CHALLENGING THE ‘GEOCENTRIC CONCEIT’ AND THE SUBSEQUENT ARCHIVE OF NEGATION THROUGH AN ECO-FEMININE BROWN LENS

CHALLENGING THE ‘GEOCENTRIC CONCEIT’ AND THE SUBSEQUENT ARCHIVE OF NEGATION THROUGH AN ECO-FEMININE BROWN LENS

Coral Bijoux

University of KwaZulu Natal

coralbijoux.65@gmail.com

Abstract

While Sagan spoke of ‘the geocentric conceit” (Sagan, 1994) – critiquing man who placed (him)self at the centre of the universe, I underpin this phrase as patriarchal and colonial, assuming its superiority.

My installation practice (as visual and performative) engages the brown body and (her) metaphoric voice within this context, in forms of activism speaking into white-walled powered spaces. In the Dreams as R-evolution installation, dreaming in an eco-space – the plant nursery as the stage – becomes the re-powered[1] device from which activism emanated. Dreaming enabled an escape from the enslavement of mind and body where identity has been predetermined by powers that seek to control its documentation. “When you want to enslave a people, you steal the ability to dream …” (Bijoux, 2020); thus, enslavement became the opportunity to negate the peripheral selves: creating archives of exclusion. The Archive, where it has included brown bodies, has preferenced how these bodies are to be viewed and experienced.

Dreams as R-evolution articulates a brown SELF as Feminine – as repowered – through the performative donning of the recycled plastic spooned-garment in the guise of eighteenth-century apparel. The reminiscence of ‘Sarah Baartman on display’ attempts to challenge our morphologies and deals with missing narratives and issues of representation: that which has been articulated by ‘others’ and for others thus noting this as ‘the gaze’, where it is not articulated as an affirmed experience of the brown SELF. Costume, in this instance, articulates this positioning and the wearer, the SELF, references an allegory; a warning of transformative agendas that will not serve all, but that which serves only itself.

This presentation will offer a visual and symbolic language of the brown feminine SELF; insisting upon its place in this ‘archive of negation’ to challenge the mind-set that will not hear, see or experience for fear of the shifting sands of power.

[1] Repowered is a word I had coined to replace or support the idea of empowerment. For me and in terms of the definition, empowerment implies an outside force or external effort into something or to support or help develop someone. I prefer to think of it as repowered – much like its definition that alludes to overhauling an engine for it to have new life – I see the repowering of the SELF as the opportunity to shift and ‘overhaul’ the conditioned SELF towards becoming a full, transformed individual. 

Biography: Coral Bijoux

Coral Bijoux’s career spans 30 years of collective experience in education, arts organizational practice; heritage, artmaking, curatorial practice, archival development, and museology. She interrogates perspectives on feminism and power in her art installations, with dreams and dreaming occupying her mind as a constant theme within which she engages the concept of ordinariness as repowered.  

 She grew up in Durban, however, beginning her career in the 1980’s as an educator in Johannesburg in public and private schools; later working as arts and culture advisor for the Gauteng Education Department, then in arts management practice and programme development for NGO’s and corporates. Her work on national development programmes in urban and rural contexts in various parts of South Africa and as Senior Manager for the World Heritage Site in northern KwaZulu Natal provided insights into educational and creative practice on many levels. 

In recent years, she has engaged archives and museum practice for two fledging museums and has curated a series of contemporary museum exhibitions in diverse contexts.  

Currently, she dedicates her time to conceptualizing and creating public installations incorporating alternate contexts; multi-media two and three-dimensional works. She returned to UKZN where she completed an Honours Degree in Gender Studies and is currently completing a Master’s in Art.