The presentation of work entitled 'Sleep in Witness' by South African artist Lungiswa Gqunta opened at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds on 8th July and runs until 30th October.
The three rooms have each been treated as an installation, with a single work taking over each space as Gqunta continues to examine how colonialism has restricted and curtailed traditional knowledge systems.
The leitmotif running through this exhibition is water and this recurs constantly through the show in different forms and incarnations. As is described fully in the accompanying catalogue, water stands as a powerful symbol of destiny, for both the regenerative life and development of the region, but also for the terror and suffering inflicted upon people of the region, terror and suffering that came to the shores of Africa from overseas.
The first room of the exhibition opens suddenly before us as an earthen plateau composed of clay and sand, mostly flattened but also featuring cracked lumps seemingly descending into a state of higher entropy. Placed at intervals throughout the space are globules of blown glass in blue, purple and clear examples. The shapes of these globules are irregular, suggesting the liquid state from which they came and also referencing 3D pools of water, somehow remaining on the surface of the sand and clay.
Lights shine on these glass globules increasing our awareness of their smooth, fragile surface and assisting in their likeness to water pools. The smooth nature of the glass globules seem to emphasise the gritty nature of the sand beneath them, while the sand and dry, cracked clay in turn emphasise the smooth, fragile surfaces of the globules.
As visitors walk around the room, their weight compresses the sand and clay, breaking down lumps and often cracking the surface. As we appreciate the installation, we also assist in the increasing entropy. Areas of the room begin to appear smoother, as the sand and clay begin to combine to form a hard surface as the soil of a countryside footpath hardens and smoothens over time due to the use it experiences and as the soil dries out. It is as if the nature of the materials slowly changes over time.