5 things to know about Igshaan Adams: Kicking Dust
Yes, we’re back. On Wednesday 19 May our doors reopened, welcoming you into two brand new exhibitions.
One is Matthew Barney: Redoubt and the other is Kicking Dust, by cross-disciplinary artist Igshaan Adams; an exhibition which combines aspects of weaving, sculpture and installation in a single immersive environment.
To help guide you into the artist’s work, Hayward Gallery curators Tarini Malik and Marie-Charlotte Carrier share five things to know about Adams’ first solo exhibition in the UK.
The title, Kicking Dust, is inspired by the ‘Indigenous Riel’, or ‘Reildans’, dance of South Africa’s Northern Cape
One of the oldest indigenous dancing styles in southern Africa, the Riel is traditionally performed by the San (also known as Bushmen), Nama and Khoi people of South Africa. Adams’ grandparents are Nama and as a child he would often join them to see young people dance the Rieldans in rural villages in the Northern Cape. Described as ‘dancing in the dust’, the dance is a courtship ritual where clouds of dust erupt from the ground as performers energetically kick the dry ground.
Throughout the exhibition, cloud-like sculptures made of spiralled wire and beads are suspended from the gallery’s ceiling resonating with the image of travelling dust picked up from the earth below.
The pathways through Kicking Dust are based on the desire lines of the Cape Flats
Adams’ installation traces pathways through dense weavings that appear to cross over one another on the gallery floor. These courses are based on the improvised unplanned pathways (desire lines) walked by the residents of the Cape Flats, in Cape Town. Found on the border of Bonteheuwel and Langa, these paths have long been walked, despite a history of racial and religious hostility between the different communities.
The neighbourhoods known as the Cape Flats were created in the 1960s under South Africa’s apartheid regime; part of the government's effort to force people of colour out of designated ‘white areas’ of Cape Town. The Cape Flats were divided into several townships where people of various ethic backgrounds — Khoikhoi, Basters, Xhosa, Tswana, Cape Malays and Indian South Africans — were scattered and moved into large government-run housing projects.
Though apartheid ended in 1994, meaning these communities are no longer bound by racial legislation, many residents remain in the area due to a sense of belonging forged through history, language and established jobs.
Adams has converted the wear and tear of household linoleum flooring into striking tapestries
For several years Adams has been tracing pathways inside people’s homes in the Cape Town township of Bonteheuwel, mapping how bodies move through these private, interior spaces. In his wall-based tapestries of Kicking Dust, he transcribes these pathways by combining differently coloured and textured rope, fabric and beading.
Included in each composition are patterns and motifs traced from the linoleum flooring (‘tapyt’ in Afrikaans) typically found in these homes. Collected by the artist over a number of years, these works feature in a number of his earlier large scale installations. Adams calls these tracings and remnants ‘documents’; personal maps that are inscribed upon an environment through wear and presence.
Sufism, and his relationship with faith and belonging, are central to Adams’ artistic practice
Adams is influenced by the teachings of Sufism – a spiritual form of Islam – and the importance of the ‘inner self’ in the search for God. Sufism’s rejection of the preoccupation with the classification of things – a great departure from the era of apartheid into which the artist was born – is particularly key to his artistic processes, with Adams’ art creating a space where allusions to multiple realities and classifications can coexist.
As someone who occupies a place ‘in between’ many cultural constructs – a Muslim raised by Christian grandparents, queer within a widely homophobic society, and being of mixed ethnicity – the artist believes the journey of self-definition and discovery is an ongoing one. It’s why he feels that his weavings can also be read as self-portraits, a part of that continuing journey.
Different forms of collaboration are integral to Igshaan Adams’ art making
Adams’ studio is a place where collaborators, allies, family and friends gather to share oral histories, folklore and personal stories that often end up influencing his artworks. Over the years Adams has worked with different groups of women weavers; the traditional textile skills of each having been passed down through generations to produce techniques influenced and shaped by life experience that are as individual as handwriting.
For Kicking Dust, Adams collaborated with a group of crafters he met through The Scalabrini Centre’s Women’s Platform: an organisation dedicated to supporting women migrants and refugees now settled in Cape Town. The programme runs in parallel to his studio practice as they focus on skill-sharing and creating a means in which these refugees can sustain a livelihood from weaving and craftwork.
A limited edition of the bags produced in collaboration with the studio are available in the Southbank Centre shops.