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EXHIBITIONS

Katarina Zdjelar “My lifetime (Malaika)” at SpazioA, Pistoia

My lifetime (Malaika), the first personal show in Italy of the Serbian artist Katarina Zdjelar, is the fruit of her one-month residence in Ghana as part of the cooperation program between the Stedelijk Museum Bureau in Amsterdam and the Nubuke Foundation in Accra.

The exhibition revolves around two national institutions in Ghana, the Symphony Orchestra and the National Museum, which were erected as a result of its post-colonial reorganization of the country. The show includes Zdjelar’s video piece My lifetime (Malaika) which she made in Accra alongside a number of ink drawings and a slide projection.

The video piece My lifetime( Malaika) features Ghana’s National Symphony Orchestra recorded in the National Theatre in Accra. The players are performing Malaika, originally a cheerful and empowering postcolonial composition that was famously performed by musicians like Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Boney M. and many others. The orchestra originates from the late 1950s when Ghana, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, had become independent from the United Kingdom. Nkrumah’s government introduced new cultural structures in order to establish and enforce national consciousness and make the shift from colonial rule to an independent country which related to the ideas of the middle course, in accordance with the states in the Developing World. One of these institutions was National Symphony Orchestra and another was National Museum for which an Italian architect Franco Minissi was commissioned to design it. For Nkrumah, National Museum was of special importance as it was supposed to be the main center of knowledge and he was involved in its design. However it was only two years since the architect has published his plans and first pillars of the museum were erected and after his government was overthrown in a military coup. There was no political will to continue building the museum afterwords and the funds were redirected.

To establish new institutions of culture also meant to introduce a new attitude: traditional culture and music is functional and participatory, hence a gap between the audience and performers had to be created, dividing an on- stage body of doers and an off-stage body of spectators. This reorganization of spatial and behavioral conditioning suggested the formation of a new citizen of a new state who appreciates rather than only participates in music and culture. Being part of the political and cultural legacy of its founder Nkrumah, the national orchestra today has become an institution which witnessed this shift of one social rule to another. It cannot be abolished, but which at the same time is too insignificant in contemporary Ghanaian society to be supported financially; thus, the orchestra’s existence simply remains ambiguous. The indetermination that seems to resonate through the instruments, which are ideologically connected to the stereotypical image of the ever-so-civilized European colonialist, reflects the lack of being embedded in tradition and local values. It is telling that the players have to negotiate their time, and shift between different social roles, as they need to have additional jobs to be able to support themselves and, because of that, are unable to attend, late for or tired during the rehearsals. My lifetime (Malaika) is neither a portrait of the musicians, nor is it a documentary about the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana. With great sensitivity Zdjelar rather deploys the orchestra in order to draw a sketch of a complicated state of affairs in which grand ideas and the mechanism of a nation state project takes root in and affects individuals.

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at SpazioA, Pistoia

until 12 January 2013

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Above — My lifetime (Malaika), 2012

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My lifetime (Malaika), 2012

CHANGE OF NAME, 2012

GNM (by Franco Minissi), 2012

Cloud, Cement, Shadow. Soil, Wall, Sky et al.(after Franco Minissi’s GNM) #1, 2012

My lifetime (Malaika), 2012

Cloud, Cement, Shadow. Soil, Wall, Sky et al.(after Franco Minissi’s GNM) #2, 2012

Cloud, Cement, Shadow. Soil, Wall, Sky et al.(after Franco Minissi’s GNM) #2, 2012

Katarina Zdjelar in conversation with Luigi Fassi, SpazioA, Pistoia, 2012

Courtesy of SpazioA, Pistoia

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