CF: Matrilineal relationships and generational burdens of culture on women are ongoing points of exploration in your work. How has this emerged in your work so far and how do you begin to make sense, through your work, of themes that are as simultaneously nuanced and far-reaching as these?
MN: It is important to contextualise those points of exploration to love, otherwise, it can have the work deviate from what it is, which is a dialogue and valorisation of love, Black love. When looking at these cultural burdens that women bear, I am specifically looking at how they are implicated in the relationships they are involved in – the matrilineal and romantic ones. But it is also important to me to speak of the beautiful, delicate and nuanced moments of these relationships as well, because then I fear the work potentially becoming a perpetuation of the canonised representations of Black relationships as merely a violent experience. It can be violent, particularly for women, but it can and is also an endearing experience and I want to privilege that too.
The work is currently interested in the performances of love involved in my matrilineal relationship – how my mother shows us love, and how that shapes the exchanges in my romantic affairs. It is a curious thing how patriarchy has conflated women’s domestic performances with their devotion towards their lover, husband, children and home. I started wondering about how my mother loves us with consistent domestic acts and how consequentially, that is how I know how to receive and give love. I appreciate all of this, immensely, but I often think about how that expression of love is also embedded in cultural and gendered performances that are learned, as opposed to being instinctual. Much of what I know about love comes from how it was shared with me and what I have seen growing up and I am trying to make sense of that through my work by inspecting how these cultural notions frame the relationship between my mother and I, and how we curate our behaviour within them. The work is a desire to shift those fixtures towards more liberated exchanges and conversations between her and I.
These representations of love which I grew up consuming, mainly through books and television, are systems which have authored what a ‘true’ kind of love is, and I never saw my experience with my mother, and hers with my father, ever depicted in any of these. You know, the typical experience of lacking representations as a Black person. My nuanced experience of love is one of many vernacular Black experiences that I want to make stories about. This is not only limited to my mother and I, but to my grandmothers, the women in my family and other women and daughters as well.
Love is a universal experience. I merely want to participate in centering the narratives of Black love as a universal experience that also formulates its authorising idea.Motlhoki Nono