“Ritual Drama: Wade in the Water,” with the international visual and performance artist Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe, “an artist whose art is her life, and her life is art.” A night of songs and video, and a conversation with the artist, in English.
Producing Director of Global Posse Productions in Pittsburgh and a partner at Assen Cuban Dance based in Habana and Mérida, Siyolwe uses visual and performance arts media as vehicles for social change.
A graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, she is the recipient of multiple awards as a creator, actor, singer, songwriter and director that include the Lifetime Achievement Award from Tazama Film Festival for her role in the Oscar-winning film “Cry Freedom.”
In this hybrid multi-generational archival encounter, Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe meets her great grandfather King Lewanika of Barotseland in South Africa (1842-1916) in the ever present past in Dreamtime. Through an archive of photographs, she passes between her indigenous and western identities which collide and blurs the lines between exhibit, documentary and performance — between old and new — and between spiritual, blues, hip-hop, opera and ancestral sounds.
A native of Zambia, Siyolwe brings a global perspective through the production of her multimedia artwork that she calls “experiential and immersive,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote.
“Wade in the Water,” which was showcased in the hall of sculpture at the Carnegie Museum of Art, is a hybrid epic that tells an inter-generational story through a digital landscape of the photographs and a musical score that’s ancient and modern, the history of Kuomboka, the ritual in Barotseland, in which the people annually move to the safety of higher ground.
“I’m using old photographs of my ancestors, because I come from a dynasty in Southern Africa where we have lived since about 1200 and where we had a camera brought by Francois Coillard of the Paris Missionary Society,” she said. “So I have animated the archive of photos of my great-great grandfather King Lewanika of Barotseland in the 1880s into a multimedia participatory exhibit.”
Siyolwe received a bachelor of arts from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, a master of arts degree in film production in 1999 from American University in Washington, D.C., and a master of arts in performance studies from New York University in 2005. She received a master of fine arts from Chatham University in film and digital technology in 2009.
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