[ISEA2018] Artists Statement: Memory Biwa & Robert Machiri — Listening to a Listening at Pungwe

Artists Statement

Pungwe is an interdisciplinary project circling African music with related contemporary arts discourses and spaces. This collaborative practice expands into the current project “Listening to a Listening at Pungwe”. We perform through an experimental platform, “Pungwe Nights”, to track and reimagine transnational sonic cultures in southern Africa. We re(hear)se historical and contemporary recordings between Namibia and Zimbabwe on a reel-to-reel player, turntables and computer. Our practice with sound technology has parallel currents, whilst it draws on research on the use of African bodies in phonetic experiments in colonial linguists and ethnomusicology, we explore the concept of the body as sound technology and translation of voice to various instruments and vice versa. Through our performance we engage the possibilities enunciated by technology, the ability as Alexander Weheliye elucidates, ‘to split sound from source’, only to later reframe and amplify the sound within phonographies. We playback Machiri’s mbira tongues (lamellaphone) from Mhondoro, Zimbabwe in response to khoekhoegowab orature recorded by Ernst and Ruth Dammann. We re-code tongues and produce a new loop anchored in the recordings’ socio-historical context and the performers mastery of their instruments. Using the remix framework, we interrogate the preservation impulse of hegemonic archives and permit the notion of an un-originary sound or speakerly texts connected to source.  listeningatpungwe.wordpress.com

  • Memory Biwa lives in Windhoek, Namibia. Her research combines memory, performance, sound studies and archival theory. Her research on narratives and performance, as archive, informs notions of subjectivity and the re-centering of alternative epistemologies and imaginaries. Her latest book chapter, ‘Afterlives of Genocide’, appears in, ‘Memory and Genocide: On what remains and the possibility of representation’. Her post-doctoral research on Khoekhoegowab sound recordings from a 1950s sound collection of central Namibia has developed her interests in oral/aural sonority and performative excess. The project expanded into a collaborative performance project, ‘Listening at Pungwe’, with Robert Machiri. ‘Listening at Pungwe’, was presented in Windhoek, Cape Town, Accra, Lausanne, Berlin, and recently at Museum of African Arts at the Dakar Biennale in May 2018.
  • Chi aka Chimurenga (b. 1978  Robert Machiri ) is a Zimbabwean multidisciplinary artist based in Johannesburg. Machiri’s work exists at the juncture of two streams of practice; his curatorial concepts and a multi-disciplinary production of artworks. His works draw on de-colonial discourses that are presented through embodied critique, learning and unlearning, interweaving sound, music and image making. His most notable project PUNGWE is an inter-disciplinary project circling African soundings with related contemporary arts discourses and spaces. Pungwe has produced collaborative works PUNGWE NIGHTS, Listening to a Listening at Pungwe and Sugar free///Pungwe. His current work is presented through a dialectic between object and subject, with inter-medial experiences of sound and image.