traces the trajectory of the artist’s people who have been historically displaced from Indonesia, Southeast Asia to South Africa. It follows their footsteps as they were forcibly removed from one area to another under various colonial and apartheid regimes. Today these practices continue through gentrification by pushing all the formally disadvantaged communities from the city to the outskirts, in consequence perpetuating the past by transforming a racial apartheid into an economic one. These portraits readdress history as it has been taught in South Africa and create awareness of how far removed we are from the truth. History teaches us that our people were mere slaves, when in fact we were Royals, intellectuals, aristocrats, artists, artisans, and doctors who have contributed to the social makeup of the country. Although present in its language, food, landscape, and political landscape, the artist’s people remain invisible and removed. These images aim to create visibility and demand acknowledgment for our contribution to this society. This project addresses contemporary ‘identity’- where we have too easily accepted the labels given to us. Through her work, the author is seeking to reclaim her lineage, and her people’s cultural, historical and spiritual heritage as individual people with a history of their own.
Thania Petersen is a multi-disciplinary artist whose discourses focus on photographic ‘self portraits’, installations and multi-sensory based performance. A direct descendant of Tuan Guru (an Indonesian Prince in the late 1700’s brought to South Africa by the Dutch as a political exile), Petersen explores the universal themes of personal and historical identities by reconstructing herself in various guises ‘of what remain from our ancestors’ rituals and past in our lives today’. From an intensely personal perspective as an Indonesian ‘Malay’ woman and mother, Petersen adopts a breath and diversity of theatrical personas – a mythological Queen, a botanical Goddess to various personal reflections of her childhood growing up as a girl in a secular Muslim society. Her reference points include the history of African colonial imperialism, contemporary westernized consumer culture, her deeply personal Cape Malay heritage, and Sufi Islamic religious ceremonies.