Helena Uambembe (b.1994) was born in Pomfret, South Africa to Angolan parents who fled the civil war. Her father was a soldier in the 32 Battalion, a military unit within the South African Defence Force mainly made up of black Angolan men. The 32 Battalion and her Angolan heritage are dominant themes in Helena’s work, in which she explores narratives surrounding the Battalion, interweaving connected symbols and archival material.
To view the “The Borders of Memory” exhibition (Helena Uambembe and Tuli Mekondjo, April 2020), please click here.
Helena Uambembe’s practice is personal and particular. As an interdisciplinary artist, she uses performance, photography and printmaking to recreate and reposition the history of the 32 Battalion —the infantry Battalion of the South African Army Founded in 1975. Uambembe draws on her own history. Once the home of the Battalion recruits and soldiers, the town Pomfret has glided into a ghost town as it is slowly becoming deserted and forgotten.
Uambembe uses this technique as a medium of creation to rupture concealments into revelations. Uambembe’s work is a piecing together of fragmented and fractured histories resulting in images with sharp edges, hollows and a stark sense of melancholy. The 32 Battalion becomes a master narrative she uses to investigate and explore the past. Fragmented pieces become a way of mending and compressing time while weaving together ideas around home and identity.
2018 KutalaChopeto [Seeking Comfort], World Refugee Day exhibition. Point of Order, Johannesburg
2021 Afrcian Feminism: Home of the Empties ( Curated by Masechaba Moloi and Samantha Modisenyane.) (Johannesburg)
2021 The Shape of Blackness, Oakstop (California)
2021 Territories Between Us. Iziko (Cape Town)
2021 Cubicle Series, Everard Read, Cape Town
2020 The African Art Fair. Movart Gallery. Online Pink. Everard Read Gallary (Johannesburg.)
2020 Through Our eyes Narrative of Angolan Narratives – Abuja Art Week. Online.
2020 The Politics is Now. Blessing Ngobeni Art Price. Aspire Art, (Johannesburg.)
2020 The Borders of Memory. Two women Show with Tuli Mekondjo Guns and Rain Gallery, (Johannesburg)
2020 Qual Futuro? Lab. de Crítica e Curadoria. (Luanda)
2019 Texidermia do Futuro, Museu National de Historia Natural, Luanda
2019 Resistance is Us, Absa Art Gallery, Johannesburg
2019 Summer Salon, Bag Factory Artist Studios, Johannesburg
2019 The Warmth of Other Suns, The Melrose Gallery, Johannesburg
2019 Print Like a Girl, Turbine Art Fair, Gallery 2, Johannesburg
2019 Caminho do Mato, Caminho do Flores, Flores de Amor Extended, Centre for the Less Good Idea.
2019 Caminho do Mato, Caminho do Flores, Flores de Amor, FNB Art Joburg
2019 Therapy for the Black Man (In Honour of…), Underline Projects
2019 Load I shall Carry (Prayer to mother Njinga), FNB Art Joburg
2019 David Koloane Award, The Bag Factory Studios, Johannesburg.
2018 Goethe Project Space
Collection Leridon, Paris.