As part of the extended Under Cover of Darkness project, Uncovering: Women’s Invisible Labour at the Cape, was an online symposium which took place on Monday, 22 March 2020.
This symposium, curated by Dr Carine Zaayman, Jade Nair and Nina Liebenberg, considered the legacy of women’s labour in the Cape, from colonialism to the contemporary. Many industries in the Cape are still reliant on the labour of women of colour, not least of all, the clothing and textile industries and the service and cleaning industries. This symposium aimed to consider the lives of the twelve women slaves highlighted by the Under Cover of Darkness exhibition as a foreshadowing of the extant or still existing relationship between women of colour and labour in the Cape.
Carine Zaayman is an artist, curator and scholar committed to critical engagement with colonial archives and collections, specifically those holding strands of Khoekhoe pasts. Bringing intangible and neglected histories into view is a key motivation for her work. Her research aims to contribute to a radical reconsideration of colonial archives and museum collections, especially by assisting in finding ways to release their hold over our imaginations when we narrate the past, as well as how we might shape futures from it. She obtained a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town in 2019 and worked as a senior lecturer for its Michaelis School of Fine Art and the Centre for Curating the Archive until then. At present, Zaayman is a postdoctoral fellow at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, as a team member in the Worlding Public Cultures project.
Jade Nair is a project manager at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Curating the Archive. She has been part of the Centre since 2013 and been involved in various curatorial, archival and research projects including exhibitions, documentaries and digital archives dealing with political history, queer archives and the clothing and textile industry. Much of her work has been centred on the afterlife of apartheid in the form of land restitution and the effects of South Africa’s socio-economic structure on vulnerable populations. Having grown up in Cape Town, the history and heritage of the Western Cape is a significant part of her research. She holds a BA honours degree in curatorship from the University of Cape Town.
Nina Liebenberg is an artist, a curator, and a lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Curating the Archive. She has been teaching on the Honours in Curatorship programme since 2013, and has facilitated annual interdisciplinary workshops for the programme, using curation as methodology to explore various overlaps and connections between diverse university departments. As a PhD candidate, her current research is focused on disciplinary object collections as covert markers of the colonial and apartheid regimes; and curatorship and artmaking as methodologies able to address these histories through uncovering and extending the meaning of these material depositories beyond their disciplinary scope.