In a major solo exhibition, Ujamaa, at La Ferme du Buisson in the Parisian suburb of Noisiel, Kapwani Kiwanga addresses Tanzania’s uprisings. Known for using methodologies from the social sciences without being didactic, the artist draws on two significant moments in the history of the eastern African country to remember and question the ideals of pan-Africanism. The first is the 1905 revolt of Kinjeketile Ngwale, who—believing in the magic powers of a herbal potion of his creation called maji-maji, meaning “water of life and immortality”—led the first revolt against colonial rule, known as the Maji Maji Rebellion. The second is Julius Nyerere’s post-independence introduction of a socialist program of collective farming, called ujamaa (a Swahili term for familyhood, extended family, brotherhood).
A monumental installation, White Gold: Morogoro (2016), welcomes the viewer and acts as the show’s contextual and museological heart. The evocative work is composed of a generous amount of sisal suspended from steel strings. Originating from southeast Mexico, the resistant fiber has been successfully cultivated since the late 19th century in the region of present-day Tanzania, once part of the colony of German East Africa. Its production has played a major role in the country’s economy, from the colonial era through independence.