UNTRAINING THE EAR:
Listening At Pungwe

Pungwe's lecture performance "Dzimudzangara: A Spectral Figuration of Archival Voices" will form through intertextual inscriptions of the acoustic embodied in archival collections.  LISTENING AT PUNGWE explores the relationship between the sound of language and the language of sound. We re-imagines the dialectic relationship between recording, translation and the transformation of transnational phonographic cultures by listening to Memory Biwa’s curatorial inputs of a sound collection located in Namibia's expansive landscape and Robert Machiri’s migratory recordings from Southern Africa and beyond. The overall composition of the work will gather its form through an experiential performance, as a live remix at a Pungwe or Wake as in an unbounded exploration of aurality.

The project Pungwe is an inter-disciplinary project circling African sound with related contemporary arts discourses and spaces. This collaborative practice takes the shape of a participatory public platform hosting alternative music and sound performances. The central ideology draws on active convergence through sound that is commonly linked to a deep spiritual commitment. A gathering of this form was known as Pungwe (Shona word for vigil), during Zimbabwe’s armed struggle of colonial resistance. It was mediated through mbira music rituals. Pungwe can be streamed as a commune of people that are “woke”, referring to wakefulness as an act of mourning, and morning used adjectivally, anticipating sunrise as an emancipatory symbol.

MEMORY BIWA is a historian who lives in Windhoek, Namibia. Her work combines memory, performance, sound studies and archival theory. Her research focuses on narratives and re-enactments of violence and resistance to colonial war and genocide across southern Namibia and Northern Cape, South Africa. Memory’s formulation of narratives and performance, as archive, informs notions of subjectivity and the re-centering of alternative epistemologies and imaginaries. Her recent book chapter, “Afterlives of Genocide” appeared in Memory and Genocide: On What Remains and the Possibility of Representation (2017, Ed. by Fazil Moradi, Ralph Buchenhorst, Maria Six-Hohenbalken). Her post-doctoral research on a 1950s sound collection from central Namibia has developed her interests in oral/aural sonority and performative excess. The project has expanded into a collaborative performance project, LISTENING AT PUNGWE, with Robert Machiri, which has seen presentations in Cape Town, Windhoek, Accra and Lausanne. Biwa lectures in the Faculty of Education at the University of Namibia.

CHI aka CHIMURENGSA (b. 1978, Robert Machiri ) is a Zimbabwean multidisciplinary artist based in Johannesburg. Machiri’s work exists at the juncture of two streams of practice: his curatorial concepts and a multi-disciplinary production of artworks. His works draw on de-colonial discourses that are presented through embodied critique, learning and unlearning, interweaving sound, music and image making. His most notable project Pungwe is an inter-disciplinary project circling African soundings with related contemporary arts discourses and spaces. Pungwe has produced collaborative works Pungwe Nights, Listening to a Listening at Pungwe and Sugar free///Pungwe. His current work is presented through a dialectic between object and subject, with inter-medial experiences of sound and image.

This listening session is a part of a new cycle of Untraining the Ear – a month long program of performances, installations, workshops, symposia, talks, and more magic.

With the Listening Sessions, SAVVY Contemporary, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and CTM Festival suggest an alternative way to listen to music and sound. In order to contextualise how we listen to the world today we also need to replay the past of abounding sonic references. We (the audience, the performers, the space, the radio, the moderators and the technicians) will rhetorically navigate through archives of maverick composers in the attempt to reindex their contributions, to create other possible genealogies and narratives. By involving sound practitioners coming from diverse genres to perform, and scholars to discuss works of the composers, we listen back to the influence and ingeniosity of musicians and sound artists who defy the linearity of 20th century avant-garde music history. We would like to shed light on and unbox works of pioneers such as Halim El-Dabh, Eliane Radigue, Jose Maceda to mention a few. We will also commission new works to echo and reflect (with a contemporary take) rare archival body of works that have been marginalised by history of avant-garde music and sound art.