She makes the sounds that break her culture’s silence


She makes the sounds that break her culture’s silence

Thania Petersen traces her people’s history and reclaims their stories for her children

Gary Cotterell

Sound plays an important role in multidisciplinary artist Thania Petersen’s video work. For instance, the ghoema drum, an instrument of resistance, is “a call to the people to walk”. Through sound, Petersen also imagines “a way for people to be liberated from how we define ourselves by the land we live on or the land we think we come from”.

“We are so obsessed by it. Land carries so much political power,” she explains over a way-too-generous breakfast in her light-filled dining room.

Her latest video, Sawt, is part of her solo show which opened at Whatiftheworld’s satellite gallery on the Twee Jonge Gezellen wine estate in Tulbagh in February. Its title is derived from the Arabic word meaning “sound” or “voice”. In the context of her ethnicity — “coloured” and, more specifically, Malay — finding a voice, being heard, is an integral part of the narrative of her practice as she retraces and rewrites the history of her people “for the sake of her three sons”. ..

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