The contemporary Luandan artist Januário Jano through his artistic work participates in the cycles of memory and cultural character. Living between Lisbon, London and Luanda, he interweaves traditional Ambundu practices with the social components of pop culture in his exhibitions, large-scale textile works, photographic and video installations.
« Arquivo Mestre », his first solo exhibition in Germany at Galerie Jean-Claude Maier in Frankfurt through August 15, 2021 brings an obvious stylistic encounter, while welcoming a deeper investigation. Every glance, every listen guarantees another revelation, another piece of information about something recently concealed: the chirping of birds welcomes visitors inside the exhibition space. No living creatures, but solid evidence of long-extinct species emerges from the amplifiers.
In the exhibition « Arquivo Mestre », Januário Jano presents a sound installation « Dusky Dorky – Looking for Dodo ». He drew from the sound chronicle of the British Museum in London, known for its collection of displaced colonial objects. This chirp transforms into an eerie voice that tells of past events, a Kazumbi, a soul from another universe, as part of the traditional Ambundu belief. In the museum, bird calls become chronicle material: recorded, stored, persuasively removed from their common habitat
« Kazumbi » in addition the title of the video work presented. The artist Januário Jano continues on the screens to emit musical breathing sounds, as if he were animated by a particular power. He wears a white dress, a dress that his grandmothers may have worn in colonial times. It is not a usual garment, but rather a garment in the design of the colonial rulers, which is also reminiscent of administrative clothing. The clothing of the white man, the white woman, was an initial phase during the time of social digestion, a stage away from one’s own account, from the aggregated memory, away from the Mponda, as the belt-shaped cotton bags are called, in which the Ambundu women saved their stories.
Januário Jano‘s textile works feel like a development of real space: lengths of texture, pockets, bulges, patterns, shapes and printed photos, beautiful folds and strings structure an inverted Mponda. No direct history, but rather memory as it presents itself: caught, jumping, dragging, wandering, abrupt, continually in motion with the layering of different narratives.
The exhibition « Arquivo Mestre » adds to the exceptionally effective discussions of memory, the benefit of understanding, multiperspectivity and cultural identity. How could the global North live its obligation in post-colonial times? To what extent does imperialism influence global collaborations today?
Januário Jano‘s photographic works reveal clues to colonial violence. Christian crosses served the victors as markers of effective ministerial work, such as dislodging indigenous social practices, customs and specialties. His installation « Not Stolen Goods » is in six sections, including shipping crates and photos showing objects from Angola that were looted at the time and are now in European museums.
Is it true that they were shipped in such containers?
Will they be returned in these equivalent boxes, or will only their photographic documentation, their computerized aliases remain?
Each of the artist’s works is imbued with imagination, legends and narratives stirred and combined with contemporary everyday life, creating new hybrid real factors that cannot be isolated to any great extent. The exhibition « Arquivo Mestre » by the artist Januário Jano is open at the Jean-Claude Maier Gallery in Frankfurt am Main until August 15, 2021.