Lingering Absences (2013)

Lingering Absences: Hearing Landscape Through Memory, co-curated by Lizabé Lambrechts, featured a visual and auditory installation of the Eoan Opera Group’s historical records. The Eoan Opera Group was founded in 1933 by Helen Southern-Holt as a cultural and welfare organisation for the coloured community in District Six, Cape Town, which developed to include an amateur opera company that produced the first full-scale opera performances in South Africa. During the 1960s the Group Areas Act gradually edged the Eoan Group out of the centre of Cape Town’s cultural life. District Six was zoned for white occupation, and legislation increasingly enforced racial segregation. By 1969 the group was relocated to the Joseph Stone Theatre in Athlone. This move seemed to be a watershed moment for the group, as from this time onwards support from the white community diminished due to the difficulties of attending concerts in a coloured area. The group was also politically compromised in their own community because they accepted funding from the Department of Coloured Affairs; a contentious apartheid institution that drew heavy criticism from coloured communities for its entrenchment of racist policies. By the 1980s, Eoan was performing to empty concert halls.

By following the grain of voice, landscape and image, this exhibition project investigates the various layers of memory that sediments the Eoan Group’s complex history. Instead of presenting a contained and resolved historical narrative of the Eoan Group, this exhibition provides a space for experimentation; it is a site that tests the degree to which memory, archival material and sound can act as sites of interchange.

A review of the exhibition is available here, and an article on the exhibition can be viewed here.