WATA BODIS install at Project for Empty Space
July 16, 2022 - September 24, 2022
Wata Bodis, which is Krío for “water bodies,” is an exhibition about Ancestral Energy and the multitudinous complex threads between Africa and its diasporas. The show is an immersive experience, comprised of gently fluttering, mixed-media, hanging sculptures, and a visceral surround-360 video projection. Both sculptures and video installations are rooted in the artist's relationship with her own familial legacy. She describes the show as a spiritual conversation with her namesake paternal grandmother, Adama or Mama Adama. Fawundu says “At times, I am her, as she continues to see through my eyes, the daughter of her first son. As the only child in my immediate family born in the United States, cost, distance, and a horrific civil war only allowed me to meet with my grandmother twice in my life, once at age 4 and then again at 20. Although our physical bodies have only shared space on this earth for 23 years, our spirits have always been intertwined.”
Fawundu manifests her grandmother in the large-scale hanging works, incorporating the designs of hand-dyed and batik Garra fabrics, which Mama Adama created for her thriving textile business in Sierra Leone. These elements were created from large film negatives and positives that were painstakingly created by the artist. These elements were then transferred onto substrates using an array of labor-intensive, camera-less photographic processes. Reflecting on the making experience, Fawundu says, “so much of this work is about creating new patterns and new languages while activating my body and ancestral memory. My process includes allowing my body to move intuitively as it performs and makes gestures through these camera-less photographic processes.”
The completed pieces incorporate a melange of materials and techniques such as photo lumens, cyanotypes, screen printing, mixed media on Guinea Brocade textiles, and cotton paper. The materiality of the work and the pastiched layers speak to the complex nature of identities, and the multi-plaited connections between the Continent and the Diaspora.
Both the videos and hanging sculptures were created during Fawundu’s residency at Project for Empty Space in Newark, New Jersey. The creative culture of the city, and its larger relationship to Diasporic discourse, played an important role in the shaping of the artist’s time as an Artist In Residence. Newark’s influence is found both in Wata Bodis and in the community engagement project that Fawundu worked on during her residency. This project was a months-long educational collaboration with young women in the BOLD Scholars Network at Rutgers University Newark. The outcome of this program is a seventy-foot-tall mural created between the artist and students, entitled Courage. The vibrant piece stretches the entire back wall of Project for Empty Space and can be seen from various vantage points in the city.
For Wata Bodis, Fawundu notes the impact of Newark cultural leaders Amina and Amiri Baraka. references the Spirit House, a collective founded by the pair. This endeavor brought together multidisciplinary artists from the African Diaspora together in one space to create and build together new concepts, ideas, and visions for the future. Imbued with the powers of her own ancestry and these specific cultural legacies of Newark, Fawundu has created a space for meditation on movement, change, power, and diasporas in a singular space.
Header image by Anthony Alvarez