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Sekai Machache: 'As artists we have the space to consciously create new narratives that can catalyse a process of healing'

Sekai Machache: 'As artists we have the space to consciously create new narratives that can potentially catalyse a process of healing'

Sekai Machache (Kin) / courtesy of the Artist

Dundee-based multi-disciplinary artist chats to artist and curator Katherine Ka Yi Liu about her upcoming shows at Glasgow International

Katherine Ka Yi Liu: Can you tell me a bit more about both of your shows at Glasgow International 2020?

Sekai Machache: So, I am taking part in a two-person solo at the Heritage Centre at House for an Art Lover with Thulani Rachia. My solo, The Divine Sky, is going to be curated … by yourself, haha.

KL: Yes, yes, I am, haha … can you maybe use a few words to describe the show?

SM: The Divine Sky will utilise allegory and performance to tell a complicated history through poesis, immersive storytelling and photography.

KL: I am so looking forward to seeing the work!

SM: Thanks! And for the solo at Street Level, it is called Body of Land. The exhibition is the culmination of a year-long cross-cultural residency project. I am collaborating with a Kenyan artist, Awuor Onyango, to produce a two-person solo reflecting on black femme identity, ancestry and spirituality.

KL: Fantastic, can't wait. So what inspires you for both of these Gi2020 projects?

SM: Both of the shows are related to specific colours. Colour is a very important element in my practice. In Body of Land, the theme colours of the exhibition are black, red and white with each colour representing an aspect of the self/soul. This is derived from a concept that you find in many cultures including the Luo tribe from western Kenya who believe that the human soul is split into three. This concept is comparable in my understanding to Freud's concept of the mind which is split into the id, ego and superego. Another example could be the three gunas in Hinduism. I try to find connections and/or similarities across cultures and describe them through my images.

KL: I am so touched by the spirituality elements in the show.

SM: Thank you! Yes, both shows are linked to certain healing modalities. I am currently researching the role of pre-colonial African spiritual practices in the emancipation of enslaved and colonised people across the African diaspora. My deepest concern is in describing on some level the effects of racialisation on the psyche of African and African descendant people. In the solo at House for An Art Lover, The Divine Sky, my selected colour is blue. I'm really interested in the ancient indigo dyeing processes across West Africa. There are 12 stages in the indigo dyeing process of Mali and the darkest blues that can be produced are called The Divine Sky. I've been researching the work of multi-disciplinary artist and designer Aboubakar Fonana who also sees his work as a form of spiritual practice and has inspired the title of the show.

Sekai Machache: 'As artists we have the space to consciously create new narratives that can catalyse a process of healing'

Sekai Machache (The Heirophant) / courtesy of the Artist

KL: What is the motivation behind the concept?

SM: I think that we often subconsciously hold within us certain stories. These stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves become our 'origin stories' which in turn often become our core beliefs that form an idea of who we are. I think that as artists we have the space to consciously create new narratives that can potentially catalyse a process of healing.

KL: The process of decolonising ourselves is part of the healing process, isn't it? We have to unlearn what we were told then reclaim what was ours and keep practicing it until it became ours.

SM: Yes but I would say that it was always ours to begin with. There was never a point during the history of the transatlantic slave trade and colonial period that people didn't fight for their autonomy and emancipation. We just don't get taught about all of the revolts and resistance movements. It's in the process of acquiring more accurate information that we decolonise ourselves.

KL: Speaking of which, I see a lot of photographic work of yours but which art form would you say is most important in your practice?

SM: I would say I am a multi-disciplinary artist. I utilise photography and performance in my practice for the most part but my photography work could be described as painterly, so for me painting is always an important source of inspiration and a reference point in my work. I'm a painter at heart.

KL: I see. Besides Gi2020, what's your upcoming plan/project?

SM: I have just come back from Brazil where I produced a project supported by the British Council in partnership with Creative Scotland. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to travel back to Brazil or elsewhere in South America so I can continue with my research. I actually have another solo upcoming but I can't really say much about it at the moment.

KL: Oh! Lets keep it there then. Thank you so much for your time with me today, Sekai.

SM: Thank you for having me and I can't wait for our show!

The Divine Sky, House for an Art Lover, Glasgow, Fri 24 Apr–Sun 10 May; Body of Land, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, Sat 25 Apr–Sun 28 Jun.

Sekai Machache, Awuor Onyango : Body of Land

An intimate exploration of African diasporic femininities in Scotland and Kenya.

Sekai Machache, Thulani Rachia : These stories…

This pair of conceptually linked solo exhibitions comprises The Divine Sky by Sekai Machache and “…Wathint’ Imbokodo” by Thulani Rachia. Machache works with a wide range of multi-media including but not exclusive to photography. Her photography often uses body paint and muted lighting to create theatrically staged images.

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