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Mohau Modisakeng and Brundyn+, Cape Town

first performed on July 30, 2013
artist’s studio, Cape Town, South Africa
performed once in 2013


Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa


My work deals with a number of issues, most of which revolve around the question of violence as a mediator of history. Informed by my own background, it investigates the subtle nuances of specific traditions and customs that are in some way concerned with notions of conflict, aggression and disorder.

The title of this performance refers to “inzilo,” a practice in some South African traditions characterized by a period of mourning in response to the loss of a loved one. In many orthodox customs, grieving, mourning or bereavement is often marked by a period in which the mourner is committed to wearing black clothes. In traditional (South) African customs, the black robe might be worn for a period lasting between six to twelve months. Once this process is complete, there is a ceremonial unclothing when the mourner ceases to wear black and returns to normality, marking the end of grieving. The clothes are later burnt and destroyed; all that remains of the entire process are the ashes.

In this performance, I sit in isolation in an empty, blank space. I sit motionless on a chair, dressed entirely in black clothing and with my head hung low. My hands and feet are covered in a layer of wax which, in the context of this work, signifies skin. Slowly, I peel this skin from my hands and feet, leaving the fragments lying across my lap.

After a long moment of silence, I suddenly rise, causing a plume of coal dust and fragments of wax (skin) to scatter from my garment into the air. As the debris settles, leaving markings across the floor, a cloud of black coal dust hangs in the air for a moment and then vanishes.