Here´s the booklet to Kitso Lynn Lelliott´s video project Alzire, dealing with the (in)visible presence of a former slave in Bayreuth. Explore Kitso´s thoughts on ghosts, haunting and histories entanglement in future manifestations.
Kitso Lynn Lelliott’s work in the Neues Schloss resembles an artistic ghost-story. By means of images and sounds, the artist evokes the presence of Alzire, a young woman who worked and lived at the court of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth. There are few traces of the young woman. Not even her real name is recorded. “Alzire” is the name given to her by Margravine Wilhelmine, based on the tragedy by the same name, “Alzire, ou les Américains”. It was written by French philosopher Voltaire, who the Margravine adored. All we know of Alzire, the human being, is based on a burial script by Hofprediger Schmidt. Not even 25 years of age, she died in Bayreuth on May 22nd, 1751.
She had come a long way. As her country of birth, Surinam in South America is mentioned. At the time under Dutch colonialism Surinam was a place of slavery with many of its enslaved people being of West African ancestry. It had terrible conditions for people working on the sugar plantations and was a place of rebellion with people refusing the bondage they were placed under. The installation in the castle enacts, through this recalling of the disremembered Alzire, its own rebellion against the desolation of erasure. Her ghostly presence is recalled to fill a space and the narrative of a place she was otherwise forgotten from.
Alzire‘s story leaves many questions: What brought a woman from the Americas to the court of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth? What were the conditions of her journey? Did she act as a servant in Bayreuth, performing not only the duties of a servant but also being perceived through to the popular ‘exoticism’ of the time, when it was fashionable to have people from Africa and the Americas work at the European courts? Was she solely subject to being gazed upon? How did she look back? And did the eyes of the two women, Wilhelmine and Alzire, meet: seeing as both their migrations to Bayreuth were, most likely, not willful ones?
Kitso Lynn Lelliott is a filmmaker and artist based in Johannesburg South Africa. She has Bachelors degree in Fine Art and a Masters in Film and Television from The University of the Witwatersrand. Her work is preoccupied with articulations from positions beyond epistemic power and opening up spaces where the huge silences of subjectivities that have been written out can come into view. She is interested in ways that narratives and histories become privileged, those that proliferate being those that reflect and reinstate the power structures of globalisation as it has emerged from a colonial and imperial past. Her preoccupation lies in ways historical narratives shape our contemporary world and processes of revisionist re-membering of histories as a way of engaging memories, traumas and ghosts of the past.
Her work has shown at film festivals and exhibited in galleries and museum shows around the world including Africa in Motion, Cine Sud, Cap au Sud, Tri-Continental FF, Next Reel FF, the Uganda Museum, Galerija101 Lithuania, the Goethe on Main, Nubuke Foundation gallery in Accra and Johannesburg Art Gallery. She participated in the Durban Talent Campus and the Berlinale Talents. Kitso is alumna of the CCA Lagos Asiko art school residency at the 2014 Dak’Art Biennale. She was named as one of the Mail and Guardian’s 2014 leading 200 young South Africans, is laureate of the 2015 Visas pour la création Grant awarded by the French Institute and will exhibit in the Bamako Encounters 2015. She is currently working through video and installation dealing with socio-cultural formations that took shape over the Atlantic during the African slave trade, a project initiated during a two-month artist’s residency in Brazil supported by the UNESCO Aschberg Bursaries program and the Sacatar Foundation. She is pursuing her PhD, which is concerned with narratives of and enunciations form spaces of elision and the imaginative relationship between the African Diaspora in Brazil and the west coast of Africa.