Book II - Meli Mpya 

Rehema Chachage 


Book II: Meli Mpya


In an often-quoted phrase, Fredric Jameson (1981) once wrote:

“History is what hurts.”

This is a poignant statement reminding us how much history is an act of necessity; one which is felt, and sometimes, can be felt by individuals decades or even centuries later. It is a kinship, a virtual experience, a form of necromancy, a form of ‘negromancy’ (Powell, 2016); it is what we believe to be politically, aesthetically, and conceptually legitimate.

Book II: Meli Mpya is a depiction of a life in the hurts of a history, and was created in collaboration with my mother, who creates text responses to my visual practice. In this book, we follow a story Nankondo who is my matrilineal ancestress (five generations apart). Her name refers to a person who was born of war or in a time of war. Living most of her life during the time when slavery was still at large in the shores of East Africa; Nankondo disappeared from her village one day. As it was common during this time in history, it is believed that she was abducted and taken into slavery, transitioning through the Pangani coast to most likely end up in the Zanzibar Island (or even beyond).


The book consists of six works which range between photography, installation, performance, olfactory, video, sound, and text; and which collectively create a space for remembrance—one that is meant to summon Nankondo’s presence for us to have a conversation—for me to make sense of her times and in the process, I begin to understand and make sense of my own situatedness. The book also features a Whisper for Nankondo, a text which was written for and in conversation with Nankondo, by my mother (Demere Kitunga).


Featured works:

  • Part II: Nankondo (2018)

  • The Land Remembers (2019)

  • Scents of Identity (2019)

  • Ungo: Spaceship (2020)

  • The Flower (2015)

  • Beloved (An Ode to Mkunde) (2020)

Rehema Chachage (b.1987, Dar es Salaam) is a visual artist whose practice can be viewed as a performative archive which untraditionally collects stories, rituals and other oral traditions in different media (performance, photography, video, text as well as physical installations); which traces hi/stories directly tied to (and connecting with) her matrilineage; and, which utilizes methodologies which are both embodied and instinctual, employing written texts, oral and aural stories, melodies, and relics from several re-enacted/performed rituals as source of research.

She has a BA in Fine Art (2009) from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town; and an MA Contemporary Art Theory (2018) from Goldsmiths, University of London. Currently she is doing her PhD in practice with the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna with her research focusing on the archive and its methodologies, specifically observing ways of doing the archive differently through one’s practice as an artist.