Ngoma zya Budima is a research project by Banji Chona that swells with the gravity as well as the ethereality of mourning and remembrance. A displacement from the tangibility indicative of the sonic archive is combined with an unbending physical presence anchored in the soil of origins. This solo project is born out of a personal meditation on grief and spiritual growth. The research presented within it grapples simultaneously with the interruptions of digital interference and the possibilities represented by eletroreception, the biological capacity to sense natural electric stimuli. Digital collages that reimagine ethnographic photographs of mourning through the redemptive qualities of the blue moon butterfly and the violence of the subwoofer push us to perceive the capacity of the auditory realm to leave physical traces. The project draws its name from a Tonga drum used for giving thanks and for mourning. The hollow body of the drum, is a vessel, capable of moving and containing air and in the process generating sound. The skin stretched and hardened across its surface responds to the humidity, temperature and intensity of its environment. The hand and the receiving ear/body are the conduits.
The exhibition is broken into three parts with a visual archive of ngoma zya budimas calling back to anthropological efforts to conserve the aesthetic and not the spirit or function of objects, digital collages coupled with poetic meditations on personal and collective forms of commemoration and a sound based installation that draw upon oral narratives. Chona’s archival cataloguing, reconfiguring and hybridizing of notions and practices of memory disrupt the romanticism often prescribed to rituality and unsettle the role of tradition in defining conservative forms of historiography.
This exhibition comes out of Chona’s residency at Villa Lena commissioned by MBQMQB and Bulgari and is the third iteration of the research platform Di Palo in Frasca*.
This paper is based on a digital restitution project in the Gwembe Valley of Southern Province of Zambia, conducted by the Women’s History Museum Zambia (WHMZ) in conjunction with the Swedish Ethnographic Museum (SEM) in 2020. The project involves objects collected from Zambia during the colonial period by various Swedish collectors beginning from around the 1900s. The aim of the project is to allow communities to identify with the objects and acknowledge the ownership of the objects before they a digital platform is created for the Zambians in general and the communities in particular to make use of them in what every way they would want to, such as research, creativity, art and/or even commercial projects that can be as a result of inspiration from the objects.
The project involves many steps aimed at decolonization of the objects such as , contextualization of the object, acknowledgement and ownership of object, knowledge of the object, relevance of the object after repatriation in the lives of community in a process that is called ‘from the community to the museum’. About 28 objects were identified and extra information on the objects was provided such as; the actual names of the objects, their use, and the material makeup of the objects and in some case even how the object was made. In another related project called FABRIC –ATED stories the objects were shown to Zambian artists specializing in different art forms such as music, writing, visual art and photography to create something in their art category with the inspiration from the objects. The artists were able to produce powerful art pieces that are yet to be exhibited. In short the major aim of this restitution project is to make objects that were removed from Zambia accessible in whatever form to the ‘owners’, provide their identity and correct information so that they can be of meaningful use to the ‘owners’ and the general public.