Arts + Culture
The Archive of Forgetfulness

Review: An Online Exhibition Highlights The Limits Of Memory


The Archive of Forgetfulness is an exhibition dedicated to remembering both our personal and collective histories.

Cheriese Diljrah's Existence is An Occupation is a six-minute video installation that starts with the artist creating a paper jet to the sound of Miriam Makeba's "A Piece of Ground". "When the white man first came here from over the seas. He looked and he said, this is God's own country. He was mighty well pleased with this land that he'd found and he said, 'I will make here my own piece of ground,'" sings Makeba. The song sets the emotional tenor of Diljrah's piece, which compares the state violence in occupied Palestine with the forced removals enforced by the City of Cape Town. The video ends with her asking: Can people be illegal invaders in their own country or continent?

The video is a commentary on the circular nature of colonial history — how it's bound to repeat itself — and the inextricable link between the past and the present. Bubbling beneath the images of forced demolitions and her poetic spoken word piece about a mother cradling her child through a forced eviction, is a simple question: Why do we seem to forget the past when it informs so much of our present social realities?

Diljrah's piece is one of hundreds that makes up The Archive of Forgetfulness, an online exhibition that interrogates the failure of memory and the histories of racial violence and forced segregation. The exhibition, funded by the Goethe Institute, compiles essays, podcasts and visual art from artists across the continent to tell personal and collective stories about our different histories.

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