My name is Haroon Gunn-Salie. I’m from Cape Town in South Africa.
Senzeni Na is an installation comprising of 17 ghostlike figures. The viewer is put into the conceptual and literal question of whether to stand looking at the work or to immerse oneself, take a knee, crouch down in the position of the workers and become one with the mass. The workers are a representation of the Marikana massacre, which happened on 16 August in 2012 in the north west province of South Africa in an area called Wonderop in Marikana. It was after a weeklong strike where unionized workers brought the platinum industry and the whole South African economy to a standstill. And the company had persuaded the police to bring an end to the strike.
And on this fateful day, the workers were told that by the end of the day there had been no resolution between the union and the company so they had to go home, leave peacefully, disassemble nonviolently. Moments before the massacre happened, the police had basically channeled the disassembling workers through a road on either side barricaded with tanks and with live ammunition and the workers were trying to get past the police, nonviolently. Not surrendering but certainly cowering. In this position crouched, trying to get past. Seventeen workers were shot in that position. And a further 17 workers out of 34 were shot trying to flee the scene. So the work represents all 34; 17 are in the figures and the further 17 are in the shadows, represented in their loss, invisible beneath the ground.
The other significant thing about the installation is that we’ve painted the work in black, which removes the specificity of the reference. So as much as the workers are representation of a protest that happened in south Africa that ended in a very bloody way, it also has a universality to it. So, as much as it speaks about the local, it also speaks about global struggles. It speaks about struggles for race in America. It calls solidarity between our global struggles. And my aim, my goal, my intention is that people not only in the installation, but in lives and in our societies, in our democracies, join the working mass, become one with struggles, immerse themselves literally in workers issues and that’s how we can make a difference.
Audio guide recorded on the occasion of “2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage.”