Unsupported Browser! This website will offer limited functionality in outdated browsers. We only support modern and up-to-date browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge.

© Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters, a project by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, 2020. Project Partner: MiBACT.
All archival images and photographs taken at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii are used with permission from MiBACT-Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities-Archaeological Park of Pompeii. Any copies or reproductions are strictly forbidden.

Tabita Rezaire, with Oulimata Gueye. Mamelles Ancestrales

Pompeii Commitments 10    25•02•2021

Video (screening until 3 March): 

Tabita Rezaire
Mamelles Ancestrales, 2019
single channel video (web version), 1hr 1min
Courtesy the Artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa

Images:

Tabita Rezaire
Mamelles Ancestrales (video stills), 2019
Courtesy the Artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa

Text:

Oulimata Gueye
Celestial Coalescences, 2021
translated from French

The Archaeological Park of Pompeii and London’s Serpentine Galleries have teamed up in the context of Pompeii’s first contemporary art programme, Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters, inviting three artists involved in the Serpentine’s Back to Earth project to share insights from their ongoing research which intersects with questions connected to archaeology, archaeobotany and archaeozoology.

Within the context of Back to Earth, artist Tabita Rezaire is developing AMAKABA, a centre for the sciences & arts of earth, body and sky in the Amazonian forest of French Guiana. The third joint release between Serpentine and Pompeii comprises a one-week online screening of Rezaire’s feature-length film Mamelles Ancestrales between 25 February–3 March 2021, accompanied by a selection of video stills which will continue to be displayed following the screening period, owing to the archaeological connections between this film and the context of Pompeii Commitment. A newly commissioned text by critic and curator Oulimata Gueye explores and contextualizes aspects of Rezaire’s research interests, such as space exploration, geostrategies and spiritual wisdoms. Mamelles Ancestrales goes on a search for knowledge on megaliths – ancient stone monuments, often in the form of a circle, which are found all over the world. In The Gambia and Senegal, they are commonly seen as necropolises, yet reveal  a wealth of ancestral knowledge from different cultures in the region. The video features a number of conversations and interviews highlighting different interpretations of and points of view on these stone monuments – from being sacred sites, energy devices, graveyards, haunted places, or archaelogical and geological landmarks. Altogether, these stories weave together scientific approaches to measurement and prediction, and the understanding of these sites through the lens of divinity and cosmology. Rezaire raises questions on how scientific explanations and spiritual or cultural interpretations can coexist, and what happens when one is prioritised over the other. This is an ongoing question that applies to and challenges the very nature of archaeological methodologies – a question that we wish to connect to Pompeii too. SB

Back to Earth is curated and produced by Rebecca Lewin, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Jo Paton, Lucia Pietroiusti, Holly Shuttleworth and Kostas Stasinopoulos.

With heartfelt thanks to Nicoletta Fiorucci Russo and Fiorucci Art Trust.

Home page image: Tabita Rezaire, Mamelles Ancestrales (video still), 2019. Courtesy the Artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa

 

Tabita Rezaire (Paris, 1989) is infinity longing to experience itself in human form. Her path as an artist, devotee, yogi, doula, and soon to be farmer is all geared towards manifesting the divine in herself and beyond. As an eternal seeker, Rezaire’s yearning for connection finds expression in her cross-dimensional practices, which envision network sciences – organic, electronic and spiritual – as healing technologies to serve the shift towards heart consciousness. Embracing digital, corporeal and ancestral memory, she digs into scientific imaginaries and mystical realms to tackle the colonial wounds and energetic misalignments that affect the songs of our body-mind-spirits. Rezaire’s work is rooted in time-spaces where technology and spirituality merge as fertile ground to nourish visions for connection and emancipation. Through screen interfaces and healing circles, her offerings aim to nurture our collective growth and expand our capacity for togetherness. Rezaire is based near Cayenne in French Guiana, where she is currently studying Agriculture and birthing AMAKABA – her vision for collective healing in the Amazonian forest. Rezaire is devoted to becoming a mother to the world. Her offerings have been shared widely – Centre Pompidou, Paris; MASP, São Paulo; Serpentine Galleries, London; MoMa and New Museum, New York; Gropius Bau, Berlin; MMOMA, Moscow; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; ICA London; V&A London; National Gallery Denmark, Copenhagen; The Broad, Los Angeles; MoCADA, New York; Tate Modern, London; Museum of Modern Art, Paris – and presented for international biennales in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kochi, Athens, and Berlin. 

