Arts + Culture
Nicholas Hlobo, umBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower, 2017, Performa 17. Commission. Photo © Paula Court.

In Conversation with South African Artist Nicholas Hlobo on How Detached We've Become From Our Histories

OkayAfrica catches up with the South African artist to learn the creative process behind his performance, umBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower.

As I sat in the lofty space at Harlem Parish, where South African artist Nicholas Hlobo presented his latest work, umBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower, I couldn't help but think of the 26 Nigerian girls, mostly aged 14 to 18, who drowned off the coast of Italy in November. A mass funeral was held in Salerno, Italy, the day before the performance, after their bodies were recovered from the Mediterranean Sea. The nine performers in Hlobo's work looked like their angels: all wore pristine, white cotton robes, and rings of light hung overhead like halos.

Hlobo created Parable of the Sower to reveal how detached we've become from our histories, and yet how powerfully our past thrusts us forward. Like the 26 girls whose dinghy capsized en route to a more optimistic future, his performers—some of whom labor on sewing machines for the entire performance—are working against time. They are trying to construct a new sense of self using contexts and materials formed by the past.

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