Rehema Chachage: Beloved (2019)

Rehema Chachage (Tanzanian, b. 1987)

Rehema Chachage's practice is concerned with the processes retelling and preserving what feminist scholars and activists have coined as (her)stories; using life histories of women and circumstances shaping their trajectories. She draws from from (and is informed by) the rich oral storytelling traditions of Tanzania and the power that this practice has had in establishing and maintaining a collective narrative on a diverse historical phenomenon. The oral storytelling tradition is mostly preserved by women and handed down across generations through stories, lullabies, performances, songs and dance—some of which form part of the gradually diminishing rites of passage.

Actively interacting with the performative processes of archiving, as well as the performativity of the archive; Chachage works alongside my mother, with whom she is in a constant intergenerational dialogu. Through performative elements, the studio and the body of work that emerges from it, becomes a collaborative space and an act of reflection. Theirs is a performative ‘archive' that untraditionally ‘collects’ and ‘organizes’ stories, rituals and other oral traditions, in different media; performance, photography, video, text as well as physical installations. Chachage has a BA in Fine Art (2009) from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town; and an MA Contemporary Art Theory (2018) from Goldsmiths, University of London. She is currently undertaking doctoral studies at the Academy of Fine Art Vienna.

Beloved (An Ode to Mkunde), 2019

In an oft-quoted phrase, Fredric Jameson (1981) once wrote that; “History is what hurts”. This is a poignant statement which remind us of how much history is an act of necessity; one which is felt, and sometimes, can be felt by individuals decades or even centuries later. History is a kinship, a virtual experience, a form of necromancy, a form of ‘negromancy’ (Powell, 2016); it is what we believe to be politically, aesthetically, and conceptually legitimate.

Beloved (An Ode to Mkunde) is a depiction of life in the hurts of a history. Romanticized as a love letter to the artist’s sister and by extension, to their matrilineal ancestor; the work is an intimate introspective of how the past, present, and the future are inevitable interlinked and ingrained within us. Featuring five photographs, the work captures Chachage’s sister in repertoire, reenacting their matrilineal ancestor’s acts of ‘‘everyday survival practice’’ (Campt, 2017) as imagined by the artist.

Accompanying the photos, is a short Ode to Mkunde; a text/love letter composed for Mkunde Chachage, the artist’s sister, by Demere Kitunga, the artist’s mother;

   An Ode to Mkunde

   Beam of light in my darkest hour

   You arrived at the most unexpected time

   A gift from an untamed force

   Bearing my mother’s name

   You bear in part, her nature


   - Demere Kitunga, 2019