Locating Spaces of Urgency. Chapter I: Endlovini.

Solo Exhibition
15 June - 27 July 2024

Exhibition Opening: Saturday 15 June 2024
Exhibition Closure: Saturday 27 July 2024

WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Locating Spaces of Urgency. Chapter I: Endlovini., a solo exhibition by Wezile Harmans.

“How do we imagine a space where the past and the present perpetually collapse into each other?

Say you are standing somewhere, way before let’s say 1652. You cast your eye on a long stretch of fertile and bountiful land, a space that you have spent years cultivating. The ones who came before you also cultivated that land with the promise of sustenance and prosperity for generations to come. This land is abruptly disrupted and shattered by violent intrusions.

These aggressive acts of dispossession occur repeatedly. In 1906, your uprising against the Poll Tax represents a reaction to the imposed financial strain and the wider colonial invasion of your territory and self-governance. This tax serves as a tool for economic exploitation and control, stripping your community of its resources. At its core, this struggle centres on the colonial forces’ domination and appropriation of your people’s land and autonomy.

This time, it is a Friday morning, June 20, 1913. You find yourself awakening as “not a slave, but a pariah in the land of your birth” (Sol Plaatjie). You are removed from the land that you have been nurturing and has nurtured you. The land you are forced into is barren, it offers no bounty. Your community disintegrates as you all become migrants in your own land, compelled to seek work in distant cities where you need permission, a document, to move within that space. In the city, your presence is restricted; you cannot occupy too much space. Your body is policed, your movements are scrutinised, you are put under curfew, and any perceived transgression could result in fatal consequences. Once again you have to move, this time through brutal force with three quarters of your home demolished. Your life, crushed beneath rocks and rubble.

Decades later, you join a new wave of integration. You enter schools that were once exclusively for White students, often as the only Black student. Yet, as you navigate these spaces, history’s tight grip remains unyielding. By 1994, you cast your vote for the first time. The hard-fought vote brings hope, promising freedom in all its dimensions, including how you access space. The past still looms, this time it is 1996; you are called into a hearing to recount the brutal ways in which your loved ones went missing or disappeared without a trace. The process promises some sort of reparative justice, which does not arrive.

The late 1990s bring a different sensibility. You dominate the urban landscape with a newfound sense of ownership of this being your time. You are encouraged to take up space, the majority of pop culture echoes this sentiment. You are The Culture.

It is now the 2000s and disillusionment has taken hold. Despite all these years, economic barriers still block your entry into spaces that have always been out of reach. This is compounded by the colour of your skin. It always has been. Your movement between spaces is fraught with danger. Do not be caught after dark, you might disappear.

Where are your spaces in a reality? Where are your spaces of safety? Across time, you have carved out spaces in the crevices of fragmented lives. These spaces are intimate, shared, and sacred; the bed you share with cousins during holidays at your grandparents’ house, the bus ride from your suburban school to your home in the hood, a journey that doubles as a daily sermon. Vintage and second-hand stalls in the city, where you and your friends hunt for treasures; the last time it was a cracked leather jacket, worn with age.

You have made spaces for yourself, with your mates, your lovers, your family (some chosen) where you can dream and “space-out.” These are reclaimed territories of imagination and resilience. The internal spaces, where you reflect, dream, and heal. They are the mental landscapes where you envision a future unbound by the past’s constraints.

You recognise that you have always built these worlds and universes within you. That you have had no choice but to reclaim your identity and your right to exist fully. You had no choice but to create the kind of world, where space is not a battleground but a sanctuary, where you move freely dream boundlessly, and live fully.”

-Text by Ntombenhle Shezi