Lhola Amira

Philisa: Ditaola

By Biennale of Sydney

22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN

Philisa: Ditaola Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

About the artist

Lhola Amira
Born 1984 in Gugulethu, South Africa
Lives and works in Cape Town


Lhola Amira is an interdisciplinary artist whose work translates into photography, video and installation. Amira defines their practice as ‘appearance’ – a term that draws from African Nguni spiritualism. As part of their work as a black, queer artist, Amira conceives their existence in plural – plural existences in one body – as well as an understanding of the Zulu notion of Ukuvela, which contextualises an individuals’ existence in relation to collective historical and future narratives.

Philisa: Ditaola Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Philisa: Ditaola (Soundtrack)
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Philisa: Ditaola

Lhola Amira's Philisa: Ditaola at Cockatoo Island is a mixed-media installation incorporating Philisa Portals (wood and glass beads), sea salt (naturally evaporated solar salt made in Australia), golden pillars, candle holders, salt water collected from Cockatoo Island and sound.

Philisa: Ditaola Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Amira’s works address the wounds left by colonisation across many disparate contexts, to create spaces for healing through connection to the earth, the ancestral, and the spiritual.  

Philisa: DitaolaBiennale of Sydney

Philisa_ Ditaola (Part 2)
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Here, Amira creates portals for memory and rejuvenation, where through a beaded curtain above a ceremonial healing bed of salt, one can hear the sounds of singing specifically created to heal and transform the body into a space of well-being, ancestral connection and self-care.

Philisa: Ditaola Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

"Philisa asks us to remember our ancestors, who are woven into umlibo womoya (currents of energy), arching through blood and bone to inkaba (our origin). Our ancestors are energy that is transformed not destroyed. To heal OURSELVES is to heal our ANCESTORS too..."

Philisa: Ditaola Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Philisa_ Ditaola (Part 4)
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"... The work is about listening.
Listening to the land, listening to the water, listening to the blood and bones of our ancestors, listening to what our bodies remember.
Listening to where the songs were last sung.
Listening to where rivers used to be.
Listen. To the silence.
Listen to find the wound, where it hurts, why it hurts, how it hurts.
Listen for the medicine ..."

– Lhola Amira


Philisa: Ditaola (Soundtrack)
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Navigate through the space to explore the healing portals, and listen to the sounds of Philisa: Ditaola.

Philisa: Ditaola Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Fridays with Brook: Lhola Amira

In the following video, Lhola Amira talks about their artwork, mentioning the significance of coloured beads used in the installation. There are about 4,500 strings of beads per portal and there are 7 altogether. The white signifies purifying energy, the red ancestral blood and to purify negative energies, blue for Amira's ancestors, and gold for land.

Watch to find out more about Philisa: Ditaola.

A conversation with Lhola Amira & Brook Andrew (2020)Biennale of Sydney

Credits: Story

Philisa: Ditaola, 2018-20 
mixed-media installation; Philisa Portals (wood and glass beads), sea salt (naturally evaporated solar salt made in Australia), golden pillars, candleholders, brandy, sound 
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from the Sherman Foundation, and assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons 
Courtesy the artist and SMAC Gallery, Cape Town / Johannesburg / Stellenbosch 
Extended thanks, gratitude and acknowledgement to the following people who played an integral part throughout the journey of this constellation: Thembsie Mbongwa, Lolita Lungile Mbongwa, Noncedo Gxekwa, Barbara Thandeki, Pieta Magengenene, SMAC Gallery

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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