The Liberation Blues, Dues and Hues

Curated by:
Sifiso Khanyile
// Goodman Gallery
// Johannesburg
// 2019


struggle. song. music. emancipation vs. liberation. theatre. place. time. chimurenga. mzabalazo. resistance. assistance. art. activism. culture. cultural activism. people. anthropology? cities. towns. townships. countries. schools. homes. exile. clandestine. sound. memory. life. death.

Prompted by the title: The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember, Sifiso Khanyile drew from filmmaker Lionel Ngakane’s documentary Vukani/Awake! as a point of departure and arrival for his engagement with the collection of artworks and vinyls. Ngakane, a lesser-known peer of Sembene, Hondo, Mambety, was remembered in this iteration. The film commiserated with the record and art selection, finding an uncomfortable position within the timeline of Black peoples’ oppression and struggles.

The Liberation Blues, Dues and Hues, The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Khanyile’s aim was to map this sonic and visual timeline, finding parallels between revolts, inter-continental influences and memory.

His engagement was a vivid threading of struggles dating back four centuries. From the field hollers of American slaves in the south, to songs from 1960s post-independence West and Central Africa, the Chimurenga music of Zimbabwe, South Africa’s resistance jazz and ‘black theatre’ and Bubblegum music of the ’80s, to traditional and folkloric compositions of the Sahel. The songs and speeches echo the emotions of the people at the centre of these struggles, their memory and stories preserved in material form.

In 2019, with the benefit of hindsight, the intervention pushed audiences to deeper thinking about black liberation struggles across the world, about freedom and commemoration. Robert Mugabe’s passing on the 6th of September 2019 and events at the time in South Africa, including the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman and later the attacks on foreign nationals, forced people to reckon with the value of their freedom in relation to social justice. The Library was a reminder of this continued struggle.