Imbizo Ka Mafavuke / Mafavuke’sTribunal, (2017) is an experimental documentary set at the edge of a nature reserve in Johannesburg. A kind of Brechtian ‘Lehrstück’, the film shows the preparations for a people’s tribunal where traditional healers, activists and lawyers come together to discuss indigenous knowledge and bio-prospecting. The protagonists in the film slip into different roles and make use of real-world cases involving multinational pharmaceuticals scouting in indigenous communities for the next wonder drug. Ghosts of colonial explorers, botanists and judges observe the proceedings.
Imbizo Ka Mafavuke / Mafavuke’s Tribunal is part of Orlow’s major new body of work and ongoing research called Theatrum Botanicum, which looks to the botanical world as a stage for politics at large through film, photography, installation and sound.
Orlow’s film installation at The Andrew Brownsword Galleries also includes film Muthi, and sound work What Plants Were Called Before They Had a Name (2016).
Muthi (2016-17), 17’00” takes us to South Africa where the artist documents the infrastructure around traditional herbal practices in Johannesburg, the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. Muthi is a comment on value and practice, whilst touching on the wider issues of the loss of indigenous knowledge and tradition, in the presence of modernity.
Orlow’s sound installation What Plants Were Called Before They Had a Name (2016) re-creates an oral dictionary of plant names in a dozen South African languages, not only restituting audibility but also spirituality.
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