Kamaramasenge: audio description, read instructions and artist statement
Muraho/hello! I’m Stéphanie Kabanyana Kanyandekwe.
You’ve landed on a page in my website from using the QR code in my work Kamaramasenge: where the small change is spent, in the art exhibition VOLUME: Bodies of Knoweldge here at Metro Arts in Meanjin/Brisbane.
Kamaramasenge: where the small change is spent is an interactive collaboration between you and I, and your participation is vital in the creation and completion of the work.
I’m here to give you an audio description of the work, and then, instructions on how to participate in it.
So to the audio description of the three elements of this installation before you. On the wall, a white wall are for clock faces. They’re all ticking away and working with golden hands and the faces are decorated with pressed and dried banana leaves, banana leaves – they’re almost like fingerprints, no two are the same. And especially when dried and prepared in a particular way that I’ve learned in my home country, Rwanda, it kind of brings out the unique characteristics of each. Some are a bit spotty, some have these little rivulets and stripes across them. Some are quite deep and dark brown, others retain a bit of their green hue from when they’re alive on the tree. So each of these four clocks have these press of banana leaves on them and just a little bit – a hint – of some gold foil. So there’s a kind of shimmer to them as well, and they’ve been lacquered. So they’re a bit shiny too, especially under these exhibition lights.
At the bottom of each clock, there’s also three letters that give an indication of the location that the clock is telling the time from. On the top left GBR for Great Britain, bottom left RWA for Rwanda. Top right, BEL for Belgium, bottom right DRW for Darwin. They’re all spaced 50 centimetres apart either way. And in the middle of this grid or for clocks.
There’s a golden disc just slightly smaller than the clocks about 25 centimetres in diameter. And this is flat gilded, so it’s completely gold. And then it’s got three words and capital letters across it. The top word says Ancestory; the middle: Temporality, and the bottom: legacy. These letters have the same kind of blue gold foil paper with that zoom in of banana leaves in them, it’s really fine though. So to see it, you would have to come up quite close. But from afar, you can tell it’s just a little bit of shimmer, a little bit of movement in them. In front of this wall of clocks in the central gold disk dial is a white table that has elements that speak to your participation in this work. Starting on the left hand side, there’s a gold disk again, same size about 25 centimetres, again flat gilded, with some blue lettering at the top and it reads:
Kamaramasenge: where the small change is spent. This work is a collaboration between you and I. Together, we have volumes of knowledge to share. Answer a question that speaks to you then place your paper underneath the corresponding Acacia disk. You can also answer multiple times or multiple questions. Use as many pieces of paper as you need. Sign your name or remain anonymous. Either way, be bold. Your words are important, powerful, and precious. At the end of volume bodies of knowledge, I will share our library of responses in a live stream reading – see gallery staff for details.
[The questions are as follows:]
Ancestry: what have you learned from your elders and ancestors?
Temporality: (in your understanding of) now, what are you learning?
Legacy: what knowledge would you like to pass on when you do?
This golden disk with these instructions sit on a small white easel, and then in front of it is the acacia disk with a QR code that has led you here. And then underneath it – it’s kind of used as a paperweight, this nice hunk of acacia wood – is a series of circular pieces of paper that have again that blue gold pattern, the navy, with a zoom in of small banana leaves. The underside of each circular piece of paper is blank and ready for you to write on or to get a gallery assistant to help you write – they can transcribe if you need.
Next to this stack of paper and the acacia disc are three gold mini clipboards, about A5 size, each of them has a sharpie on them. And that’s to assist with writing. And then to the right of that at the very right edge of the table is a gold placemat. It’s of a woven plastic material, in way it kind of looks like banana leaves in abstraction. And there are three more acacia wooden discs on this mat, each one with a word that relates to these questions: Ancestry Temporality Legacy.
So the intention is whichever question you choose to answer – or questions, plural, and multiple answers – you pop your pieces of paper underneath the disk that corresponds to those titles and headings.
