Gladys Kalichini

Untitled – 1978/1986 Things, Events and People That Cast No Shadows

Oil and Ink on Canvas (160 cm x 300 cm), 2016
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    • I'm fascinated by your work. You have such a large breadth in your artworks, from photography to painting and ink, from documentation of physical reality to documentation of emotion.

      Each of your pieces speaks to me differently, but this is my favorite. I get the sense of an out of body experience, that there are layers which one shows externally and an analysis of what is within. It leaves me wondering who these people without shadows are. Do they not exist? Are they those that have been overlooked? Are they ideas that have life?

      Most of all, I want to know where your draw your inspiration from? What purpose does your art serve for you, personally?

    • Thank you for commenting.

      This body of work is based on two Zambian women that existed or lived in the decades between 1920s and 1980s. The one woman's name is Julia Chikamoneka and the other Alice Lenshina.

      Really briefly, Chikamoneka(It will be seen) was a freedom fighter and a member of the UNIP (Zambian political party towards the end of the colonial era and after independence in 1964), and chair of the women's brigade. Her most prominent memory is her half naked protest in 1961. Lenshina lived on the Northern part of the country leading the Lumpa memmbers. She said she had died and met God. After her return she established the Lumpa church with aproximately over 60, 000 followers. Later there would be the Lumpa uprisings were the UNIP and the Lumpa members clash, resulting in the death of many of the Lumpa members. (In a nut shell)

      Both women have largely been written out of history and their narratives are fading out of memory, or collating with other narratives (both of themselves and of others) to become different representations of themselves. I used the female body and mortality as a metaphor for these fading narratives. In this particular piece I focused on the fragility of the body at death, and the tension between body and spirit, death and life, existence and non-existence/erased-existence.

    • After reading your explanation, I am even more interested in learning about your work. The incredible contributions of both Julia Chikamoneka and Alice Lenshina are, in a way, immortalized through your art. You have given an account of a piece of history which is lost to many. While much of that information is lost, the memory of their impact is still alive. You have given these figures new life, out of their bodies, out of their lifeless physical forms.

      Women all over the world have been written out of history. A prime root of this issue is that our credible sources, respected writers and historians, have historically had a tendency to be males. As a woman, I appreciate your tribute to powerful female figures.

      The idea of immortalization through art and writing fascinates me because the soul is somehow still present even when the fragile body is physically removed in death. But what serves as preservation if history is not accurately recorded? As you said, much of both of theses heroes’ stories is lost. I’m forming a larger understanding of your title and the idea of erasing existence.

      I also found an interesting parallel in your choice of media. Ink is permanent and oil is very workable. Did this choice have anything to do with the permanence and fading of the characters’ histories?