Assembling: Exhibition making and women’s labour

21 Sep 2022
21 Sep 2022

Assembling: Exhibition making and women’s labour was conceived of by curators Jade Nair, Dr Nina Liebenberg and Dr Carine Zaayman as both response and accompaniment to the Institute for Creative Arts’ symposium, Tongues of Their Mothers (16-18 September 2022). It was hosted in the Michaelis Upper Gallery on Hiddingh Campus (UCT) and ran 16-19 September 2022.

This exhibition was a moment of reflection on Under Cover of Darkness, a project concerned with the history of women in servitude, especially slavery, in the early colonial period at the Cape. It reflected on the process by which the project members developed the Under Cover of Darkness exhibition (2018) and the Uncovering: Women’s Invisible Labour in the Cape symposium (2021). Their focus in this installation was on how feminist modes of collaboration and care were enacted through the curatorial.

Both the exhibition and symposium honoured the lived experiences of women of the Cape, to the present day, where many women’s lives are shaped by the service and textile industries. The curators invited viewers to engage with these stories as well as the research methodologies and sources on which the team drew for both the exhibition and symposium. As part of their curatorial strategy, the team also extended an invitation to a group of womxn PhD candidates from the University of the Western Cape’s Department of History: Robyn Humphreys, Mischka Lewis, Robin-Lea Karating, Amina Molatelo Malatji and Vuyokazi Luthuli, to engage with them and the exhibition materials and, in so doing, contribute to the shaping of the final exhibition presentation.

A core mission of this project was the decentering of a singular curatorial and historical voice and this invitation served to deepen this practice by including the perspectives of these womxn scholars with the intention of hearing their views on the materials on display and to discover and unpack  links between the exhibition themes and their own research. 

The discussions held during the workshop also informed a response presented by Robyn Humphreys at the exhibition opening event in which she reflected on the curatorial strategies and materials in the exhibition as well as some of the discursive points raised by the UWC delegates during the previous days’ workshop.

Assembling: Exhibition making and women’s labour demonstrated research in practice, not as outcome, and aimed to highlight synergies and points of conversion between the stories of women and the labour they perform.