b. 1976, Glasgow, UK; lives in London, UK and Bergen, Norway
Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, member of the Bergen Assembly 2019 core group, studied Literature at Cambridge University and Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Formerly a participant in the LUX Associate Artist Programme and a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academie, she is currently a doctoral candidate in Fine Art at the University of Bergen and Convener of the Africa Cluster of the Another Roadmap School.
Wolukau-Wanambwa works in a wide range of media, formats and contexts. Recent / current exhibitions include: 62nd BFI London Film Festival (2018), Women on Aeroplanes at The Showroom Gallery in London and Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (both 2018–19), 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2018), A Thousand Roaring Beasts: Display Devices for a Critical Modernity at Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo – CAAC in Seville (2017) and Kabbo Ka Muwala at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Makerere University Art Gallery and Kunsthalle Bremen (all 2016). Her essay Margaret Trowell’s School of Art or How to Keep the Children’s Work Really African has recently been published in The Palgrave Handbook of Race and the Arts in Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).
In a very low voice, so then you’re sort of there, 2018
Photography, text; dimensions variable.
Research assistant: Susanna Antonsson; research collaborator: Nora Landkammer; production assistant: Ivan Syrov
Co-produced by Bergen Assembly 2019
Since early 2018, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa has been researching the small, permanent exhibition at the Bergen University Museum of Cultural History, titled Inntrykk fra Koloniene in Norwegian. A literal English translation of the exhibition title would be ‘Impressions from the Colonies’, however the museum translates it as ‘Imageries from the Colonies’. Curated by Knut Mikkjel Rio, Hans Frode Storaas and Kari Årrestad and designed by Katrine Lund and Judy Sirks Vevle, this ethnographic exhibition, installed in 2014, was inspired by recent research into Norway’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and the project of European colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, and reflects upon the consequences and continuities of these histories in the present.
Wolukau-Wanambwa’s methodologies include interviews, discussions, readings, participant observation, workshops, drawing, photography, printmaking, collage and commissioning. Realised in close collaboration with a wide range of artists, academics, writers, students, community activists and interested members of the public, this project attempts to ‘think outwards’ from a somewhat peripheral ethnographic exhibition, and the histories that have produced it, towards a collective investigation of the connections, resonances, resistances and possible sites of transformation that exist or might be made possible in everyday life in the city of Bergen.
The text and image works which bear the collective title In a very low voice, so then you’re sort of there, were produced by the artist during the course of her research, and are dispersed across all venues of Bergen Assembly.
The creators of Oi! (Arsiema Z. Medhanie / Ayan Mohamed Moalim Abdulle / Cynthia Njoki Kangethe / Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa / Gift H. Solhaug / Hamisi Adam Moshi / Hinda Sheikh Ibrahim Farah / Malebona Maphutse / Mamadee King Kabba / Naomi Niyo Bazira / Omar Farah / Sheila Kassim Feruzi / Shelmith Mwenesi Øseth / Simnikiwe Buhlungu / Sufian Mulumba)
Risograph prints on paper, dimensions variable
Co-produced by Bergen Assembly 2019
Oi! was created by us, a group of people of colour who live and/or work in the city of Bergen. (In Norway, we are termed ‘people from minority backgrounds’.) Some of us are here long- term, some of us short-term, some only on a part-time or temporary basis. Some of us have recently arrived in this city. Others of us have lived here (nearly) all our lives.
At the invitation of Bergen Assembly core group member and part-time local resident Emma Wolukau- Wanambwa, we have met regularly and in a variety of configurations at Belgin, the Bergen Assembly space, and online, since April of this year – firstly, to exchange our experiences of what it means to be a person of colour in Bergen in 2019, and secondly, to develop a series of prints through which we could begin to make visible and share those experiences with others.
These prints, which were produced collectively and collaboratively, draw on our research and on personal insights and experiences – our own, as well as those of our friends, our families and our allies. They also serve as traces of the long, wide-ranging and often painful conversations that we, just like many previous generations of people of colour in Norway, have had about how challenging life can be like for us here. Some of our members have reported that it has been within this group that, for the first time in their lives, they have felt comfortable enough to speak openly with strangers about their experiences of racial discrimination.
Having this series of discussions and working together to produce these prints has been an amazing and, for some of us, transformative experience. We are now therefore committed to finding ways to keep working together creatively to strengthen the voices of Norwegian people of colour in this city, beyond the lifespan of Bergen Assembly 2019.
We are grateful to the RISO workshop Pamflett (and in particular to Ann-Kristin Stølan) for their collaboration, and we thank Simnikiwe Buhlungu and Malebona Maphutse for sharing with us the incredible printmaking skills they specially imported from Johannesburg for this project.