Biennale of Sydney

Lhola Amira

Lhola Amira, Philisa, appearance (2018) at SINKING: Xa Sinqamla Unxubo Constellation, SMAC Gallery

Lhola Amira

Born 1984 in Gugulethu, South Africa
Lives and works in Cape Town


Lhola Amira is an interdisciplinary artist whose work translates into photography, video and installation. Amira defines THEIR practice as ‘appearance’ – a term that draws from African Nguni spiritualism. As part of THEIR work as a black, queer artist, Amira conceives THEIR existence in plural – plural existences in one body – as well as an understanding of the Zulu notion of Ukuvela, which contextualises an individuals’ existence in relation to collective historical and future narratives.

Philisa: Ditaola

Philisa: Ditaola (To Heal: Divining Bones) is a call to heal ancestral lineage, a self-reparation through earth reverence, ancestral connection and repairing ancestral legacies. Philisa calls for sacred healing and connection with the ancestral and spiritual. It is a constellation of time where the past, present and future intersect. It calls for cleansing, nokuzilanda umnombo (to trace your ancestral lineage) and ngum’libo (lifelines) that connect abasethongweni (ancestral calling) between those who have passed and those who are living. Philisa is a calling for abadala (elders as in people, animals, ancestors, our creator) to make themselves visible in our REMEMBRANCE. Indigenous people HERE have lived through generations of displacement, dispossession, oppression, slavery, Colonialism, and the ongoing consequences of cultural wounding that these have brought. Philisa seeks to work through these wounds to instigate pathways that fuel the transformation of inherited burdens and call for the full embodiment of our gifts. Philisa asks us to remember our ancestors, who are woven into umlibo womoya (currents of energy), arching through blood and bone to inkaba (our origin). Our ancestors are energy that is transformed not destroyed. To heal OURSELVES is to heal our ANCESTORS too.

The work is about listening.

Listening to the land, listening to the water, listening to the blood and bones of our ancestors, listening to what our bodies remember.

Listening to where the songs were last sung.

Listening to where rivers used to be.

Listen. To the silence.

Listen to find the wound, where it hurts, why it hurts, how it hurts.

Listen for the medicine.

WE look at objects as an act of creation, conceived as a process of becoming. Philisa in OUR practice is not a notion of representation, for WE see and understand objects as born to carry out a purpose. Objects in our everyday exist as signals. Thus, when WE make objects, they are intended to function as triggers. Here WE speak of triggers as remembrance, and an act of remembering.

Courtesy the artist