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Bukalo Stories

It is memories of tales. Of days spent under a big tree where young and old would gather daily, under the shade of its branches to share the news of the day. Intricately weaved fables, myths and traditions that bind generations. A reminder of a time past and the longing for things lost.

Many of her most magical memories of childhood can be linked back to certain traditions she shared with her family, says Lynette Musukubili whose first solo exhibition aptly titled Bukalo Stories is debuting at the Project Room.

Bukalo is a Subiya word, and the name of the village she is from, and her artworks depict the memories and moments spent in this place, that she holds dear.

Her inspiration is mostly rooted in family traditions, says Lynette.

“It is about how we used to live and grow up in the village. For me these traditions created life long memories. My most magical memories of childhood can be linked back to certain traditions I shared with my family.”

The culture of the village Bukalo shaped her identity and in a way, influences her behaviour till today, she explains.

“There are certain things I don’t do because of what I’ve been told.

Values and tradition are important. It helps us appreciate diversity, our differences and similarities and understanding more about ourselves and each other.”

Lynette was a visual art student at the University of Namibia when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and life literally came to a standstill. First to go was human connection and contact, as Lynette and her fellow students were forced to resort to remote learning. This reality proved difficult as students were suddenly left to their own devices to practice their art.

Lynette drew on the techniques that were passed on to her by the mothers and grandmothers in her village, and suddenly her art took shape. It was then that she explored the technique of crocheting plastic.

“Plastic bags are easy to find and not very expensive. It is an easy medium for me to work with and it is very flexible,” says Lynette. As a practice, crocheting also brings her a great sense of relaxation.

Reflecting on her past, the choice to become an artist was always an easy one. “I first started off doing drawings. When I was studying art, I started working with plastics and now it’s my signature style and the only medium I currently work with.”

From the conception of an idea, through the creation phase and the final product Lynette is guided by the work and the materiality the plastic she works with.

“Sometimes I would have an idea and I will just crochet and see how it turns out. But most of the times I make rough sketches and then I crochet.” In terms of colour choice and visual direction, the artist is very much guided by plastic she has available at that specific moment. “I do buy plastic bags, but because I also mix it with recycled plastic bags, I use whatever bags are available at the moment!”

The plastic tapestries by Lynette aims to hold space for reflection. A space of personal reflection for the viewer but also on the traditions, values and stories from Bukalo that she aims to capture.

“It is more a piece that seeks to engage with the viewer on an intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic level.”

One of the art pieces part of the exhibition symbolises the life of a Subiya woman and the important role played by a chitenge.

A chitenge cloth is a very important for women in her culture, explains Lynette and is used for different things.

“Wearing a chitenge is a sign of respect when visiting your in laws or elders, going to the traditional courts or funerals. It is also used as an apron, to carry water, babies and more! I used it in different ways in the art piece I created to show its versatility.”

Although this is the artists first solo exhibitions, her participation in a number of group exhibitions over the last couple of years has prepared her for this moment. In 2022, she was part of a group of Namibian artists which showcased at the Cape Town Art Fair. And most recently in March this year she will be participating in the group exhibition Unmourned Bodies, curated by Jo Rogge in collaboration with The Project Room, at the Association of Visual Arts in Cape Town. Her first group exhibition was while still a student when she was invited to be part of the graduation show, even though she only graduated a year later.

Musukubili’s crocheted tapestries of life in Bukalo village are on view at The Project Room from 31 March – 22 April.

View our catalogue here.

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