Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape’s artistic practice explores manifold notions of memory, encompassing the individual and collective, the known and unknown. Working with commonplace and elemental materials like soil, bricks and timber, as well as found objects, archival imagery, video and sound, the artist creates complex and multisensory installations. Through her experimental work, she investigates remembering as a conduit for consolidating one’s fragmented self through time. Born in Polokwane, South Africa and presently based in Johannesburg, Bopape has recently had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, Ocean Space in Venice and Secession in Vienna. In 2019, she was one of the artists who represented South Africa at the Venice Biennale. Open now and running until 25 February 2024, Bopape presents her solo debut in the Nordic countries at Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.
Titled (ka) pheko ye – the dream to come, she has turned the museum’s fifth-floor into a scented arena. Sharing her thinking behind the ambitious new installation, Bopape tells Something Curated: “My work for this exhibition has stemmed from an intuitive curiosity about dreams and the act of dreaming. Dreaming heavily guided the process of creating and selecting my works. I was interested in the fecund smells associated with tea, the acts of tea drinking and tea preparing, and how these can be dream-promoting. I was also interested in the relationship between home, “place,” and womanhood. I was concerned with healing the maternal and the feminine in my work, healing “her” – a place occupied by myself and many others – and with the idea of wombs as containers, and as places of creation, courtyards, queendoms, gathering zones, waiting rooms, and prayer rooms.”
To prepare for the exhibition, Bopape dedicated time to immersing herself in the rural municipality of Hämeenkyrö, Finland; here, she found delight in the serene lakes, the picturesque landscape, and connected with local healers to learn about therapeutic herbs of the region. On her experience, the artist explains to SC: “I spent many hours in Hämeenkyrö smelling various herbs, meditating, swimming, laughing, and drinking tea with the family at Frantsila Herb Farm. I remember drinking water cupped in my hand – water directly from the spring, listening, making new songs… it was very relaxing. I was also learning a lot about traditional herbs and medicinal plants.”
During her stay in Hämeenkyrö, Bopape worked with experts on the Frantsila Herb Farm to develop a fragrance and a tea blend containing dream-promoting herbs such as heather and hops. This scent now fills the gallery space and is also available in the Kiasma shop along with the tea, carrying the experience of the exhibition beyond the walls of the museum. The artist elaborates on the concoctions: “I was thinking primarily about dreaming, and about how I/we can dream better. I wanted to help myself and others to let go of the kind of thinking that holds us back from dreaming and instead rekindle deep thinking, to focus on how the herbs feel in our bodies, and to become slowly aware of their physiological effects. I hoped this would help us to relax more and allow the dreaming to come through.”
With its own lingering scent, soil is a recurring material in Bopape’s practice, alluding to concepts of fertility, life and renewal. Among her works on view at Kiasma are a series of circular and domed structures, layered with lake mud, which provide enclosed, shared spaces for contemplation – replete with a ceramic pillow for visitors to relax and daydream. Expanding further on her preoccupation, the artist adds: “I hope to dream to connect with the various parts of myself, especially those parts that are silenced. I also see dreaming as a way to then connect with others, and to realise my interconnectedness with others, that they are also a part of myself. It makes me wonder what the easiest way might be to speak to (an)other life form, and whether that life form is also a part of me. In a dream space, I feel it may be easier to speak, converse and to heal.”
Feature image: Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape. Photo: Frantsila / Miki Tokairin / Miisa Soini