16.12.2021 - 14.02.2022
Text by Amie Soudien
Reflecting on the immeasurable loss of the last eighteenth months, and indeed, the years and decades before it, Jody Brand asks, “Where do we find a place to mourn, to heal?”
In a period marked by turbulent, engulfing uncertainty Brand sought reprieve. However, this desire for stillness in the midst of chaos was not only in response to the current moment – the ongoing global pandemic and its wide reaching ramifications – but an entire history of intergenerational crises, traumas and heartbreaks in and around the Western Cape. Through this pursuit for respite, the artist revisited specific places important to her family’s life, spending time in places such as Black River, the Rondebosch Common, Kleinmond, the Palmiet River and the Overberg Mountains.
In “Litany of Survival” Brand engages with the natural world and its raw materials in dialogue with a variety of inherited memorial practices drawn from her Catholic upbringing and family tradition. Working with shells, flowers, rocks and preserved perishables, the artist makes reference to the natural occurrence of loss in all forms of life. Simultaneously, she acknowledges the lived pain of both personal and social tragedies as they unfold in Cape Town and the greater Western Cape – sites of near constant historical erasure and violence.
Embedded within the search for a place to mourn, is Brand’s desire to find solace for her family’s displacement from Black River during apartheid and the largely unknown and unacknowledged devastation of this forced removal, the pain of which lives on. Generations of her maternal family lived in the neighbourhood. Black River comprised a small, tightly-knit community within Rondebosch made up of approximately 300 families classified as Coloured or Indian when the area was declared white in 1966. The exhibited photograph of Black River, hanging outside the gallery for all passers-by to see, captures the verdant riverbank at the golden hour. Captured, too, is the promise of the river’s bounty and a silent longing for what was, and perhaps, what couldn’t be. Nature – and the land itself – functions as a dynamic connection with the past: a witness to generations of the living, whilst operating as an invaluable tool of power and source of survival.
Apartheid and colonial-era forced removals completely disrupted many communities’ longstanding relationships with the mountain, rivers and shorelines of the Cape – resources relied upon for subsistence, recreation and spiritual purposes. Despite the systematic schism created between people and their former lands and a proximity to nature that is continuously denied, Brand demonstrates the enduring connection to nature that families continue to maintain and the central role that it plays in their lives.
The artist calls upon us, the viewers, to pay our respects to the people, spaces and opportunities we have lost and offers us a space to process grief. The sonic installation upstairs inspired by the sanctuary lamp signals her family’s presence in the space, much like the lamp indicates the presence of Christ or the Eucharist in the church. Extending the visual and symbolic language of Catholicism, the votive candles situated outside the gallery space beckon personal reflection and a moment to pause.
Brand describes this body of work as testament to the life and work of her family and the memory of those who are no longer with us. Laden within this work is Brand’s commitment to offer a sense of peace for those who have seen and endured an onslaught of hardships; for whom crisis, in some way, is ongoing. On Church Street, in one of the oldest parts of the city – a well-preserved remnant of the country’s settler history – Brand asks what it means to be rooted in a place that has known little peace.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
– Audre Lorde
“A Litany for Survival”
 Dhupelia-Mesthrie, U. (2006) ‘Tales of Urban Restitution, Black River, Rondebosch*’, Kronos, 32(July 1995), pp. 216–243.