exhibition we are acknowledging the climate of cynicism and disillusionment in contemporary life. We are also acknowledging what it is that makes us tenaciously human, in the context of a dehumanising history.

The stronger we become reflects the disenchantment, disillusionment and scepticism towards the agendas inherent in national and global discourses. But more importantly, it looks towards the subversiveness of often overlooked intimate spaces where we can laugh and be reminded that there remains something inside so strong.