“I am interested in the spaces, micro details and the light of these distant interiors. The location of light is an element of my composition. Information and research become crucial aspects of my work. I would hope that the work that emerges would be distanced from its personal or historical specifications.”
At the exhibition Who knows tomorrow, Zarina Bhimji presents her film installation Waiting (2007), for which she studied the facts of this portion of colonial history at length. Although invisible in her film, it still accompanies it like a melodic theme. Zarina Bhimji visited sisal-processing factories near Mombassa, Kenya, some of which originate from colonial times. The beauty of the architecture, the bright, hot light and the simultaneously quasi-paralyzing atmosphere together with the minute movements and the sensitive details of the colors, the walls and the utensils focus the viewer’s gaze on the beauty of the material. Introduced by the Germans to the German colonies in East Africa in the 1890s and still grown on the plantations today, the material is used for ropes, cords, sacks, and carpets.The beauty of the sisal’s texture conjures up memories of hair, lending life to the material that takes on an abstract quality.
The artist’s pictures and her sounds address the viewer in a highly emotional manner. The power of Zarina Bhimji’s works is based on their sensuous and seductive imagery, inseparably tied to the tragic and melancholic sadness and burdened by history. The rhythm of the machines is perpetually mixed with the independently created and yet central element of the soundtrack and results in intense tales that unfold intertwined incidences.
Zarina Bhimji’s creative power is firmly rooted in the scenic beauty and dilapidated architecture of the African country of her birth. In her photographic and film works she provides a split view of her native Uganda. Herself thrown into exile by dictator Idi Amin Dada’s policy of forced displacement, the artist, who went on to study and live in London, uses her art to tackle the subject of displacement and communal experiences of exile.
Bhimji’s large-scale colour photographs of scenes devoid of people are imbued with a frightening and at once seemingly tender pictorial language. By directing her gaze into dilapidated rooms and onto hastily discarded objects and things scribbled on walls, she seems to give voice to Uganda’s recent history. The artist similarly traces the Ugandan past in her films, such as the one created for Documenta11 in Kassel entitled ‘Out of Blue’. The slow-panning camera pauses on mountain forests wreathed in smoke, abandoned prisons and tyre tracks on tarmac. Differences in shadows, tone and colour become visible, differences that, when metaphorically transposed to the unrest in her native Uganda, ultimately once gave rise to mass expulsions, massacres and civil war.