Nestled between performance, film, composition, and exhibition, You Will Find Your People Here is a collaborative, interdisciplinary work by pianist Mareli Stolp (South Africa), sociologist Caroline Wanjiku Kihato (Kenya), composer Clare Loveday (South Africa), and artist Awo Tsegah (Ghana).
The thirty-minute film presents composer Clare Loveday and pianist Mareli Stolp’s creative response to migrant women’s testimonies collected in Kihato’s book, Migrant Women of Johannesburg: Everyday Life in an in-between City. Written for vocalising pianist, the work combines piano, spoken word, and vocal utterances, to produce an immersive sound-world that interprets the words of migrant women who travelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Malawi to Johannesburg.
The film is situated in a recreated home-space symbolising the women’s pasts, present and futures. But the construction of ‘home’ does not happen in a vacuum. It sits at the intersection of the public and private realms which shape women’s experiences of being both located and dislocated, visible and invisible in the city. Far from being the private sanctuary where nuclear families take refuge from the world ‘out there’, these intimate spaces symbolise the tensions of safety and violence, pride and shame, love and loss.
Maps on language diversity, family connections and women’s mobility to Johannesburg adorn the walls, unsettling how we understand urbanity, social-worlds, and family. They tell stories of a heterotopic city rooted here and there, and holds the contradictions of migration, at once offering hope and aspiration, deferred dreams, and broken promises.
Drawing on data collected by the Wits-Oxford Mobility Governance Lab in 2021, Awo Tsegah designed three fabric panels which surface the challenges of being in a place while out of place. The visual idiom of African women’s fabrics – the East African Khanga, the Southern African Shewshwe, the Ghanaian Kente – serves as decoration and medium. So often carried by women on the move, they convey both the continent’s diversity and the portability of domestic space, offering unsettled portraits of urban and family life to visitors who linger. They tell stories of a heterotopic city and the tensions of aspiration and absence, creation and deferral; connection and betrayal.
You Will Find Your People Here amplifies the experiences of migrant women in Johannesburg, a global city remarkable for its affluence, inequity, and diversity. Roughly one in two Johannesburg residents were born elsewhere, one in five outside the country. In the city’s gateway neighbourhoods, few plan to stay. Lives are shaped by transience, ambition, uncertainty, and anxiety. In the shadows of repurposed office blocks, new arrivals dodge predatory police and hostile citizens. As they negotiate the unfamiliar, they continually refashion the space around them.
The installation moves us from census to senses; from demography and demagoguery to the fashioning of human futures. The work reflects social connections and imaginings from street corners to distant corners of the world, connections that offer a place to hide in plain view, to reflect and reinvent. Mirroring these spaces, the installation presents an intimate space symbolising tensions between safety and violence, pride and shame, love and loss.
Approach to the exhibition, point of view by Reuben Fleisch
Entering the Film exhibit, point of view by Reuben Fleisch
Aerial perspective of exhibition space by Reuben Fleisch
Welcome to Johannesburg, Designed by Awo Tsegah
Picture of the performance at the premier at the Centre for the Less Good Idea by Zivanai Matangi