Thandi Loewenson

Who are the true owners of the sky?

‘Who are the true owners of the land?’ asks David Lan in Guns and Rain: Guerrillas and Spirit Mediums in Zimbabwe published, shortly after Independence, in 1985. ‘This question has never been asked as urgently as during the recent guerilla war. One of the ways in which the guerillas expressed their conviction that the land belonged to them and to their followers was by performing certain rituals. These rituals demonstrated that they were the ‘autochtones’ in contrast to the whites who were categorised as ‘conquerors’ with no abiding rights in the territory they occupied.’ i

But who are the true owners of the sky? How are claims over this terrain made, by whom and to what end? And what is the relationship of the struggle for the land to the sky above it? These are some of the questions that underpin this (unfinished) series of drawings which analyse a series of documents through which assertions of ownership of the sky are made. These claims extend the (unfinished) liberatory projects of independence in Zimbabwe beyond the land question, agrarian concerns and the redistribution of territory, towards concerns of how air, atmosphere and space figure in relation to demands for freedom.

Here, the weight of gravity functions not to pull us down but instead to hold us, in proximity, and in orbit. The sky is made full of electric communication; everyday rituals of voice, carried by waves and signals, and word, carried by letters and postage stamps, which construct new nations and ideals into being. Nonetheless, the land — as ground, soil and country – is ever present; in the earthen colour of the Earth Satellite Station, the cradle of the fertile Mazowe Valley which holds it and in the 8 printed characters which carry the name of a new state, Zimbabwe, to be passed hand to hand wherever letters can be sent and read. ii

Thandi Loewenson (b.1989, Harare) is an architectural designer/researcher who operates through design, fiction and performance to interrogate our perceived and lived realms and to speculate on the possible worlds in our midst. Mobilising the ‘weird’ and the ‘tender’, she engages in projects which provoke questioning of the status-quo, whilst working with communities, policy makers, artists and architects towards acting on those provocations. Thandi is a tutor at the Royal College of Art, London, a Visiting Professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture, contributor to the Regional Network on Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa, co-curator of Race, Space & Architecture and a co-foundress of the architectural collective BREAK//LINE.

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