Mixed media, assemblage, 3 channel video
In this work, Ethel explores collage and assemblage as a form of history-making. Using her family archive, with her father as a central subject, she juxtaposes analog and digital photographs with moving image, sonic and sensory play, creating montages that act as both time capsules and portals into ancestral memory. This layering of archives aims to transmit oral tradition through proverb recitals in her mother tongue Limbum, taught to her by her father who has had a notable relationship with sound as an interpreter, radio host, and storyteller in the course of his life and career. Ethel examines moments of intimate haptic encounter, inviting the audience to map out and reflect on fragments of our collective histories, (dis)placement, and frequency (recurrence) in our personal archives.
Motivated by radical modes of inquiry, such as Black feminist theorist Tina Campt’s practice of ‘listening to images’, this work prompts us to attune to frequencies that aren’t always available in our normal registers — a counterintuitive method of engaging with photographic archives that requires more ‘affective labor’. As images move us ‘emotionally but also in a tactile sense through our physical contact with them’, they propel the ongoing event of image making. In this practice, Ethel recurrently asks: “How do images hold memory over time? How do we reactivate visual archives? How do we listen to images digitally?”
Nyū e ke coo à mbùunkur ku bap à ngàptú’.
The sun sets in the evening, but still rises in the morning.
Do not despair in life, because no condition is permanent.
Ade’ bo mo’sir yi kaa cɛ’ con ka.’
One hand cannot tie a bundle.
Unity is strength.
Rdip li ka’ lese yi nton banɛ li be yuushi.
A river that forgets its source shall dry up.
If you ignore your source, you may not succeed.
All proverb recitals are in the Limbum dialect of my homeland in north-west Cameroon. The translations and meanings are extracted from a book titled ‘Mbum Proverbs’ by Ngala Ghiantar, which was edited by my father in 2010.
click videos for audio recitals