If you’d like the questions again, here they are:
Ancestry: what have you learned from your elders and ancestors?
Temporalitry: [temporality, if I can say it properly!]
(in your understanding of) now, what are you learning?
Legacy: what knowledge would you like to pass on, when you do?
Then behind the table going back about a metre – a metre and a half, to allow access all around the table and up to the wall – there is a white bench that’s for you to perch on, if you can, and if you choose, to give you time to either answer or absorb the work and have a think.
At the end of the exhibition, I will host a live stream reading of our combined body of knowledge that will be captioned and available to play again in future via my website.
It’s an absolute honour and privilege to facilitate this collation and dissemination – murakoze cyane, thank you so very much – for sharing your knowledge, time and energy in the collaboration, and collaborative creation, of this work.
At the end of this audio description, stay listening from 8minutes08seconds
to hear a reading of my artist statement on the meaning behind this work.
I’m Stephanie Kabanyana Kanyandekwe,
and I’m here to give you an audio reading of my Artist Statement:
Kamaramasenge / Where the small change is spent
Kamaramasenge is a word in the language of my mother and hers forty times over before her: Kinyarwanda, the national language of our home country Rwanda.
It is a composite word – from kumara: 1. to spend, stay 2. to have already done; and amasenge: an old fifty franc coin. Kamaramasenge has come to be the nickname for small apple bananas, the super sweet chubby little ones that are smaller than the ladyfinger variety commonly found across Australia. At the markets in Rwanda, with a Rwandan 50 franc coin (6 cents AUD) you can buy a kamaramasenge – hence, where the small change is spent.
Within this art installation framework, kamaramasenge is a metaphor: our temporality is where small change happens, and is spent. Zooming out over the human construction of time, through centuries and millennia, small changes have macro effects. They initiate new patterns, tangents. Reinforced through repetition, one small change becomes tradition.
Too often I am interrogated for an explanation of my existence, which seems defunct in the cultural landscape of a white settler colony insistent on the old colonial rules of hypodescent… but where are you really from… you’re only half … [I then give a brief description of hypodescent]
This extends to our understandings and minimisation of civilisation, progression, and time itself. Rhetoricians Frida Buhre and Collin Bjork point out:
“In much of such discourses of disappearance, colonizers assume that Indigenous communities will perish, not because of colonial violence, but due to the developmental forces—the so-called progression—of time itself. In Time and The Other, anthropologist Johannes Fabian calls this displacement of colonized peoples to a different time a “denial of coevalness”, or a refusal to acknowledge the contemporality of Natives with their colonizers in the present.” [read more here, and at the top of there is an option to have this article read]
We are in the age of the anthropocene, the current geological epoch which begins with the impact of humans globally. This era has brought readily accessible and independent technological means to document and share our celebrations, woes, wonders and discoveries.
Our digital footprint may last millenia. Of your time earthside, what small changes have made waves? And what will you choose to share?
My first understanding of ancestry and legacy came down phone lines in international conversations with family, on ISD calls booked through Telecom at odd times of the day and night. 4 x gold handled clocks, with faces covered in lacquered banana leaves, tell the time of Darwin, Rwanda, Belgium and Britain. In a way, what we learn long distance can become twisted, magnified or minimised like a game of telephone.
On a table in front of the clock wall, a gold woven mat sits with three wooden discs on top, each with a question underneath:
Ancestry: what have you learnt from your elders and ancestors?
Temporality: What are you learning now?
Legacy: What knowledge would you like to leave on this earth, when you do?
A small sign instructs:
Answer a question that speaks to you, then place your paper underneath the corresponding acacia disc. You can also answer multiple times, or multiple questions – use as many pieces of paper as you need.
Sign your name, or remain anonymous. Either way, be bold!
Your words are important, powerful, and precious.
At the end of Volume: Bodies of Knowledge, I will share our library of responses in a live streamed reading (see gallery staff for details). I promise to keep your words near and dear in a temporal capsule, and in future continue to share them.