Letting people be when it comes to question of gender, says curator

By CityLife Arts Writer

One of the attractions at the ongoing online art fair, Latitudes is an exhibition entitled Embodying Her-Self, which essentially talk to the idea of not forcing people into gender boxes

This exhibition which was launched on August 11, is a curated exhibition and “an ongoing intervention for and by artists boldly exploring autonomous expressions of `self’, sexual and gender identity, our bodies and image, how they are depicted, and by who.”

Presented by Latitudes Online in partnership with Madlozi Art Africa, the exhibition invites contemporary artists, filmmakers and poets to submit works that go beyond the reach of historical stereotypes, gender binaries, and the undermining reach of patriarchy.

The exhibition asks such questions as “How do we re-occupy our bodies, media, professional and intellectual or political and cultural spaces – on our own terms, and while holding space for each other and the collective as womxn?”.

Kevin Mackintosh, Pick n Pay ‘Bag’ Lady, 2019, Archival Giclée Print, 100 x 74.5 cm, Presented by Deepest Darkest

The exhibition is curated by filmmaker, cultural producer and writer, Beathur Mgoza Baker who questions “how we are representing womxn, their stories, lived experiences, bodies and intersectional struggles to support their right to be here, to belong and express themselves fully affirms authentic representations of our bodies, spirits, intellects and right to assert our elected gender and sexual identities – the right to be fully embodied, fabulous womxn,” according to the curator.

She writes: “The concept of gender is deeply embedded into our upbringing and socialisation and because of that it is also one of the most internally difficult aspects of our worldview to challenge and change. What is your expression of your gender and sexual identity, and what are your preferred pronouns? You can’t know what someone’s preferred pronouns are by looking at them.

Re-curators is an art curatorial collective that was established in 2018 by Amogelang Maledu, Luvuyo Equiano Nyawose and Thembakazi Matroshe when they were all Honours in Curatorship students at the University of Cape Town.

Gender-inclusive pronouns don’t associate a gender with the individual. Gender inclusivity means asking and representing their choice fully. Being a womxn is a complex, diverse and fabulous experience. We’re advocating for the use of art to address critical questions around identity, gender, belonging, and womxn’s invisibility in the media, creative and other workplaces, and politically as full participants with agency.

Join us in using art and identity to create critical space and dialogue, for re-embodying public, media and other spaces of power imaginatively in observance of womxn and choice.

Art history is marked, dented and marred by `strongly coupled and warped by sexism, oppression, and the effects of being viewed through a patriarchal lens’. But with each generation there are artists who break out, speak up and bring about shifts in perception through their rebellion, ideologies and their work.

We invited artists to interpret these themes and assertions of our identities across culture, race and beyond binaries to beautifully depict their subjective expressions of what being female in the contemporary can be. Our bodies are not a cage for containing or restricting our spirits and they are not vehicles for assaulting our presence in the media – artists explore this in their works.

Viewed through the lens of gender inclusivity this project affirms personal and collective space and resistance to problematic representations of female-identifying bodies at a time when rampant violence, silencing and a virulent virus threatens our very survival.

Free, Fabulous & Enabled to Be Ourselves

In Africa, throughout the continent and its diverse cultures there are interesting ways of allowing for inclusive and what we now consider as not `normative’ expressions of the self outwardly, and in spirit. The choices of how we express identifying a female are limited to stereotypes that drive our true sense of `self’ inward and down.

In keeping with Western colonial contexts and the historical gaze. We embrace non-conformity and the right to be whatever inner sexual and gender expression a womxn desires to claim as her own – untamed and unbounded by culture.

This project re-calls that freedom to be and express our gender-inclusive and diverse selves outwardly and within our personal spaces,. Through our depiction of our bodies and in our ideas.

`EMBODYING HIR-SELF’ facilitates a vital and creative space for naming and reclaiming US. We applaud every womxn’s right to express, choreograph and assert `self’ boldly and we celebrate untamed fabulousness that is Her-Self,” concludes Beathur Mgoza Baker in her curatorial statement.

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