Until July 1, 2023, the M.Bassy eV in Hamburg, Germany, is hosting an immersive group exhibition by female artists Karimah Ashadu, Buhlebezwe Siwani , Zohra Opoku , Zana ‘Ndebele Superhero’ Masombuka and Carrie Mae Weems . Entitled “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE“, this contemporary art exhibition highlights the interdependence between man, nature and the universe as a whole, as seen through the eyes of these contemporary black female artists. Through a poetic and critical spirit, these female artists explore the dualism between our physical and natural heritage.
The works in the “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE” exhibition promptly reveal the socio-economic outcomes of a historically patriarchal and colonial conception of nature that asserts itself in corporate capitalism and environmental racism, but also the spiritual and collective implications of black feminist resistance. In reference to the discourse around sustainability, the group exhibition singularly exposes the role of black women as active figures for ecological change.
Nature is their realm for connecting with their own ancestral roots and cultivating a reciprocal introspective perception of our environment. In an almost surreal concordance of opinion, “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE” reveals the shared perception of the world as a whole, present between these five contemporary female artists.
Born in London in 1985, Karimah Ashadu is a British-born Nigerian artist who lives and works between Hamburg, Lagos and the UK. Her artistic practice is based on themes of work, patriarchy and notions of independence in the socio-economic and socio-cultural context of Nigeria and West Africa.
Founder in 2020 of the film production company Golddust by Ashadu, which specializes in artists’ films on black culture and African discourse, Karimah Ashadu is a distinguished black female artist with a rich artistic background. Winner of the Bötterstraße prize in Bremen (2022) and the ars viva prize (2020), Karimah Ashadu holds public collections at MoMA in New York, USA, and the Federal Collection of Contemporary Art in Germany, and is an Abigail R. Cohen 2021 Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination, Paris, France.
As part of the feminist group exhibition “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE“, Karimah Ashadu will be exhibiting an inspiring cinematic work entitled “PLATEAU“. The video projection presents a portrait of a group of Nigerian tin miners, mainly from Jos-Plateau. This HD digital film explores the socio-economic impact and self-determination practices of their mining activity.
In a unique visual language, Karimah Asahu unveils the story of the mining workers of Plateau State in pre-independence Nigeria. Through her video work, Karimah Ashadu invites the viewer on an excursion, both inquisitive and lyrical, into the dualism between landscape and body in the cultural context of West Africa and the Diaspora.
ZANA “NDEBELE SUPERHERO” MASOMBUKA
Zana Masombuka, whose artist name is “Ndebele Superhero“, explores the concepts of African identity and cultural interconnection. Through an exclusive visual iconographic art imbued with a natural language and her own cultural renaissance, she investigates the question of contemporaneity between traditional and modern knowledge.
Born in 1995 in Siyabuswa, South Africa, Zana Masombuka lives in her native Johannesburg, where she also practices her passion for art. The South African artist illustrates her perception of the world and her anthropological heritage in a variety of media, including photography, sound, installation and video.
Zana Masombuka holds her first solo exhibition at Sembach Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2021. These include the photographic series with digital print on Tecco BTT270 paper “ISIZUNGU (HLUBUKA)” I – III, 2020, and the video presentation “NAMBA S’KHAMBEI“. These inspiring representations by the South African artist will both be presented at the “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE” exhibition, and the video work will serve as a prelude to the photo series ISIZINGU (HLUBUKA), which delves into the intimacy of nature.
While the video work identifies itself as a liberation from capitalist and hyper-industrial systems, the photographic series presents an interweaving of indigenous cultural practices with native plant life. Through her introspective photographic work, Zana Masombuka invites the public to discover both themselves and our implicit relationship with the natural environment.
Through a singular photographic art, Zohra Opoku investigates the politics of personal identity formation via historical, cultural and socio-economic influences, particularly in the context of contemporary Ghana. Born in Altdöbern, Germany, in 1976, Zohra Opoku’s photography is expressed through silkscreen and consecutive photographic processing on natural fabrics.
An internationally-renowned black female artist, she has exhibited in several countries around the world, including the Museum for Photography, Chicago, USA; Kunsthaus Hamburg; Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain; Kunst-museum Wolfsburg and the Tate Modern, London, UK, and is taking part in the 15th edition of the Sharjah Biennale “Thinking Historically in the Present” (United Arab Emirates) in 2023.
Zohra Opoku‘s work largely substitutes human experience and social commentary for an artistic practice centered on a politics of personal identity. The artist’s works are composed of heirlooms and her own visual overview of her observations of Ghana’s cultural memory. “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE” presents, through Zohra Opoku’s photographic lens, a singular new perspective on Contemporary Ghana, and an invitation to a personal exploration of identity.
Born in 1987 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Buhlebezwe Siwani resides and exhibits her artistic talent between Cape Town, South Africa and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She uses a variety of media including photography, video, performance, installation and sculpture to materialize the expressive contours of her visual art. The artist is also a “Sangoma” (“traditional healer”) insider, and these works challenge patriarchal narratives of black women’s experience in the South African context.
Buhlebezwe Siwani‘s artistic practice serves as a means of study in exploring religious themes and ethical issues, as well as the circumspect link between Christianity and African spirituality. Appreciated worldwide, the feminist visual artist has exhibited in several venues including Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France; Biennale de Bamako, Mali 2019; documenta 14 in Kassel 2017; Iziko National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa and Museum Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE” exhibition of black female artists will host the video work “MHLEKAZI (2015)” by artist Buhlebezwe Siwani, in which she plunges viewers into the traditional African universe for a bath of spiritual purification in the trickling depths of rivers and oceans. “Mhlekazi“, the term used to describe traditional healers, immerses the audience in the intimate atmosphere of an almost voyeuristic ritual, in which Buhlebezwe Siwani’s black body, repainted in white, conscientiously and silently plunges into a body of water until it disappears completely from view.
Studying water as a spiritual means of healing and connecting with ancestors, Buhlebezwe Siwani‘s aim with this mysterious and intriguing scene is to focus visitors’ curiosity on the vastness and plurality of our connection with the spiritual world through the surrounding natural world.
CARRIE MAE WEEMS
Carrie Mae Weems is a renowned African-American artist considered one of the most influential figures on the contemporary art scene. Born in Portland, USA, in 1953, she lives and works in her native Syracuse, NY, and exhibits multifaceted artworks inspired by the same themes of family traditions, cultural identity, sexism, class, education, training, political systems and manifestations of patriarchal power.
Carrie Mae Weems uses photography, texts, fabrics, audio files, digital images and video to present the oppressive and unequal system inherent in today’s world. Her work is recognized for its socio-cultural expressiveness, and she has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions at national and international museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
The video projection entitled “A WOMAN IN WINTER” by Carrie Mae Weems will be among the works presented at the contemporary exhibition dedicated to the art of black female artists “WHO ARE WE IF NOT NATURE“. In this video presentation, you can observe a woman in white, surrounded by flowers and evolving in a dreamlike setting, scanning the moment between the end of winter and the beginning of spring. In a single step, or in the space of an instant, the figure could be in the future, the present or the past.
Before she can admire a new atmosphere, she must confront the landscape of her own past. Fogged in memories, the subject of the video presentation must now face history. The film highlights the stinging influence of the past, as well as the blossoming of a glimmer of hope influenced by the transformative power of natural cycles, which the artist invites visitors to become aware of.