28 Feb 2022 ///

Genesis: Life / Death / Force

Genesis is the manifestation of two artists and women in their pilgrimage across ancient lands in Southern Africa, told through the story of the rocks that hold both the geological and spiritual history of the planet. This poignant series is the union of both Rochelle Nembhard & Gemma Shepherd‘s visions and private journeys with the Great Mother as told through 35mm and 120mm film, as well as iPhone and drone imagery, a nod to the adaptability and resourcefulness of women, using whatever means they had at any given point. The root of this work, aside from the rock, is inspired by the anti-apartheid freedom song “You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock / Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo”.

In the visual outcome of Genesis, Rochelle is shown by Gemma’s inimitable eye as symbolizing both Mother & Daughter of sacred land. On this, Rochelle muses; Artists are those who are able to be the conduit and go before others in harnessing conceptual understandings that come from the ether. To hold the death, the awakenings and the rebirths – I see artists as the seers, those who take the first sacrifice in order to move us all forward. We were anchoring that energy in this pilgrimage through Adam’s Calendar and the Cradle of Humankind. It was a return to the earth; and so it was necessary for me to be nude in the images, to convey that stripped back and bare process that is required for any type of initiation into the mysteries.”

This journey was undertaken by both artists alongside hair stylist and sister, Justine Alexander (justine_nomz) who carried hair with them during kilometers of camping and walking; through the unbridled beauty of the Cradle of Humankind, largely alone in deep contemplation and communion with their own inner-landscapes. The courage of this – to return and answer the call of the Mother – is acknowledged by the artists through the trinity depicted in the images of body / rock / hair : these elements converging to sanctify Rochelle in this space as a representation of the feminine; and is a call for protection of the feminine amidst femicide, particularly the harrowing statistics faced by Black women, and women of colour. 

We are so moved by these images, and by this unfolding process between Gemma & Rochelle. 

Written by: Holly Bell Beaton

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