Created by artist KUDZANAI CHIURAI, the new LIBRARY OF THINGS WE FORGOT TO REMEMBER at 44 Stanley pays tribute to elements of the AFRICAN PAST that have been left out of the history books.
44 STANLEY IN MILPARK, JOHANNESBURG, Zimbabwe-born artist Kudzanai Chiurai continues his exploration of the archive, working with elements from his own collection and items from other collectors to create an entirely new library – one he has aptly named the Library of Things We Forgot to Remember. Opened shortly after the lockdowns of early 2021, the space is located on the second floor of the precinct, and brings together an extraordinary interactive archive of audiovisual materials, including vinyl records, historic posters and original paintings. What’s more, these items are all beautifully showcased in a space brought to life through a design collaboration with Kudzanai’s longtime friends and creative partners, Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo of Dokter and Misses.
Beyond a somewhat nondescript frosted glass entrance door lies a colourful and design-forward interior vision for what a library of the future could be. Featuring new and archival pieces from Dokter and Misses, and Kudzanai’s own work, the space has an office area, two booths (a listening booth and a print display booth), vinyl listening desks, a museum-style space where rotating exhibitions bring the archive into focus, and a lounge area used for workshops and discussions that highlights iconic design items such as the Dokter and Misses Smile rug and Brick tables, plus a custom photographic curtain of an oversized portrait from Kudzanai’s 2017 body of work, “We Live In Silence”.
“Creating the space has been very much a collaborative effort with Kudzi, who is incredible to work with; it was an honour for us to be involved,” say Katy and Adriaan.
“We wanted it to feel like a library with a twist that has Kudzi’s stamp on it, using colour and elements such as the photographic curtain, which puts his aesthetic and signature into the space.”
To effect all this, the designers separated the space into four zones, blocking them off with different colours to define them. They then added new and archival Dokter and Misses pieces to the space, including “our Table K, designed for Kudzi in 2008, which we’ve repurposed in new Dokter and Misses colourways”.
The designers also stress how enjoyable the process of designing the library was for them, in terms of enabling them to re-examine their own work over the past decade – and even longer. “It’s been great to go back to our many partnerships with Kudzi over the years, such as the exhibitions we held with him in our Dokter and Misses spaces,” Adriaan and Katy say.
Each time the archive at the new library is exhibited, Kudzanai invites a different librarian to interrogate its contents and curate a unique show. “The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember is a work that I consider to be itself a form of liberated zone,” he explains. “It functions independently: I work with different librarians every time there’s an iteration of it, and every guest librarian sees the process of cataloguing differently. Some approach it visually, and others aurally, and so bring to our attention dialogues and ideas forgotten but still very much a part of our present.
“I consider the archival material and recordings as broadcasts of Afro-futures. It’s a frequency that mobilised and energised the struggle for independence and liberation – an archive that brings the past into the present, and that will continue to echo as we consider our future.”
With myriad posters and vinyl records archived here, many of which date back to the early 20th century, you’re bound to come across a special sound or image that you perhaps never even knew you were looking for – and you might possibly not want to leave. In short, when in Joburg, definitely make an appointment to visit this wonderful new space yourself.
A mobile version of the Library of Things We Forgot to Remember is currently touring Europe, too – it will form part of a group show at Palais de Tokyo in Paris this year. And if you can’t get to either the permanent space or the travelling exhibition in person, follow the Library of Things We Forgot to Remember on Instagram, where its treasures are regularly shared with the world.
With MYRIAD POSTERS and VINYL RECORDS archived here, you’re bound to come across a SPECIAL SOUND or IMAGE you perhaps never knew you were looking for.