What we identify as history is shaped by a mixture of elements, frequently less bound to sanctioned facts than to other, more intangible belief systems. This inquiry stands at the core of the work of artist Kapwani Kiwanga whose practice interweaves a research-based investigation influenced by her earlier training in social sciences, with a more fictional and imaginary observation of culture, in dialogue with something that one might call a ‘larger historical consciousness’.
Kapwani Kiwanga’s versatile practice takes shape through installations, video, sound and performance. For her first UK solo exhibition, she continues her research into the legacy of the 1905-1907 Maji Maji uprising against German colonial rule in what was then Tanganyika, German East Africa. The resistance was led and fuelled by the prophecies of the spiritual medium Kinjiketile, who galvanised the Maji Maji fighters against the colonial rulers with his belief in sacred water (maji) that would make them invincible to German bullets. Kiwanga uses this event, and its adaptation in folklore and popular culture, as a starting point to trace how historical accounts linger in consciousness and weigh on a nation’s identity long after their occurrence.