Oulimata Gueye is an independent Franco-Senegalese critic and curator. Her curatorial approach is based on research work at the intersection of digital sciences and technologies, contemporary art and popular cultures. Her works, such as Africa sf, Digital Imaginaries, Utopies Non Alignées, Afrocyberféminismes, UFA, Université des Futurs Africains, focus on the intersections between fictions, sciences and technologies with regard to the African regions.

Pompeii Commitment

Tabita Rezaire, with Oulimata Gueye. Mamelles Ancestrales

Pompeii Commitments 10 25•02•2021

Celestial Coalescences [1]

 

Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, the Cap-Vert peninsula, on which the city of Dakar was built, is the westernmost point of the Senegal sedimentary basin. At the tip of this peninsula, one finds the district of Ouakam. Its inhabitants, the Lebu, supposedly settled here during the fifteenth century. Originally a matrilineal society, the Lebu had a sophisticated social organisation. Primarily fishermen, they developed a precise and arcane knowledge of maritime navigation by observing the heavens. It is there, at the western tip of Africa, that one finds two conical volcanic hills: Les Mamelles. Any outsider wandering through will notice Les Mamelles, since one of them is topped by the most powerful lighthouse in Africa and the other bears the emblematic Monument de la Renaissance Africaine (Monument to the African Renaissance) built by the Republic of Korea in the first decades of the twenty-first century. Moreover, facing the sea one finds the Mosquée de la Divinité (Mosque of the Divinity). It is perhaps in homage to this extraordinary conjunction linking sky and sea, the divine and the profane, knowledge and faith that Tabita Rezaire chose to title her last film, shot principally in Senegal, Mamelles ancestrales.

Tabita Rezaire belongs to the generation of artists influenced by the omnipresence of digital technology, the popularisation of the Internet, and the emergence of the predatory model of Silicon Valley. This immersion led to her critical and theoretical examination of techno-scientific liberal capitalist society. She conducts her artistic enquiry at the intersection of feminist thinking, metaphysics, and political criticism of technology. In 2014, after moving to Johannesburg, she made Afro Cyber Resistance, a video cobbled together in a do-it-yourself aesthetic, in which she reminds us that technology in its present state constitutes a new imperialism that threatens the African continent in the same way as slavery and colonialism. Beyond opposing the Internet, one must combat the entire “colonial-capitalist-patriarchal-scientific-technological-medical-penal-educational complex.” Her investigations explore the pathways out of electronic colonialism, various options for reclaiming the vocabulary of science and technology, and the possibilities of returning to harmony between living beings and the cosmos. How does one integrate technology with other more spiritual, physical, and organic dimensions? How does one restore the long history of relationships established by African societies between mathematical knowledge and divination? How can one reconsider the body as a wellspring of resources and a powerful technological tool capable of producing, storing, and transmitting information? How does one use artistic investigation as a process of healing and a tool for emancipation?

