Salaula 173

Performance and Exhibition Modzi Arts Lusaka, Zambia Video Mainga Muvundika


Salaula (bundles of donated clothing) is a collection of drawings and second hand clothes (salaula (second-hand clothing) drawn and gathered, respectively, by multi-disciplinary artist Jan Van Esch.


While some are familiar with the concept of salaula and may have even purchased some, there is a more hushed discussion about where these clothes come from. Salaula, in many cases, is sent from the occident to the former colony or imperial outpost, not as a commercial good but as a ‘gift’. This ‘gift’ then comes to be retailed for prices that range from virtually free to just within reach.

Salaula 173, examines the ways in which – the occident deals with abandoned clothing – this gift becomes not quite a gift in especially in light of the historically uneven power relations between occident and former colonial outpost, emblematic of other forms of ‘aid’ that come from the West and are loaded with meaning and sometimes, ‘strings-attached’. Van Esch began this project after several encounters while involved as an artist in residence at the Red Cross that sparked his curiosity about where the clothes came from (these bundles of clothes come from), who they belong to and where they end up.

Through a series of public performances and experiments involving, among other things, engaging students on a campus to wear all the clothes in their wardrobe at once, Van Esch calls us to dig deeper into our interaction with what we own and to the idea of ownership itself. This, as well as what it means to give. At Modzi art, during a small pop-up residency, van Esch played with the concept of the gift in the salaula bundle, originally framed as gift in Europe, he purchased a bundle in its commercial form and through rites of passage, drawing every single item and a street performance, reformed the clothes in its original gift form, to be donated and receiveds to Modzi art, to be back in its original gift form displayed in this exhibition and to move forward in a way Modzi art want to receive the gift. (has drawn every single item of clothing he has displayed.) In doing so he archives the journey of these goods while reflecting his own complicated place and potential complicity in the global schema of ‘give’, ‘receive’, take, and dump.

Text Modzi Arts by Mwinji Nakamba and Julia Taonga
Photos by Mainga Muvundika and Jan van Esch