Tangerine Water, previously known as Yonela Makoba, is a visual artist, photographer and stylist who was selected last year for the Orms Circle Mentorship Programme. As part of the programme Tangerine has created a body of work titled 'Kwantlandlolo' for their first solo exhibition showing in Cape Town till the 22nd of February. The body of work explores complex topics such as spirituality, identity and lived experiences.
Tell us about the title of the exhibition: 'Kwantlandlolo'; and praying for tabula rasa; and its personal significance to you in your life's journey?
Kwantlandlolo; Tangerine prays for tabula rasa explores a question I asked myself, how do I begin? The answer was from the start, Kwantlandlolo. In order to start I felt the need to rid myself of limitations, hence Tangerine’s prayer for tabula rasa. This question and answer is deeply personal as I enter into a new chapter of my life and into this new decade.
In your statement: "now the world is on fire and all our ‘uncivilised’ ways are being thrown in our faces as the ‘new wave’"; what do you mean by our uncivilized ways and how do these ways factor into the new wave?
When the British colonised our country and many other African countries, their reports back to the colony said that our people are barbaric, uncivilised and dirty. As part of the colonialization process they had campaigns that were both psychologically damaging and capitalistically driven, such campaigns were about cleanliness with the introduction to products like life bouy to clean the African. It is the introduction of these ‘civilised’ ways that have come to have such negative impact on the world. It is the Eurocentric development that has led to destruction of our earth’s natural resources.
Now the new wave led by white vegans teaches us to be connected, to be eat plant based diets, to be kind to animals, to be conscious of all creation around us, to use charcoal for your teeth, aloe as a face mask etc. these same groups refuse to acknowledge the involvement of their forefathers to the state of the world today.
Our people were doing these things before the new wave. Our people discovered the healing properties for these roots before the new wave. Our people were using movement to heal the body and connect spiritually before the new wave. And they were colonised/gaslit to believe otherwise.
Ours is to return to our ways with no guilt, the path is murky and long but there is grace for that too.
You have explicitly shared the journey of creating your sculpture in a blog post by Orms; and encountered some challenges, including the plaster restricting your circulation, getting faint and getting cut whilst the plaster was being taken off; you said you learnt something about yourself that day, what did you learn?
When the silicon and plaster were being applied, I was looking at the whole process in the mirror, I was in awe of what was happening. That what I had drawn in my journal in the beginning of the year was finally manifesting into something tangible. As I watched something in me vowed to do everything possible to actualise the artwork so when my production manager and the rest of the team insisted on breaking the cast due to the danger it was placing me in. I broke down, the part of me that had taken the vow wouldn’t let in and it felt like my dream was being ripped away from me. So I refused, and I insisted they continue regardless of what it was doing to me. Thankfully I was surrounded by my loved ones and my old friend from high school Tankiso basically overruled me and allowed me space to breakdown and accept that I needed to be released from the cast as I was bleeding and could barely breathe. In that moment I realised how much I wanted to create, before that moment I would always down play my desire to practise art making.
I learnt that it was part of the process to let go, reconsider and try again. I learnt that I am stronger than I think and truly that I can’t do anything if I put my mind to it however I also learnt I
could hurt myself and that isn’t the answer. I learnt that my body is important and that I actually need it to create the works, I so badly want to birth. Surprise surprise! Lastly, what I also learnt was the importance of the people you walk this journey with, I needed them to pull me and for that I am truly thankful.
Tell us about the visual narrative of the shoot which you did following the sculpture day; the shoot that served to empower you and bring you back into motion
The shoot was inspired by the hairstyle I had during the time, I had relaxed my hair to do finger waves but by that time my hair was half afro and half relaxed. During the process I was too busy, too broke and mostly really unbothered to do anything with my hair but at times I did feel unpretty on the days I was trying to feel pretty. I had expressed how wild I thought my hair looked to my friend and collaborator, Jesse, he affirmed me and prompted we shoot something inspired by the hair. Since the sculpture accident, I wasn’t as busy, I couldn’t do much, I felt unproductive and to add on to these feelings I also felt unpretty. So when the shoot happened, it made me feel so beautiful, powerful and productive. I realised I needed to feel all these emotions going into January, which was my production month.
