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Project details

Master Fine Art

Ikoce is a research project tracing and questioning the archival capacity of unofficial bodies in passing or preserving intangible cultural heritage. And while doing so, navigating how such  ephemeral forms of knowledge can nourish a contemporary artistic practice.

Winner of Putsebocht Award 2020
Winner of Master Research Award

Tsamina mina, eh eh
Waka waka, eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
Anawa a a
Tsamina mina, eh eh
Waka waka, eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
Anawa a a*
Zangalewa, Lyrics, Makossa (1986)

From Left to Right: Ikoce: Volume I, Video still, Abject II, Sculpture & Ikoce Dance Notation (1/4 of performance piece)

The title of the project is borrowed from the cultural performance, Ikoce, which within my research historically functioned as entertainment, social commentary and cultural emblem for Lango Society in Northern Uganda. Based on the last documented performances and oral history, it came into formation circa 1940s, as a reaction to social-political changes in Uganda; thriving until the 1990s.

The relevance of Ikoce’s legacy to Ugandan history and wider geographies was unpacked in my thesis, Symbolic Resonance — written in an experimental mode of fictional storytelling drawn from ethnographic publications, oral histories and field research in Apac district, Uganda among other sources.

In a speculative mode of address, I looked into Ikoce’s organisation, performance attire and oral poetry; proposing its formation as a transgressive act of resistance against the heavy drafting of Langi men to fight for the British Empire during World War II.

The outcome of my research manifested into video works, sculpture and sound. In my video work, Ikoce Volume I, I employ an experimental montage and narration to collapse the boundaries between the real and imagined, while humorously attempting to tap into the memory and riddle of Ikoce among residents of a small nondescript town in Northern Uganda.

Ikoce: Volume I, Video Still, 10″48″, 2020

My sculptural works are imbued with symbols and gestures drawn from a series of dance notation scores I created from revisited footage of the last recorded performances in the 1990s. The dance notation contains (five measures/pieces) , multi-purposely serving as a record and invitation for performers to collectively conjure, re-invent, inscribe and enjoy the legacy of Ikoce, hopefully resonating beyond its own specific origin and making relations with various bodies across different geographies and time.

Installation view featuring mural of Ikoce Notation, Abject Sculptures and pigmented textiles, Expoplu Art Centre, Nijmegen, 2020

“Zamina mina (Zangaléwa)” is a 1986 hit song, originally sung by a makossa group from Cameroon. Zangaléwa pays tribute to African skirmishers (a.k.a. tirailleurs) during World War II. Most of the band members were in the Cameroonian Army themselves and used the song in fund-raising efforts for Comic Relief. In the music video for the 1986 release and in other performances of the song, performers often dressed in military uniforms, wearing pith helmets and stuffing their clothes in certain places with pillows to give the appearance of being well-off and associated with European colonial authorities. This appearance and the lyrics could be viewed as a criticism of African military officers who collaborated with colonialists and profited from the oppression of their own people.