Rehema Chachage

This PhD proposal takes its cue from Dyangani Ose’s invitation, following on her suggestion to observe Umberto Eco’s notion of the open work as it applies to approaching history as open and incomplete. In this respect, I am interested in engaging with histories and stories as well as the different processes of articulating and archiving them. However, my investigation will particularly focus on stories as they have not always been worthy of official remembrance and due to such exercise of erasure, many have been lost.
The emphasis of this research will hence be on the rich oral tradition/s of the Swahili region, and the importance of storytelling in its preservation. Of particular interest will be the oral hi/stories of women that emanate from this region; starting with my own matrilineage. I want to research stories (and hence, affirm the experiences and deeds) of women who used whatever means within their disposal (songs, clothes, sexuality and various other cultural forms, exposure and wealth) to subvert intersecting systems of oppression (such as slavery, colonialism and patriarchy). These systems have continued to define their position and identities as subordinates; limit their freedoms and potential; trivialize their agency; and ultimately silence their voice and contribution to the shared history.
I will employ seemingly ‘instinctual’ methodologies such as, ‘negromancy’ (Powell, 2016), listening rather than looking at images (Campt, 2017), and seeing/visualizing rather than listening through sound (Moten, 2003) to tease out these histories, ruminating and conversing with them in the most intimate and private of ways, in order to discover them anew as stories that profile women who were resilient, victorious and brave. And, who were warriors, inventors, healers, educators, mentors/nurturers and role models in various spheres. I want to trace their revolution across time. Specifically, those subtle revolutions which we don’t often encounter in the canon or archived materials. Those revolutions which transpired through acts of ‘everyday survival’ (Campt 2017) in instances where molding, surviving, resisting and/or subverting the status quo occurred.


Rehema Chachage (Tanzania) is a visual artist whose practice can be viewed as a performative archive which untraditionally collects stories, rituals and other oral traditions in different media (performance, photography, video, text as well as physical installations); which traces hi/stories directly tied to women in the Swahili region; and, which employs written texts, oral and aural stories, melodies, and relics from several re-enacted/performed rituals as source of research.
She has a BA in Fine Art (2009) from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town; and an MA Contemporary Art Theory (2018) from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her works have been exhibited widely, in Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America.
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