Helena Uambebe

Artist Name
Helena Uambebe
Total number of artworks
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date of birth
About the Artist

Helena Uambembe's artistic journey is deeply intertwined with her personal history and the broader narratives of South Africa's past. As an interdisciplinary artist, she engages with performance, photography, and printmaking to delve into and reinterpret the history of the 32 Battalion, an infantry unit of the South African Army established in 1975. Her connection to this history is intimate; born in the small North West town of Pomfret to Angolan parents, Uambembe's father was a recruit of the 32 Battalion. Pomfret, once bustling with the lives of Battalion recruits and soldiers, now teeters on the brink of oblivion, transitioning into a ghost town.

Uambembe's work is a personal quest to piece together her family's story within the larger tapestry of South Africa's history. Through her art, she confronts and grapples with the painful remnants, the voids, and the deliberate omissions of the past. Together with Teresa Firmino, her partner in the collective Kutala Chopeto, Uambembe has actively contributed to academic and cultural discourses on the 32 Battalion, including presenting a paper at the 2016 Black Portraitures Conference in Johannesburg.

In her oeuvre, the 32 Battalion transcends its historical confines to become a lens through which Uambembe examines and reconstructs the past. Her work serves as a means of healing and connecting disjointed temporalities, while also exploring themes of home and identity. Through the act of reassembling fragmented pieces, Uambembe not only navigates her personal and communal histories but also offers a poignant commentary on memory, belonging, and the enduring impact of history on the present.