South-South, Between Land and Sea

29 November – 12 January 2019

I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I know what you mean

Curated by Paula Borghi and Lara Koseff

Goodman Gallery. Cape town, South Africa


I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I know what you mean is a project based on oral dialogue as a means of connection and historical reverberation. It proposes thinking about words, language and verbal communication as the construction of narrative and dialogue, but also cultural imposition.

This video programme forms part of Goodman Gallery’s third edition of South-South, Between Land and Sea, which considers the vast ocean as a channel between diverse continents, hosting journeys that have resulted in both exploration and exploitation, in both cultural integration and persecution. In this broader context, inherited colonial languages are one of the indelible legacies of cross-continental intersection and oppression. Across the sea was not only carried certain oral traditions through slavery, but also the proliferation of Western language and patriarchal master narratives, which repeatedly attempted to silence and suppress indigenous languages, stories and memory. Our lingua franca, which sometimes connects us to unknown places and disconnects us from uncannily familiar ones, is one of most enduring consequences of colonisation.

Curated by Paula Borghi and Lara Koseff, I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I know what you mean, was initiated by Borghi with a selection of videos from Latin America, that speak about language, and how it is often silenced or the result of a historical erasure. These are works that, as the title suggests, communicate with the universal viewer, who does not necessarily understand what is being said, but understands the context. And, in conversation with these, are videos created by artists from across the Atlantic, based on the African continent or in the diaspora. There are overlaps stemming from comparable histories of colonisation and subjugation, and divergences that bring to the fore how incredibly diverse these vast regions are.

From both perspectives are artists who resurrect and sometimes reinvent resilient oral histories and indigenous stories; create new ways of speaking and understanding; present gestures that transcend the spoken word through cultural manifestations and creative, hybrid identities; or use music or wordless sounds that can somehow describe the inexplicable and be comprehended on an emotional level.

As a curatorial endeavour I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I know what you mean can be thought of in three reflexive moments regarding language: originative, colonial and universal.