Nexus Architecture - Johannesburg Biennale

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Date: 1997
Ref: 0302
Materials: Dutch wax printed cotton, kanga, zippers
Dimensions: 170 x 100cm. 1 in a series of 16 original suits.
Catalogued: pp42-45 Process of Transformation, Editions Jean Michel Place 1996; pp76-19 Lucy Orta, Phaidon Press London 2005; p102 Lucy + Jorge Orta: Pattern Book, Black Dog London 2009;
Exhibition history: 2012 MMKA Arnhem, The Netherlands; 2009 Plymouth Arts Centre, UK; 1997 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa
Courtesy: Private Collection

The Nexus Archiectucture created during the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997) was made possible thanks to workshops with migrant Zulu women from the Usindiso shelter. These took place in the historic Worker's Library, adjacent to the Electricity Factory exhibition venue. Each woman made a Nexus suit, choosing the fabric print as a means of self-expression. At the end of the workshops, a public activation was staged for the opening of the biennale and the neighbouring streets. This public intervention was highly emotional because the women were so proud to show their designs, to demonstrate their strength of connectedness through the metaphor of the Nexus: the social link. During the parade, they spontaneously broke into the national anthem Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, a significant song for the black workers during the apartheid era. Singing out loud attracted black and white passers-by, who joined spontaneously and created a much longer chain. This intervention was a potent manifestation of solidarity and connectedness, particularly after the oppression of the apartheid.
The workshop also helped upskill the women with basic pattern cutting and sewing techniques, to become financially independent. The symbolic Nexus of the suits became the most significant part of the garment, which the women continued to integrate into their designs. An overwhelmingly powerful outcome of the project.