What makes it possible for certain individuals’ stories to prevail, while others remain invisible, or disappear into oblivion? What are the intricacies of institutional or structural erasure? And how does the unveiling of such silenced narratives contribute to collective thinking?
The Showroom and The Otolith Collective raise these questions in a curatorial format in the London iteration of Women on Aeroplanes – an international multi-part research and exhibition project, which loosely borrows its title from the novel by Ghanaian writer Kojo Laing, and its ethos from his implosive deconstructed syntax.
The project includes new work by artists Lungiswa Gqunta, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, and observes the largely unrecognised role of women in struggles for liberation, their participation in transatlantic networks, and their key voices in revolutionary socio-political movements that helped to achieve post-colonial nation-states in Africa.
Running alongside the exhibition is a public programme of events which aim to expand upon and collectively develop new knowledge. Writers, researchers, critics and artists will be considering the activism of women – and in particular women of colour – in the struggles for independence from colonial rule in the 20th century. They will look at how and why the immense achievements of so many of these women have come to be marginalised within the official or mainstream narratives of these struggles, and what these women's erasure might teach us about the workings and priorities of mainstream western forms of historical representation. Through these events speakers, participants and attendees can work together to develop new or alternative strategies for recording and recounting such women’s lives and work in order to do a more lasting justice to their efforts and achievements.