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Loera Farber

Artist 105 Loera Farber Displacement and Hybrid Identity The body

Leora Farber is a South African visual artist who works within feminist and post-structuralist theoretical frameworks.

Her research focus is on the articulation of Post Apartheid South African cultural identities in an ever-transforming postcolonial context, and possibilities that these emergent forms of selfhood open up for identity-making in South African visual-practice, representation and culture.

These are realised in Dis-Location/Re-Location (hereafter ‘Dis-Location’) (2007-2008). Through photographic, sculptural, installation, performance and video work.

Dis-Location is a genealogical-theatrical enactment of familial histories of diasporic displacement and colonial legacies that shape the artist’s position as a white, middle-class, second generation, English-speaking South African woman.

“I enact my colonial history through the historical figure of Bertha Marks (1862-1934), an English immigrant to southern Africa in 1886; diasporicfirst generation experience is portrayed through my mother, Freda Farber (1932-), a Jewish immigrant from Latvia in 1935, and myself (1964-).

Although there are marked differences between their colonial, diasporic and postcolonial contexts, the three personae’s displacements are linked by disjunctures of identity arising from dislocation and relocation and the transmutations in

subjectivity these processes evoke.

While it is associated with trauma and conflict, displacement is also seen as a generative space for new, hybridised identities and/or alternate constructions alterity arising from processes of cultural contact and exchange.” Loera Farber from her website.

This is divided into three photos series.

The first the stitching of aloe into the body to set new roots in Africa. Although the ‘taking’ of the graft, represented by the aloe’s growth, is imaged as physical, metaphorically the insertion of an alien culture and its ‘taking root’ is a traumatic psychological process, representing a forcing of incompatible entities to grow together in ways that assert the contestation of cultural fusion.

The cut that precipitates the graft opens the protagonist to an encounter with otherness; she enters into an in-between space of cross-cultural contact. While it is understood in terms of trauma and conflict, this liminal space is also considered as a generative space for the emergence of new subjectivities and hybridisedor alternate identity formations arising from processes of cultural contact and exchange.

The second to graft newness onto her body is coupled with her need to preserve those Anglo-Saxon values, customs and attitudes that she believes are necessary to maintain the integrity of her identity. She undergoes rites of passage by performing rituals of self-transformation that enable her transition from one state to another. These comprise a series of physically and psychologically transformative acts that she performs on her body, using the historically gendered activity of needlework as her medium.

By hovering at the threshold between her previous Anglo-Saxon self and transformation into a new, hybrid cultural being. The pearl choker now appears to be lodged under her skin, taking on forms that resemble West African cicatrisation and traditional Ndebele beaded rings.

White African trade beads held in place by mother-of-pearl buttons replace the strands of pearls below the choker; the strand that cascades onto her breast is subsumed into her body; the graft of skin and cameo has ‘taken’, leaving a raised scar at the place of insertion.

The pearls are fully subsumed under the skin and the full effect of cicatrisation is now evident.

In the third part she is seated in the stage-set from the performance amongst mounds of melted wax roses, the protagonist’s lifted skirt reveals that a new, succulent hybrid plant has emerged from the aloe leaves that she stitched into her flesh. The red embroidery cotton has grown into her leg, forming a system of roots and veins in her calf.

These additions create the sense that the room has shifted from being a transitional space for performing self-transformative rituals to a site of transformation itself;it is in an arrested, yet constant, process of becoming. As the ‘African’ aloe has germinated in the protagonist’s body, so indigenous plant growth pervades the colonial room; both hover in a state of in-betweenness.

Her works reflects and creates place for the new hybrid of identity but stops there. It leaves a huge question as to what happens next.


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