Master Fine Art

Ikoce

Christine Ayo
Major Master Fine Art
Year Graduation Project

Winner of Putsebocht Award 2020

Nominee Master Research Award 2020

Tsamina mina, eh eh
Waka waka, eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
Anawa a a
Tsamina mina, eh eh
Waka waka, eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
Anawa a a*
Zangalewa, Lyrics, Makossa (1986)

Ikoce is a research project tracing and questioning the archival capacity of unofficial bodies in passing or preserving cultural heritage. And while doing so, navigating how such an ephemeral form of culture can nourish a contemporary artistic practice.

From Left to Right: Ikoce: Volume I, Video still, Untitled Sculpture & Ikoce Dance Notation (1/4 of performance piece)

The title of the project is borrowed from the cultural performance, Ikoce, which within my research originated as a reaction of social-political changes in Northern Uganda during the 1940s. Up until the 1990s, the performance comprised oral Poetry, dance and music; evolving to function in multifaceted channels such as an emblem of cultural heritage and an artistic tool for satire, social commentary and entertainment.

I employed an experimental and fictionalised mode of storytelling in my thesis, Symbolic Resonance to unpack the findings from this research — which I sourced from ethnographic publications about Lango Society, oral histories, popular songs, oral poetry and field investigation in Apac district, Uganda. Using speculation as a tool for proposing other ways of invoking the spirit of Ikoce through video, sculpture, voice and performance.

Furthermore, in this speculative mode of address, I dissected and questioned Ikoce’s organisation, performance attire and oral poetry; proposing its formation as a transgressive act of resistance against the heavy drafting of Lango men into the King’s African Rifles, to fight for the British Empire during World War II. In my Video work, Ikoce Volume I, humour is employed to tap into the memory and riddle of Ikoce whereas the Sculptural pieces are imbued with symbols and gestures drawn from a dance notation score.

The Notation is based on the last recorded performance of Ikoce in the 1990s; serving as a record and also an invitation for performers to collectively conjure ghosts from my ancestry, hopefully resonating beyond its own specific origin and making relations with other bodies across different geographies and time.

*
“Zamina mina (Zangaléwa)” is a 1986 hit song, originally sung by a makossa group from Cameroon. Zangaléwa pays tribute to African skirmishers (a.k.a. tirailleurs) during World War II. Most of the band members were in the Cameroonian Army themselves and used the song in fund-raising efforts for Comic Relief. In the music video for the 1986 release and in other performances of the song, performers often dressed in military uniforms, wearing pith helmets and stuffing their clothes in certain places with pillows to give the appearance of being well-off and associated with European colonial authorities. This appearance and the lyrics could be viewed as a criticism of African military officers who collaborated with colonialists and profited from the oppression of their own people.

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