In the exhibition … these gestures of memory Gladys Kalichini focusses on the duality of memory and history, and considers ideas about mourning, remembering and forgetting in relation to the commemoration of stories about specific women within the larger picture of the narration of resistances against the colonial rule in Zambia and Zimbabwe (then Northern and Southern Rhodesia) in the 1960s and 1980s. The starting point of this exhibition project is the artist’s critical engagement with the erasure, absence and invisibility of particular female freedom fighters within the collective memory of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The exhibition challenges the singularity of dominant liberation narratives, complicates and expands freedom struggle histories by piecing together different memories about women, and provides a multi-layered and complex picture of national independence.
The three multi-media installations in this exhibition draw largely from research material and archival photographs of women in the independence struggles acquired from the National Archives of Zambia and the United National Independence Party (UNIP) Archives in Lusaka, and the National Archives of Zimbabwe and the (ZANU – PF) Archives in Harare. Some of the women included are Julia Chikamoneka, Elizabeth Mulenje (Senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II), Bessie Chibesakunda Kankasa, Alice Lenshina, Amai Misozi, Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana and Joice ‘Teurai Ropa’ Mujuru. The intricately designed installations are created with video, fabrics, paper, text and paint to present spaces and gestures of memory. The installations can be viewed on one hand as a place to honour female freedom fighters and on the other as counter-monuments that present the complexity, fluidity and at times fragility of memory.