Rites of Passage: Between Light and Shadow (Cape Town) (June 11, 2016)


Rites of passage are experiences that mark the transition from one phase of life to another, we are wanderers constantly travelling between passageways of light and darkness. These unfolding linear progressions bound to time, or fluid journeys from a past to future-nows, can be understood through Arnold van Gennep’s tripartite pattern of human transitions; ‘detachment’ (movement away from a previous state of being), ‘liminality’ (journeying through a state of ambiguity or darkness) and ‘re-aggregation’ (realigning oneself with the shifts and reintegrating into society, the light). These fleeting moments become the markers of living; birth rites, religious or cultural initiation rites, mortuary rites and everything in between, first words, birthdays, educational milestones, adolescence to adulthood.

In contemporary society some of these ceremonial devises, once shared through communal ritualistic practices, have been abandoned, and others transformed to reflect contemporary conditions. Artists extend these rituals into modern life, articulating rites of passage through their practice. They bring our awareness back to these moments of release, transgression and transformation, by documenting, reenacting or translating rites of passage in various mediums.

Like the chapters of our stories, these junctures in life are momentous ceremonies that are performed and remembered, or the intimate shifts that silently go unnoticed. We become the product of these experiences. These attuning practices that we design and ascribe meaning to, rights that are scripted and imposed upon us or granted to us, shape our sense of identity.