The London premiere of Orlow’s new film Imbizo Ka Mafavuke (Mafavuke’s Tribunal), an experimental documentary set at the edge of a nature reserve in Johannesburg, followed by a discussion between Uriel Orlow, Emily Pethick and Shela Sheikh.
A kind of Brechtian ‘Lehrstück’, the film shows the preparations for a people’s tribunal where traditional healers, activists and lawyers come together to discuss indigenous knowledge and bioprospecting.
Imbizo Ka Mafavuke asks who benefits when plants become pharmaceuticals, given multiple claims to ownership, priority, locality and appropriation. The protagonists in the film slip into different roles and make use of real-world cases involving multinational pharmaceuticals scouting in indigenous communities for the next wonder drug. Ghosts of colonial explorers, botanists and judges observe the proceedings.
This event coincides with the launch of Theatrum Botanicum, published by Sternberg Press
Commissioned by Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network with funding from Arts Council England, in association with Wellcome Trust, University of Westminster, Pro Helvetia – Swiss Arts Council, The Showroom and Parc Saint Léger Contemporary Art Centre, France.
Uriel Orlow’s practice is research-based, process-oriented and multi-disciplinary including film, photography, drawing and sound. His work is concerned with residues of colonialism, spatial manifestations of memory, blind spots of representation and forms of haunting. Orlow’s work was presented at major recent survey exhibitions including the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), 13th Sharjah Biennial 13 (2017), 7th Moscow Biennial (2017), Manifesta 9 + 12 (2012, 2018) and 2nd Yinchuan Biennial (2018). He recently held solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle St Gallen (2018); PAV – Parco Arte Vivente (2017); Parc Saint Léger (2017) The Showroom, London (2016); Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2015); John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2015); Depo, Istanbul (2015).
Shela Sheikh teaches in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths (University of London), where she convenes the MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy and the PhD Cultural Studies. She lectures and publishes internationally. She is currently working on a multi-platform research project around colonialism, botany and the politics of planting. This includes co-editing, with Ros Gray, a special issue of Third Text entitled “The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions” (Spring 2018); with Matthew Fuller, an edited collection entitled Cultivation: Vegetal Lives, Global Systems and the Politics of Planting; and, with Uriel Orlow, an anthology entitled Theatrum Botanicum (Sternberg Press, 2018).
Emily Pethick is the director of The Showroom, London (since 2008), and in September 2018 will become the director of the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam. Previously she was director of Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, in Utrecht, The Netherlands (2005-2008) and curator at Cubitt, London (2003-2004). She teaches at the Dutch Art Institute and has contributed to publications, including Artforum, Frieze, Afterall, and The Exhibitionist, and and co- edited numerous books, including Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s monograph Amateur (2016); Circular Facts (2011) and Cluster: Dialectionary (2014), all Sternberg Press. She was a member of the jury of the 2017 Turner Prize.