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Remembering Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa

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On January 3  we lost our dear friend, colleague and force, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa.

Emma was a bridge between many of us in the roadmap, between continents, between people and groups, between teaching, art and curatorial process, between research on colonial arts education and more liberatory art and social histories, between Eurocentric administration and the endless negotiations required to shift relations of power.

It is hard to imagine the world, the Another Roadmap network and  school, the Africa Cluster, all of our lives, without Emma.

We are mourning and continue to think in our network how to keep Emma’s work, practices and incredible contributions alive. As a first step we have collected thoughts, memories and notes to remember Emma.

Andrea Thal, Carmen Mörsch, Janna Graham, Lineo Segoete, Nana Adusei-Poku, Nora Landkammer



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During the last five weeks I have been searching for words to express how much Iam missing Emma but until today I only encountered silence. This morning my companion Cat Martins sent me these words of comfort which I would like to share, hoping to pass them on to other friends and colleagues who are mourning the inconceivable loss and are wandering in speechlessness: 

not finding the words is part of the emptiness that stays when the person goes. i guess silence is that dense space to which we go to find some peace and not let the world destroy more than it already did taking a life in such unfair way. it´s so difficult to know that words can be said about the person, when words cannot be said to this person anymore. what to say when life interrupts a conversation that was to last longer? i hope you can find the words, my love. words that can celebrate the preciousness and blessing and love and fun and joy and fairness and company and mentor i see Emma is for you, for so many friends and colleagues.”  

After reading this I stopped searching for words and instead began to look for images that Emma has shared over the 13 years of our connectedness. There I found a thread to which I can attach some words. Emma was a passionate and relentless knitter - not only of intricate patterns of the fine wool that she loved so much, but of unlikely, most subversive and beautiful linkages of images, hi/stories and theories. She was a knitter of networks for many, of safety nets for some of us and not least of her own net without double bottom on which she had to balance along while bringing it forth. She knitted from a blended yarn, composed of fibres of humour, love, care, emotional wisdom, words, laughter, aesthetical rigor, knowledge, critical mind, warmth, stamina, anger, willfulness, personal/political commitment and so much more - no one knew the complete mix. A unique and unforgettable blend spun by a unique and unforgettable knitter. She threw me, threw so many people loose ends and invited us, mandated us to keep spinning.

 

I sorely miss Emma the knitter. 

So many threads left hanging loose now, so many holes in the fabric through which we fall into speechlessness. The holes will remain. But maybe with more time, all the mourners in our different spaces and places, we will find the strength and concentration to pick up some of Emma's threads and attach them to create our collective and singular patterns of love and resistance.

 

Carmen, 4th of February 2023

 

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I am deeply shocked to hear about the passing of Emma, who was so young and had much to contribute to decolonizing the arts and education.

I send you my most sincere condolences. May her legacy be kept alive and strong.

Cayo, 20th of January 2023

 

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I'm terribly sad to hear this news. Thank you for the notice.

Mareia, 20th of January 2023

 

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I will always remember her for being a kindly soul who had a wry humor even about her own privilege.  I drew much strength from her openness and capacity to engage with people at

 level at which they were/are ready and able to connect. Blessed to have had the opportunity to cross paths with a formidable and kindred spirit.  

Eileen, 25th of January 2023

 

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During this week, I took time each night to recreate my memories of Emma.

My heart is with you.

grateful for the experiences we shared

Alejandro, 30th of January 2023

 

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* To the bright Emma * from Olivier & Marianne

Feb. 6th 2023

 

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It still happens to me a lot that when I see a picture or read a text, I briefly think: I'll send that to Emma; when I have a question that's on my mind, I think: I'll ask Emma; or it passes my mind: I could call Emma. This lasts only a split second, then the sadness sets in. I try to soothe the regret about the many topics I still wanted to discuss with her, the questions I wanted to ask her, by remembering all that I learned from her. But I am still wistful. Because there would have been so much more for her to do, to say, to research, to write, to live, and she just should have had the time. 

Nora, 14th of February 2023

 

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I briefly met Emma twice, but I Have to say I will remember her generosity, positive soul and predisposition to chat and laugh. She will always be a key figure in the map of art, education and decolonization, as well as an amazing person and a constellation- person with multiple bonds, links and affective netts.

With all my respects

Javier , 10 mars , 2023



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It has taken me some time to return to this and to be able to hold space again for the news of Emma’s passing. When I first got the news from Lineo, my body was paralysed, unable to move or respond; I was in disbelief. I kept seeing Emma in my mind, laughing as only she knew how to laugh and passing the laughter to the rest of us. Her heartfelt laughter, like her profound thinking and her generous love, were contagious and inspiring. Her dedication to the work of making things, making relationships, and making worlds was moving and transformative. The very first time I met Emma at an arts education symposium in Johannesburg, we immediately felt a personal and intellectual connection that would carry across the Atlantic for all the years we knew each other, and I will miss her voice, the depth of her thinking, her incredible curiosity, and most of all, her love for all of us and her constant and unwavering care. 

 

To Emma. 

 

-rubén

 

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I am shocked and sad to learn Emma’s passing. 

May your soul rest in peace Emma!

Yuk Lin

 

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Emma was an extraordinary and beautiful person - an artist, researcher, writer, educator, mentor, organiser supreme, and doer of great things. She will be missed enormously. At the same time, her presence, her being, will continue to be part of so much of what we  continue to do in our lives and in arts education more specifically. As I continue to read, to write, to research and make, during my sabbatical in 2023, I am so conscious of the generosity , care, joy and rigour that she brought to everything - and everyone - that she encountered.

 

David 


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