Xnau

Garth Erasmus

September 2021

Garth Erasmus is a South African artist born in Uitenhage and currently based in Cape Town. Erasmus was the last visual artist to take physical residence at GUS gallery before the pandemic. Besides his visual work Erasmus is also a sound artist and instrument maker. He is part of various music and sound projects including Khoi Konnexion, As is and GWAING. During his residency at GUS a series of improvisational sound journeys were performed and recorded on-site.  From these processes a new album by the local sound project GWAING was born.

Artist Statement

Decolonisation is firmly foregrounded across the multiple mediums in which I work. In my work it means unsettling the hegemonic, exclusionary constructions of African and “coloured” identity in the South African context.

 

The works that I have produced during my GUS residency forms part of a larger continuous series called The Xnau Drawings. Xnau is a Khoi-Nama word and means initiation. XNAU is pronounced “now” but with a click-sound at the beginning. This initiation, however, is not the same as the classic universal understanding of rite of passage i.e. it does not involve, for example, ritualistic circumcision etc. Rather, it is a sacred process of self-initiation [usually undertaken as an adult already] that entails a process of isolation and sensitization in a traditional and sacred setting. The need for the Xnau arises out of the fact that one has been cut off from one’s culture through the processes of colonization, urbanization, westernization. It is an example of tradition that has evolved naturally with the necessities of prevailing conditions and reshaped itself through time. The Xnau is simply a process of realignment with the values of one’s lost heritage in the context of a post-Apartheid South Africa.

 

This is indeed the story of my personal experience of “awakening” and I hope that this has manifested in my art works. The Xnau thus works as a constant metaphor through all of my work. In this series I strive to illuminate, highlight and expose aspects of our history that has been (mostly purposely) hidden from view... these include events, places and place names, and individuals or personalities and language.