We went to the opening of Mulame in Objectspace Gallery in Rose Road, Ponsonby. The exhibition, curated by Ane Tonga, comprises a series of framed, embroidered panels by our friend Lema Shamamba, depicting aspects of life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is powerfully political.
Since she came to Aotearoa ten years ago, Lema has worked tirelessly. She creates and sells crocheted work to raise funds for the Amani Orphanage in Bweremana, DR Congo; she has founded W.H.O (Women of Hope: Helping Ourselves) in Ranui to help other refugee women; she has brought up three children, who are now a builder, a nurse and an architecture student; she grows healthy vegetables around her home and in the Ranui Community Gardens and teaches other women to do likewise; and she has worked in many ways to raise the awareness of people here to the terrible plight of people in the DR Congo and how we in western nations unthinkingly continue to contribute to it but could help to change it.
This exhibition of embroidered panels is one of the most unusual of her strategies. Some of her panels depict life in her district in the DRC before the invasion of miners and militia; others show acts of theft, rape and murder by invading agents of big companies in the pursuit of conflict minerals from the land. The inconguity between embroidery, such a dainty colonial art form, and the violent actions portrayed, and the contrast between the peaceful scenes and those filled with danger, mean the exhibition overall has a challenging effect.
At the opening Lema sang the song she has composed about coltan, the conflict mineral used in most of our mobile phones and other electronic devices, The DRCongo is one of the main sources of this mineral.
A few international companies have signed up to an international covenant on ethical practice in their mining activities, but these covenants are often breached in practice.
And many groups which have no regard for human life or dignity continue to enslave local people, and rape and murder those they cannot use. Lema urges us all to remember these atrocities which continue, especially in the north and east of the DR Congo, because of the mining of coltan and other precious minerals (cobalt, gold, silver- all may be used in our electronic gear), and to take some action, like:
- keep our phones and other electronic gear as long as we can
- take them to a good recycling centre when we have to replace them
- ask where the coltan and other conflict minerals are mined and by whom before we buy anything electronic
- choose what we buy from a manufacturer that’s signed up to international standards
- challenge politicians, church leaders and aid organisation staff to tell us what they are doing to support the people of the DRCongo against continuing exploitation and violence
We hope you can visit Lema’s exhibition before 24 November. And for further background about Lema and her work see this page on the Objectspace website:
- 13 Rose Road, Ponsonby.
+64 9 376 6216
Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 4pm
Lema’s Exhibition is open from 19 October- 24 November 2019