In his masterpiece, “In Praise of Shadows”, essayist Junichiro Tanizaki writes: “It must have been simple for spectres to appear in a ‘visible darkness’ where always something seemed to be flickering and shimmering.” In South African and Indian folklores, our ancestors reside in visible darkness.
This project was an exercise in formulating symbols. At first, I took the roots as they were. But the more I photographed them, the more I saw my forebears.
My investigation brought up the question, “what do one’s roots mean?” For the diaspora, the answer is akin to ecological edge effects whereby an organism exists between the borders of two habitats. We could mean the neighbourhood, community, city or country of our birth while at the same time referring to an ancestral motherland.
Composed of double exposures of roots photographed in Hogsback and vintage images of my ancestors, the artworks depict the South African and Indian reverence for ancestors and the knowledge we glean from them. Despite the current dominance of Western scientific enquiry as a means of generating knowledge, ancestral worship, memory and family lore still play significant roles in how knowledge is acquired in Africa and India. Each piece is named after chapter titles of the Hindu death rite “Garuda Purana”, recognising that bodily departure is not final but a continuance of life.
When I have an idea, I find the most appropriate medium for it to flourish. As a result, my work has found its form in numerous media including journalism, photography, oral storytelling, fiction, theatre, graphic novels and animation.
I consider my visual works from the position of a subjective anonymous observer as I always seek to tell the stories of others.
Personal highlights in my career include:
• “The Year of Failure” was the only South African short story selected out of 400 from the continent for Goethe-Institut’s pan-African anthology, Water Birds on the Lakeshore. It was launched at the Ake Book Festival in Lagos in 2019.
• Two plays, “Piercings” and “The Nobodies” were performed at The Market Theatre.
• “The Soccerites”, a play based on the murderous rivalry of two football clubs in East London, was selected and performed at the Writers Lab Reading Festival in November 2019.
Currently a professional member of PEN South Africa, I occupy most of my days writing – be it for clients or publications.
Web site: http://www.shaminchibba.com