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‘A Third Language’
Feb 2023 - Sep 2023

An installation view of a gallery space featuring a very large-scale, colourful work on the wall and, in the foreground, human-like sculptures made from frog and fish skins. Some visitors discuss the work in the background.

When we translate from one tongue to another, it could be said that we arrive at a third form of speech that sits somewhere between the two. Drawn from the Collection, ‘A Third Language’ explores what happens when artistic traditions roam, mutate, clash and grapple with each other, and the rich expression emerging from cultural interaction and negotiation. Cultural encounters often occur within a context of asymmetrical power relations, notably colonialism or slavery; the works in this display reveal how such dynamics are resisted. Encompassing a wide range of hybrid forms, they show how difference can generate new ways of seeing.

Iman Raad’s large-scale mural commands the gallery space; the vibrant patchwork installation charts the migration of miniature painting across the Middle East and South Asia. As images are copied and re-copied in different locations, they are enriched by the inevitable mistranslations that occur in the chain of reproduction.

The neighbouring Ghanaian movie posters are transcultural adaptations, their surreal compositions blending influences from Hollywood dramas and Hong Kong martial arts movies with native Ghanaian and Nigerian stories. In a similar way, the tokatokoi (headdresses) from East New Britain in Papua New Guinea bring Christian motifs into local ceremonial tradition. The figure of the Virgin Mary is inscribed with Tolai cultural significance, forever changed through this reimagination.

For other artists, translation leaves gaps that cannot be bridged. British artist Khadija Saye drapes herself in various objects from western African nation The Gambia, her parent’s country, likening their traditions to an antique photograph, locked in the past. This distance between ourselves and others is also signalled in Mella Jaarsma’s Hi inlander 1999. Made from treated frog, fish, chicken and kangaroo hides, the artist’s ‘second skins’ encourage us to imagine how it feels to inhabit another’s body.

Feature image: Installation view of ‘A Third Language’ featuring Mella Jaarsma’s Hi Inlander 1999 (foreground) and Iman Raad’s Days of bliss and woe 2018 (background), QAG Gallery 5, February 2023 / Photograph: Joe Ruckli, QAGOMA


Artworks featured in ‘A Third Language’

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