The expressions of Blackness in The Shape of Blackness Virtual Exhibition (February – March 2021)
In the tiniest corner of the globe where the sun finds home for a day and in a grandmother’s kitchen Blackness lives. We come face-to-face with it daily; it is in everything, in us. In the dictionary, blackness is a word that is spoken for. It is defined as a fact, a property, a quality, a state and a condition of darkness, pigmentation and evil as if that is all blackness is and could ever be. Is this what you see when you come face-to-face with Blackness? Is it a colour? Is it a skin tone? A people? Darkness? Despair? Some people come face-to-face with blackness in old photographs and see their history. Others sit down with Blackness and see themselves. A group of people look at blackness and see everything that reminds them of home, their journey, their mothers, children wearing hats in the middle of the road, a mango tree. Blackness is personal and what you see when you face it belongs to you. It yours. No definition in the dictionary can define it for you, no essay can write what it means to you, but artworks and the spaces that carry it in frames, hold it up on walls and gift you with what it means for others allow you to see what Blackness is in your own eyes. The Shape of Blackness hosted by Oakstop is an exhibition that opened its doors to you wherever you are in the world in February 2021. It places blackness in front of you, for you to take home with you your own expression of it.
Artists from South Africa and the United States of America pen their individual stories of blackness in this collective narration. Frome home, Lebo Thoka, Lebohang Motaung, Theko Boshomane, Tshepiso Moroka and Helena Mambembe portray tales of the essence of who we are. The collective narration uses the Rorschact inkblot, a dark ink stain symbol, to create a story within the shared story. The story that it creates is that Blackness is something that belongs to all of us, yet it is something unique to each and every one of us. Like the wings of a butterfly, Blackness is an inkblot that depicts symmetrical components of one body however these components have individual voices. In other words, our experiences and our history are narrated by one voice with a million other expressions. The artists who find home at the top of the globe use the same voice that the artists who find home at the bottom of the globe use to convey that we are soldiers fighting together in the wars waged against us although we are individual soldiers fighting our own battles.
Inside the space, we come face-to-face with tales of blackness that represent us, our spiritual encounters, stories of our hair and how strands of hair connect us. We look in the eye hues that find home on our skin, faces we recognise within ourselves, aunties whose love is familiar. All these tales carry a voice that reminds us that these spaces that we enter belong to us and in them we should bring in our Blackness and let it occupy spaces we were told it should not. All these tales are told by voices that come from within and are not afraid to be heard, to be seen.
Enter the space to look Blackness in the eye here: https://oakstop.com/shapeofblackness/view/.