Memory has no obligations in a present that’s only an interval. There is an imminent tension between remembering and forgetting in society and it pours over and permeates cyberspace, given how little control we have over how our information and memories are stored. This is the same precarious position my ancestors found themselves in during the period of colonization, when missionaries arrived with the promise of agency and salvation. Thousands of spiritual artifacts, repositories of ancestral spirits, transmogrified into art objects relegated to vitrines in museums on distant shores. Thousands more are destined for destruction under fire. Today the history and meaning of these objects continue to challenge Africans, anthropologistsm, and museum curators alike.
Nkhensani Mkhari / Johannesburg, South Africa — Nov 16, 2020
Zibuyile Zinkisi means »The return of the Nkisi,« (Nkisi, plural Minkisi, is a spiritual object) and this work is a continuation of my artistic/curatorial practice in excavating lost indigenous practices and modalities of the Bantu cosmogony and the creation of speculative archives from oral histories. They address postcolonial anxieties in cyberspace through the integration of indigenous modalities and interfaces into the internet space in forming a continuum of my late grandmother’s practice as a Nyanga. Minkisi appear in two different forms, as assemblages of nondescript objects or wooden figures carved in the form of humans or animals, pierced with iron nails. The word possesses no direct English translation, however it roughly means »power object.« These figures are said to be embedded with »spiritual powers« that can be activated by a Nyangato and bring about physical or spiritual healing to the patient consulting the Nyanga. Nkisi were also capable of imbuing social balance and justice, and keeping societal moral codes and the well-being of the Kongo Village. My aim is to create a web installation of Minkisi rendered in a 3D environment to (re)create the »power figure« in a digital space as a way of archiving and excavating ancestral and precolonial history. This work explores how we might excavate and archive history in the post-digital age and how we might refigure the internet as a site for reclamation of agency, archiving, and rewriting history in the global imaginary through the use of indigenous interfaces.
© 2021 Akademie Schloss Solitude and the author