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

“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.”

Lhola Amira’s works address the wounds left by colonisation across many disparate contexts, to create spaces for healing through connection to the earth, the ancestral, and the spiritual. At Cockatoo Island, Amira creates portals for memory and rejuvenation, where through a beaded curtain above a ceremonial healing bed of salt, one can hear the sounds of singing, specifically created to heal and transform the body into a space of wellbeing, ancestral connection and self-care. In an intimate set of mini icons placed on a bed of healing salt at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Amira’s multi-faceted so(u)ldiers stand in action to the grand military heroics often represented within historical museum collections. Here, THEIR mini selves embody notions of collective healing through attending to the memory of colonial wounds that continue to re-open and reverberate in the present. This work is connected spiritually and metaphysically to Amira’s large-scale installation on Cockatoo Island, a constellation of human-sized healing pods. 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. Central to Amira’s practice are gestures toward collective healing, emanating from an examination of the wound left by colonisation and systematic discrimination, as well as its continued weeping. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from the Sherman Foundation, and assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons Courtesy the artist and SMAC Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / Stellenbosch