Sekai Machache’s exhibition The Divine Sky is hosted by Stills Gallery, a small exhibition space hidden amongst the shops and cafes on Cockburn Street, ideal to those who wouldn’t travel purely to see a gallery.
To access The Divine Sky you had to walk through an exhibit called The Nature Library. The rationale of this exhibition was to connect people to the Earth through literature. In the library space you could hear the sound from Machache’s exhibition, and this encouraged a mutual reading of the two spaces.
Machache’s Ink Drawings (2020) were captivating. The movement of the ink seemed to move organically through the paper, and the energy of the lines and shapes encapsulated the energy inherent in rivers, earthquakes, and the ocean. You could see the grain of the paper; the ink looked like it was still diffusing into this material. The paintings spoke to me about time and its unstoppable progress independent of human will: as the continuous soaking of ink progressed through paper independent from the initial artist’s brushstrokes.
Underneath the pictures, there was a piece of fabric with dynamic patterns of blue ink. This fused a complicated story of both lived and ancestral experiences. In fact, the way the ink bled into the cloth recalled Batik fabrics: a method of creating patterned textiles that originated in Zimbabwe. Traditionally these patterns are inspired from and use symbols found in nature. Therefore this encouraged me to connect the natural forces of the planet to the realm of human beings, as the natural energy of the patterns were made to be placed on people’s body. Hinting at Machache’s Zimbabwean heritage, the fabric patterns also symbolise the artist’s individual experience as these are created through automatic drawing.
The video The Divine Sky film: Profound Divine Sky (2021) showed Machache standing in a field of small individual pools of water at dawn The distanced pools of water created a yearning for connection, both to the desolate landscape and to the audience. It gave me a sense of helplessness and urgency seeing Machache move fluidly with stilted rhythms. This encouraged the viewers to recalibrate and check on their relationship with nature and themselves.
The music and the breaking of day allowed me to feel to be born again and reconnect with the earth and with myself. The spoken words- performed by Machache- listed different shades of blue. You could see the various shades in the rippling water, which defied categorisation and reminded me of how fathomless the Earth is. I interpreted the rippling of her reflection to portray the energy of the earth and the fragility of human beings. The repetition of the word ‘blue’ and the phrase ‘we’ve been here before’ created an auditory moment of stasis meant to encourage the viewer to reflect and act to help the planet. The spoken words also addressed how land is not something that can be owned, it is not inanimate but rather alive and something we need to create a connection with.
The exhibition was small but enthralling and I left feeling grounded, my mind soothed and decluttered through the synthesis of photographs, video and music. The exhibition did not specify the link to nature which I felt so strongly, and I think the Nature Library influenced my reading. However, I do think personal healing is closely linked to the planet healing. Machache is a very exciting artist, capable of linking two supposedly opposite concepts – universality and individuality; I am excited to see more of her work.
[Image: Sekain Machache, The Divine Sky
Credits: the artist]