In your artist statement you say that "we live in an existential crisis because who we really are doesn’t correlate with our realities." Please elaborate on who you believe we are
I think the whole colonial project is gas lighting in a global scale.
‘Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual [or group], making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes such as low self-esteem.’ This is what I believe our people have been subjected to and it has been passed down from generation to generation. Black, brown, queer, womxn, etc (marginalised beings) know deep down that they are powerful, divine beings but their lived experiences in this constructed world proves them otherwise, it is this existential crisis that I speak off and experience.
And in the following phrase you go on to question reality, since asking those questions have you come up with any insights or answers of what reality means to you?
Yoh, this one is a tough one! I believe that what is said to be real is mostly real to the people that constructed it or to the people it was constructed for. I believe our current ‘reality’ is built on lies, manipulation, erasure and re-imagined ‘facts’. It would be easy for me to say reality is what you make it however I am not naive I understand that I exist within a reality which has reinforced itself through systems that cannot be simply broken by a desire to break them. As someone who has been gaslit in an intimate relationship, I know how one starts doubting even the things you knew to be true, their reality and coming out of that relationship I had to reinforce my reality against the realities imposed on me. I can not tell you what it means but I can tell you that my body, my dream world and the rest of creation are working to reinforce what is true.
You spent some time in Japan in 2019 studying the dance technique Butoh, how has this dance technique informed and contributed to your artistry? Butoh is very introspective practice, most of the time while dancing I am enquiring things of myself. Before I begin to dance I ask myself, how do I begin?
What my body wants to address things within itself. I have grown to understand that the body holds things such trauma, stress etc. in it, some of these things I have long forgotten. Through Butoh I have been able to connect to my body and learn [learning] the language only it can communicated. Learning other forms of language is very beneficial for my artistry because I am a story teller and I need to learn how to tell stories in a multifaceted approach.
Tell us about your journey since being selected as the recipient of Orms Circle Artist award
October and November I was really thinking about how to do this thing, I had never done anything like that before so I was thinking and doing butoh. I went to the beach a lot during this time and I chilled my friends. In December the thoughts were consolidated and I was moving towards creating the works, I prayed a lot during this time, watched sermons back to back, took hiatus from Instagram and ate plant based diet. In January I had learnt that the sculpture would take longer than I thought and I was at peace with the wait, my patience grew so much during that time. I had R500 to produce the visuals (my whole team came through as a favour to me), I learnt that money ain’t got nothing on God’s purpose over my life, my siblings and friends carried the load of supporting me spiritually, financially and emotionally. We prayed hard in January, we got audacious with our praise, we got fearless with our worship. The studio was filled with the Holy Spirit and in January Gods [work] was done. In February, I was tired and the Lord requested my body for one last thing, the performance. I asked for strength and it was given to me. In February I performed for the very first time and the Lord was with me, working through me.
Tell us about the dynamics of your curator and artist relationship (with Anelisa Magcu) in making your exhibition a reality.
Anelisa Mangcu is a powerhouse of a womxn and I am truly grateful to have been given an opportunity to work so closely with her. Through this process we have became really close, we would call, visit each other and do studio visits. We have spoken about everything and nothing at the same time. She is incredibly disciplined and organised, these qualities have been so anchoring to me because they made me more organised and disciplined during this process. I have learnt so much from her and I look forward to growing with her. Taking up space as we do, helping each other weave these stories about ourselves and about other people, and creating space for more people like us to dance naked with no fear.
What is the resounding message that you hope people receive when encountering this body of work?
That Nathi Singcwele, periodt!
Images courtesy of Tangerine