Rizwaanah Saloojee

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

Engaging Opacity: Exploring the Sensory Dimensions of Apartheid’s Legacy

As an artist, my work delves into the enduring effects of apartheid in South African society, exploring the lingering sense of unease and racial division that persists even after the formal dismantling of the system. Drawing from Premesh Lalu’s insights on “Petty Apartheid,” I aim to explore the complex intergenerational experiences that continue to shape how race is perceived and understood in my country. Guided by Lalu’s theories, my current body of work endeavours to confront these intangible experiences by employing sensory engagement and empathy as a means of communication.

In line with this vision, I have chosen the installation format, inspired by Fabrice Metais’s idea of creating an embodied interaction through the manipulation of interfaces. The installation space becomes a tool for immersive experiences, where the senses are activated, and participants are prompted to engage physically and emotionally. I have developed various elements for this installation through data collected from anonymous interviews with individuals born after the end of apartheid. By keeping the interviewees anonymous, I seek to challenge pre-conceived notions based on physical appearances, emphasizing the relatable human experiences shared in these conversations.

The central piece of the installation is a veiled cube-like structure with projected videos on each side, created using a self-made pinhole lens to distort the imagery. The multichannel projection serves to highlight the timelessness of the issues at hand and their continued relevance in contemporary society. The use of moving imagery, resembling photography, allows for the subversion of narratives, a theme that has been explored by notable South African artists like Santu Mofokeng. Mofokeng’s approach to humanizing black subjects through photography serves as a significant inspiration for my work, as I aim to challenge prevailing narratives and promote a deeper understanding of individual experiences beyond racial stereotypes.

Within the installation space, a central sculpture embodies the sensations and experiences described in the interviews, inviting viewers to step inside and immerse themselves in the physical representations of these feelings. By emphasizing the themes of opacity and empathy, I encourage viewers to acknowledge the limitations of their understanding and to actively listen and empathize with the experiences of others. Through a combination of visual and auditory elements, I aim to create a space that fosters reflection and encourages a dialogue about the need for understanding and healing in post-apartheid South Africa.

Ultimately, my installation serves as a call for empathy and understanding, urging us to acknowledge the enduring impact of apartheid on our society. By engaging the senses and creating an immersive environment, I hope to encourage viewers to reflect on their own positionality and to engage in conversations that foster empathy and promotes a shared understanding of our complex societal history. In doing so, I aim to contribute to the ongoing dialogue around the necessity of empathy in dismantling the legacies of apartheid and fostering a more inclusive and understanding society.