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?
We are proud to give you a little insight on another wonderful project of the exhibition, Ingrid LaFleur´s THE RESONANCE:
The Resonance is an investigation of healing intergenerational historical trauma. The human species is fraught with trauma because, as writer James Baldwin observed, its society is traumatized. As a result, future becomes an elusive goal that is forever tainted and chained to a painful past. No matter the material transformations or development in technology and design, as long as the human body holds trauma we are not truly free to imagine and manifest new visions. Like the resonance of sound, the reverb of trauma passes on from generation to generation through our blood. How do we reprogram cells within our bodies for true liberation? Where are there safe spaces for the imagination to expand freely without being tainted?
It is my hypothesis that by confronting the traumatic event, the pain can be transformed. This is not only the responsibility of the victim but also the perpetrator or liberation can not be fully attained and the future remains a fantasy. Using the genocide of the Nama and Herero peoples as inspiration, the installation pulls upon the landscape, cultures and history of Namibia. When Namibia was under colonial rule by Germany from 1884-1915, Dr. Eugen Fischer and his colleagues decided to conduct research on the Nama and Herero on Shark Island of Namibia, performing some of the most gruesome experiments upon their bodies. This is known as the first genocide of the 20th century by historians. Those experiments became the road map for the impending genocide to later take place in Europe, forever altering human consciousness. The human remains that were shipped from Shark Island to Germany, are still held by various institutions and within private collections in Germany. Namibia has asked for all of the remains to be returned as well as restitution, which Germany has denied.
The Resonance uses sound, sculpture and performance to create a space of transcendence and to honor the Nama and Herero who lived through the horror of genocide. Believing the cosmos becomes the safe place to be in full awareness and liberation, horned cow’s heads hanging in the center of the gallery will serve as a teleportation device to meditate upon in order to teleport into outer (inner) cosmic realms. The Namibia night sky will be projected unto the ceiling providing direction. The performance honors the Nama and Herero women who cleaned the bones of the tortured victims with broken glass. I intend to repeat this action to clean the cow bones. The broken glass will be incorporated into the installation. The room will be continually cleansed via incense and sound set at particular frequency to align consciousness with space and time.