El Espacio 23 presents its highly anticipated second exhibition, Witness: Afro Perspectives from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection. Guest curated by Zimbabwean curator Tandazani Dhlakama, Assistant Curator, Zeitz MOCAA, in collaboration with Pérez Collection curators Patricia M. Hanna and Anelys Alvarez, the exhibition includes over 100 works by African and African Diaspora artists. Addressing themes of systematic oppression, intergenerational trauma, syncretism, identity and territory, Witness: Afro Perspectives invites visitors to be present in the current moment and bear witness to challenges carried from one generation to another.
To witness is to observe an act, to be present in a significant moment. It can involve seeing a single transgression, a series of cataclysmic episodes that beg for interrogation and introspection. Yet one can also witness a euphoric regenerative instant, a season of restitution. One bears witness.
The burdensome load of memory, lived experience, nostalgia, disillusionment, or anticipation can be carried on from one generation to another. At what point is the witness implicit? Is this dependent on proximity and distance from the matter? To what extent are time and space an intermediary, challenging the boundaries between truth, myth, imagination, and utopia? Could it be that landscape, the earth, is the most objective witness of all time? It can speak of politics, peoples, and pillages. It can testify to the cyclical nature of revolution, creolization, displacement, and humanity’s aching endeavor for legacy from epoch to epoch. Collectively, we witness from different vantage points. For whom do we testify?
We grapple with issues around origins, grasping onto romanticized narratives from the past, perhaps because we are unsure, since lines of communication have been cut, crossed, and entangled with other realities. We witness profound encounters, a syncretism of ideas and cultures, often followed by systematic suppression. We witness the reconstitution of nationhood, territories and belonging. As we disperse, diverge, and reconnect there is continuous reinvention and reassertion of self, place, and home. As we move, we fasten ourselves to values constituted by our multi-layered archaeology. Yet, when we are most silent, when we are seeking, that is when we encounter metaphysical witnesses. In an otherworldly manner, they whisper truths and fabrications mapping out multiple ways.
Words by El Espacio 23