Thulile Gamedze reads, writes, teaches, curates and draws. Regardless of what she is doing, she operates with Black Consciousness and radical Queer imperatives in mind, always refusing identities configured in relation to white supremacy and patriarchy. As a part of a series with women who operate in and around South Africa’s contemporary art landscape, Arts24 caught up with the teaching artist to see how she’s been: "bored, afraid, excited, well-rested, angry, heartbroken, exhausted, productive, funny, unproductive, anti-productive, calm, inspired, bored".
Touching on rest, practise, anger and futility, she speaks to Zaza Hlalethwa about the ways that her interdisciplinary practice is unfolding in a white supremacist (patriarchal) world.
So you’re an exhibited artist, a published arts writer, a teacher and you’re a member of the art and activism collective iQhiya. How and why did you get involved in these various fields?
I’ve loved doing all these things since I was very small — reading, writing, drawing and generally making things. I was also that kid who got off on pretending to be a teacher — I designed worksheets, kept meticulous class registers, and assigned marks (very square, I know). I got more deeply into art when I studied a formal fine art degree, where I majored in photography. Being immersed in the processes and programme of ''fine art’ got me interested in theory itself, especially stuff around photography, and so the writing practice kind of emerged as a place for me to think about art and the kinds of work happening around it.
I also think that a kind of applied art criticism can offer a useful mechanism for being in the world — for me, this is about listening to one’s own intuitive response to the various images, objects and symbols that are thrown at us everyday (beyond artworks), and then expanding on this responsiveness, attempting to locate it within historical frameworks, collective references, aesthetic traditions. Freelance writing also became one of my main income sources. Later, doing a thesis-based master’s degree (a thesis-based M.Phil in fine art) also helped me to collide more of my interests — histories of cultural work, colonial education and its reconstitution in the 'art world', pedagogy towards liberation — and see how they interact and push against each other in a broader connected system.