Artist Bronwyn Katz’s New Show at Peres Projects Is an Elegy for a Lost South African Language
The artist pays homage to the lost language of !Ora and an activist who tried to save it.
“Ta a-b kobab ada kāxu-da, ti khoe-du’e!” wrote the South African language activist Benjamin Kats in 1928. His words translate to the rallying cry, “Do not let our language be lost from us, you my people!”
Just over 90 years later, the tongue that Kats strove to save, !Ora, is now extinct, one of many languages drowned in the tide of colonialism and globalization.
But Kats’s famed letter, and his dream of saving !Ora, is finding a new life in “Salvaged Letter,” an exhibition of works by South African artist Bronwyn Katz.
Katz, who earned her BFA from the University of Cape Town in 2015, attempts, in her first show at Peres Projects, to translate the written words of the letter into a series of visual codes and notations embedded in her sculptures. These forms of notation and code here find shape in dense coils of wire, dangling lines of string tied to bit of wood, minimalist shapes rendered in wire, which build upon her existing bodies of work. Here she uses found materials to create sculptures that act of forms both of retrieval of a lost history and heritage and a resistance against politics and social structures, and which allows the language to assume a new form to being read, written, and understood, an essential first step in rebuilding of a communal South African archive.
See images of “Salvaged Letter” below.
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