By John Owoo
(In Dakar – Senegal)
Namibian artist Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja recently raised the issue of African restitution of sound at the IFAN Museum of African Art in Dakar (Senegal) as part of events marking Dak Art 2022.
In a solo performance informed by archival research at the International Library of African Music (South Africa) and the Basler Afrika Bibliographien (Switzerland), the artist made strong representations on the notion of borderless states in the area of musical explication.
Titled “Zilin” and originally performed by his music group Tschuku Tschuku, Mushaandja who was clad in a rolled-up white pants with traditional paintings on his body, proceeded to literarily re-distribute musical resources, which he represented by various items to the audience.
He vividly exposed the frustration of African youth owing to the inaccessibility of some of the African musical resources – which they can easily fall on for inspiration and research purposes – but are virtually locked up in institutional archives.
Easily recognizable as a ritual performance, he made offerings to effectively ensure the healing and unity of Africa and its diaspora while highlighting the power of music as a migrating, mapping and mobile force.
Inspired by an expressive and experimental vocal technique from the Republic of Benin and often employed by leading African musician Angelique Kidjo, “Zilin” as musical style is also used in voodoo rituals and practices.
The performance formed part of a group exhibition by Nolan Oswald Dennis, Bronwyn Katz, Zayan Khan and Mushaandja, which collectively intend to address past and present traumas that resulted from the colonial invasion of Africa.
The exhibition equally explores the material and metaphysical conditions of decolonization while offering meditations on what has been lost and what is yet to be reclaimed. It further draws attention to notions of place and space as a lived experience.
Mushaandja is a performer, educator and writer with practice-research interests in performance, archives and public culture. His research on Oudano – an African concept of performance – looks at its mobilizations of queer praxis, sonic and movement formation – as well as critical pedagogies and spatialities.