This exhibition was borne from Ferial Mohmed’s reading of the work of social commentator, Bell Hooks, who advocated love as the practice of freedom. In a television interview, Bell Hooks had about the work of novelist James Baldwin, she spoke of the importance of love as an aspect of decoloniality. According to Hooks, Black writers do not easily have the privilege of writing about love, as these artists are called upon first and foremost to address the prevalent issues facing communities of colour. The most overwhelming of these issues is racism and its related socio-economic and cultural challenges. This means black writers (and perhaps by implication) black artists, are unwittingly deprived of the opportunity to engage in the topic of love, which is perceived as a soft issue, and therefore not pertinent to discuss, as opposed to the more imminent difficulties posed by politics and economics.
Hooks refutes the view that love should take a back seat to more political discourse on race, and says that the ethic of love is the basis of freedom, and therefore the basis of decoloniality. She purports that love humanises people, and it is through the action of loving that we attain freedom. To focus only on intellectual discussions of race deprives communities of colour of the gift of love, which is equivalent to depriving these communities of the right to be human. She goes on to say that love is the only means to thwart the ethic of domination, which is the root of oppression. She contends there is an “absence of a sustained focus on love” in freedom discourse and says this arises from a “collective failure to acknowledge the needs of the spirit.” The failure to recognise the essence of the human spirit can be directly related to the incorrect focus that society places on materiality and consumerism.
Hooks says, “without love, our efforts to liberate ourselves and our world community from oppression and exploitation are doomed.” It is therefore important that any discourse on freedom or decoloniality include a discourse on love, to overcome the ethic of domination. Colonial systems encompass imperialism, sexism, racism, classism, and even capitalism; these systems are hierarchical. This means that there is a perception to create levels between people, placing some people on top of the ladder and others lower down. This kind of hierarchical thinking can only be successfully challenged by implementing a love ethic. A culture of domination is described as being “anti-love”.
The challenge in society is that love has come to mean an exchange that mirrors economics. Because of capitalism, love is experienced as a business deal where needs are traded. We need to look beyond this and love the essence of people. This can be done by learning how to love. In society, the huge numbers of sales of self-help books indicate something is missing for people, that we as a global community are searching for love, we desire to love, we want to love, but we do not have a definition for what love is. In her book, All About Love, Bell Hooks examines the true meaning of love and how to love well.
All aspects of love are explored in my exhibition, ranging from self-love, to spiritual love, to family love, to romantic love, the aim being to open a discourse on the connection between love and decoloniality.
The exhibition is on until Friday 30th September 2022.
Nel: 117 Long Street, Cape Town