Oupa Sibeko is an interdisciplinary performance artist whose work moves between performance installation, photography, film and community-based activism. Oupa’s playful, often humorous and at times satirical approach deals with the matter and politics of the body as a contested site of labour, and as an object that assimilates the spirit of the moment and adapts to its environment. Enabling opportunities for affective and relational encounters using ritualistic performance and play, he seeks to critically engage approaches to the body, particularly the black male body, the history of representation and the ways in which certain subjectivities have been (and are) figured, (black) pain, (black) spectacle, (black) negation, and the ethical implications of reimaging and re-enacting pain. Black is Blue (2019-ongoing) is concerned with the widespread practice of using seawater for healing and spiritual purposes. Deriving from Nguni and other traditions, this practice is linked to the ‘people of water’, usually water-based diviners, for whom the sea is a realm of ancestors, a site for spiritual cleansing and grounding; the sea holds potential to heal and its curative powers live in the water. While in the past such practices occurred at the coast, with urbanization and industrialization, the practice has been adapted and now one can purchase bottles of seawater inland. The main purpose of this project is to describe and artistically explore beliefs and practices involving bottled seawater for spiritual, health and healing purposes.
Black is Blue (2019-ongoing) is an invitation for people of all ages to be immersed in a sensory exploration in a durational performance with Sibeko lying on two deck-chairs facing down with four fish hooks attached to his back in a blue-lit room, with a floor covered in sea salt. The work inspires people to embrace the myth of an inland sea as a way to rethink the urban space, who belongs in it and how they occupy it. Through a comical yet thought-provoking video of a man fishing from a puddle on the streets of Johannesburg, Black is Blue (2019-ongoing) calls on humanity to return to the sea to repair wounds and for spiritual grounding.
This article first featured on Art Africa.