“Seeing the pictures like this, they’re waking up a hunger inside. You see, there is something inside, even way inside, down there, that is hungry for ways of the olden days. And seeing these pictures, it makes you remember where you come from.”
Zanele spoke to the group as we gathered for a roundtable discussion on the final day of the exhibition. It was a reunion for the community members who had participated in the workshops which had formed the basis for the Sustainable Together project. Sitting in circle, framed by the photographs, and held by the Earth altar at the centre, we sat together once more surrounded by the exhibition we had made together.
We spoke about the impact of that creative time, the power of seeing and hearing the stories that emerged. What kept coming up in this roundtable was how powerful people found it to see themselves reflected back through the high-quality images and emotive sound art; to be witnessed and acknowledged by the wider community who visited the exhibition, representing their stories as important, their knowledge as valuable. The community of Ekuphumleni are, in the story told in the exhibition, acknowledged as valued keepers of knowledge. Their integral worthiness and vital place in the social fabric recorded by the photographer, the sound recordist, workshop facilitators and the wider community who came to see the exhibition, and who will come to see the exhibition right now at Amazwi.
The exhibition was the storytelling vehicle: a powerful visual and sonic means to witness and be witnessed; of being integrated into the world with dignity; a story built on work that locates the seeds of sustainability in self-worth and acceptance. But even more so than this, there was an acknowledgement that Nature itself was a co-creator of this exhibition, thread through the entire process with ritual invitations. How was this exhibition, ultimately, a storyteller of the renewal of this sacred bond with nature? It was Nature, honored and invited into the embodied creative process through rituals drawing in the elemental world of earth, seed, rocks and water, who animated the tangible energetic shifts experienced. As we reflected in circle, a community elder spoke to the manner in which ritual offered a space for Nature to enter into creative relationship with us, expressing it as a sense of revival and reverence, an awakening of aliveness and connection to the unseen world that had reverberated through him. The sacred bonds with ancestral ways renewed and revitalised for intergenerational transmission; a remembering of the pleasures of living in closer relationship with the elements and community. This joy and sense of completion, of wholeness, reflected back to participants as they saw their true form in Nature’s Mirror, made possible by actively cultivating and inviting in Nature as co-creator as integral to all that we did in our work.
The community’s welcomed participation in the making of this exhibition opened a door through which the possibilities of healing the broken links with nature could be glimpsed. The promise of that glimpse of what we might be, what renewing this sacred bond that is in all of our ancestral legacies might mean, is the key to the story being told in the Sustainable Together exhibition.
- Dominique Santos, Director, Return to Origin