The Uncanny and The Magnificent
wani toaishara

23.02.2024 - 23.02.2024

The Uncanny and The Magnificent is research, and the result of research by wani toaishara over the past four years. It explores Afrophobia and its manifestations. Challenging us to think through what informs our politics of safety and unsafety, how colourism, ableism, body type, class, expressions of gender, sexuality, and the ways we talk all deem/ impact (un)safety as well as what affords us protection not just from bodily harm, policing, and surveillance but also from the violence of material deprivation and what happens to those permanently read as “threatening”.

Through the relational narrative of wani’s Black African gaze localised within Naarm/Melbourne, the works in this exhibition ask us to look alongside the precarity of Blackness or the ways in which Blackness has been made precarious, disposable, and fungible. In the book A Black Gaze: Artists Changing The Way We See, author Tina M. Campt speaks on how the ‘gaze’ in the name of Blackness is about subverting structures of domination for disposed groups of people. A Black gaze is a gaze that puts us in relationship to Blackness and anti-Blackness in a way that requires us to do certain kinds of ethical work.

This exhibition brings into question the premise of representation while challenging its viewer to observe the difference between representation and presentation. It presents the “Black body” through a practice of relational accountability. By implementing relationality and place, we are made to consider the position of the person in relation to the subject, and the person not only as a subject but one with the agency to object to their subjectivity.

wani toaishara’s practice explores and interrogates conventional representations of Black life through poetry, as well as still and moving images. His imagery draws on photographic languages including studio portraiture, staged tableaux, and the family album.

wani toaishara (b. 1990, Bukavu, D. R. Congo) is a Congolese artist whose works span various mediums including image-making, performance, installation and film. His practice explores Black life and representation, dislocation and Indigeneity as well as the effects of colonialism on Africa and its diaspora, often using personal stories to create intimate works. The use of urban spaces in his films is significant in the way he transforms banal spaces into dramatic stages for exploration and reflection.

wani has exhibited and performed at Arts Centre Melbourne, Sydney Opera House, Blak Dot Gallery, Wyndham Art Gallery, Arts House, and National Gallery Victoria, among other spaces. He has also received numerous awards and fellowships including a Green Room award, Arts House Evolution Award, Wyndham Art Prize, Darebin Art Prize, and most notably the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography award.

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