The installation Mamelles Ancestrales is comprised of a 61-minute-long film projected on the floor, surrounded by a circle of twelve stones. Through this work, Tabita Rezaire addresses what is at stake in the conquest of space as it relates to popular knowledge, religious beliefs, and spiritual matters. The film has as a backdrop the present status of space research and the geostrategic and ecological concerns being redefined by new players in the field. Although Elon Musk’s SpaceX program ambitions in the USA and those of the Chinese have been ubiquitous in the media, more and more African nations have clearly expressed their desire to take part in space research. Thus, in Nigeria, the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), founded in 1998, has already launched three satellites and is working on a lunar mission scheduled for 2030. In 2014, Ethiopia built the first astronomical observatory in East Africa. Algeria has had a space agency since 2002, and, in 2010, South Africa created the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). The SKA (Square Kilometre Array), a radio telescope being built in the Karoo Desert in South Africa, should be operational in about 2024. It will be the most sensitive instrument for radio-astronomical observation ever created. In this context, the issue of space debris emerges as a perverse effect of the increasingly numerous incursions into space, and the proliferation of “space junk” in orbit is causing anxiety about the possibility of a new ecological catastrophe. What can be done so that concerns about space are not the exclusive preserve of scientists and private enterprise? How can we ensure that the cultural, spiritual, and social dimensions so fundamental to this new quest for space are not pushed into the background or even ignored? Using the circles of megalithic tombstones – “technological vestiges” – that dot Senegal and The Gambia as a starting point, Mamelles Ancestrales weaves together the threads of a narrative that places forgotten cosmological knowledge at the heart of our thinking about space. The film is the result of research and expeditions to four megalithic sites: the stone circles of Sine Ngayene and Wanar in Senegal and of Wassu and Kerbatch in The Gambia [2]. Over a period of several months, Tabita Rezaire gathered accounts from caretakers at these sites, local populations, astronomers, archaeologists, and theologians. Built between 1300-1100 BCE and 1500 CE, the megaliths became “the central focus of scientific, mystical, and cosmological research” for Rezaire. Her work strives to “establish links between the sky and the earth, the living and the dead, to reveal a world where celestial, mineral, and organic bodies sing together”, for, as Tabita Rezaire reminds us, “in every era, different cultures turned toward the heavens to understand the mysteries of the universe. Observation of the sky has had a major impact on architecture, navigation, agriculture, politics, and the arts.” Referring to the anthropologist Cheikh Anta Diop, she pleads the case for a decolonial archaeology. Research into the megalithic circles of Senegambia was long the province of amateurs, then of European archaeologists. For many years, moreover, this research attempted to show that the technological knowledge involved in their construction could come only from elsewhere. In their work, Les traditions mégalithiques de Sénégambie [3], the archaeologists Augustin F.C. Holle and Hamadi Bocoum [4] remind us that these megalithic systems are the product of local technological competencies and function as territorial markers that allow the “creation” of ancestors – and that it is high time we understand these sites in a holistic manner. In paying tribute to mythologies and to the poetic power of the knowledge and beliefs that connect the past and the invisible, the future and the unpredictable, the scientific and the spiritual, Mamelles Ancestrales makes a significant contribution to this process.

 

Oulimata Gueye


[1] This title is borrowed from Tabita Rezaire.

[2] The megalithic monuments of Senegambia that dot Senegal and The Gambia are found on the western tip of West Africa. The Gambia and Saloum Rivers mark the southern and northern borders of this megalithic region that extends 120-150 km north to south and 250 km east to west, from Tambacounda to Kaolack. The megalithic sites are spread over approximately 33,000 square kilometres, grouped in clusters along waterways. In statistical terms, there are about 3000 megalithic sites and about 30,000 raised stones organised in cemeteries of highly varied forms: burial mounds, circles and tumuli of loose stones, stone circles.

[3] Augustin F.C. Holle and Hamadi Bocoum, Les traditions mégalithiques de Sénégambie (Errance, 2014), 152 pages.

[4] Hamadi Bocoum is the Directeur du Patrimoine culturel (Director of Cultural Heritage) at the Senegalese Ministry of Culture, Director of the Institut fondamental de l’Afrique noire (IFAN-Cheikh Anta Diop), and a professor at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar. He has headed several archaeological research projects in the central valley of Senegal (Gangel-Sule, LoumbolAmar, Sincaan, Sincu-Bara, etc.). Augustin Holle is an international consultant, a research associate at the Field Museum of Chicago, visiting professor at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar, and a professor at the University of Paris X, Paris-Ouest Nanterre-La Défense.