Lerole: footnotes (The struggle of memory against forgetting), 2018

South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape explores in her work the socio-political and cultural aspects of individual and collective sovereignty. Her complex installations examine topics such as violence, oppression, exploitation and insecurity, through the lens of individual memories, historical narratives or personal stories. The variety of media she uses engulfs the viewer in a poetic, yet spiritual atmosphere, while raising hard questions on the events that have shaped her home country.

After a presentation in our Beirut gallery last year the artist now presents for her first solo exhibition at Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Hamburg the multimedia installation Lerole - Footnotes (The struggle of memory against forgetting), created in 2017. Inspired by the literary work of James Baldwin, the installation is developed against the backdrop of pre-colonial Africa. A constellation constituted of ocher bricks, turntables, small ceramic objects, wooden panels, earth and gold leaves, stretches across the entire surface of the gallery. A multisensory experience, the installation includes sounds and smells that blur the boundaries between physical and immaterial elements. A hundred texts engraved on small wooden boards document the resistance of African populations against colonizers, and commemorate heroic acts of individuals and collectives, often forgotten by history, who fought against imperialism.


Lerole: footnotes (the struggle of memory against forgetting), 2018

At the core of Bopape’s work, both conceptually and formally, water, plants, minerals and other elements of nature are charged with temporal, cultural, political and economic significance. Soil, a fundamental component of life on earth, becomes part of a ‘shrine’ that evokes not only South Africa’s recent past, but also universal questions, central to the artist’s practice.


The Quetzal, a strikingly colored South American bird that, according to a legend commits suicide in captivity, accompanies the viewer with his songs, symbolizing the will for freedom. The sound of water rushing from all oceans and seas surrounding the African continent situates the narrative geographically and metaphysically. Examined closely, the small ceramic objects show imprints of the inside of a fist: an important part of the Bopape’s artistic vocabulary, they are an attempt at grasping the invisible through mapping the void. They also highlight the role of clay and earth, as well as land and soil in conveying collective memory.




Untitled battle

In fear of facing a similar fate to Ceuta kingdoms; Jolof, Siin and Saalum from the Senegambian

region grouped their naval forces to meet with Portuguese navigators on sea and stopped their advancements.

The aim of the Senegambian kingdoms was to not even allow Portuguese boats to land and shore. The superiority

of the West African navy ensured that the Portuguese would not land their boats and instead they were warded away.


The Bijagos Islands

The Bijagos Island Navy

At the same time that the Bullom people were facing and resisting invasion, the Bijagos Islands

off the coast of Guinea Bissau were also trying to keep the settlers of their land. In 1535 the

Guinea-Bissauan navy attacked Portuguese ships seeking to land on the islands where they would set a trade.


South Africa

First Dutch-Khoikhoi War

The Khoikhoi resistance of Dutch aggression developed into an open war between the two sides.

In 1959, under the guidance of Doman - their leader in the Cape - Khoikhoi forces united and elected

to fight the settlers over loss their grazing land. The new offensive succeeded in trapping the dutch

soldiers in their own fort but despite this victory the Khoikhoi were unable to withstand a sustained armed

conflict. The Khoikhoi were thus forced to sign a peace treaty; the terms of which forbade them from ever

again laying claim to their lost land, in war or in peace.



Arabi's Egyptian Rebellion

War Minister Arabi Pasha attempted to assert Egypt's sovereignty. He, together with Egyptian forces,

faced an entire British force ready to crush their rebellion. Egyptians were frustrated with the colonist rule

and their weakening economy - which was controlled by European powers. Egyptians were easily galvanised by Arabi

Pasha in his attempt to establish Egyptian independence, and in a short period a large anti-colonial resistance

force was established in Egypt. However, the rebellion was crushed in 1882 by British forces in Kassassin Lock.


While the installation focuses on African nation(s) as a collectivity Bopape's video piece Title not yet known at the time of publication (2018) uses the controversial case of then President Jacob Zuma who was accused by Khwezi (alias) with rape in 2005, as a collective anchoring point of the narrative. As opposed to the spiritual atmosphere of the installation, the sounds of birds and water within the video piece create a feeling of oppression from the very beginning of the work, while abstract images alternate with scenes played by two actors.


Title not yet known at time of publication, 2018


Title not yet known at time of publication, 2018