Text By Lindiwe Dhlamini
Photos by Andile Phewa
The 9thof August is one of the most important days in history; a day to commemorate women, the day is often filled with festivities and events in honor of the women who have fought for our liberation and those who continue to fight. On this day in 2019 Thembela “Terra” Dick was one of the people who made the day worth honoring with the opening of their first solo exhibition titled; THEMBELA. The show is produced by Muholi Productions and curated by Bajabulile Dhlamini in collaboration with ORMS Creative Space. The opening of THEMBELA was an honor of the fallen, a celebration of those who are still alive and a personal story of Terra Dick. A story only images can tell better than words and the images on show are telling that story better than any words could. For those who missed the opening, the show is opened until the 29 August 2019 at 56 Roeland Street,Cape Town.
Terra is a filmmaker and photographer who has been working tirelessly to find creative ways of telling their life story. Using various themes for this show; Pride, Loss, Protest and Self with an addition of Abstract where the journey begins with images that make you question the motive yet interest you to follow through with the story. As an artist; Terra has been through a lot of difficulties which were further exaggerated by their sexuality as a Black lesbian growing up in South Africa. When Terra was 16 years old, they were kicked out of home for being a lesbian forcing them to drop out of school at grade 11 to find ways to navigate and survive the world. Through hard work and dedication Terra has since went back to school and acquired multiple qualifications in filmmaking and photography. This was through the inspiration of Jo Menell and Richard Mills who were the first people who taught Terra how to use a camera while working to complete her late sister’s documentary as a young woman living with HIV/AIDS.
Terra eventually found the courage and a way to tell their own story using images and with the help of Professor/Sir Zanele Muholi who has been mentoring Terra’s photographical journey for over a decade now. The exhibition opening was a success despite a few glitches in the planning and execution of the show which is to be expected in a show that was planned in two weeks but, it turned out successfully. The hard work put in by the curator, Sancia Cilliers; a Print Consultant at ORMS and Terra Dick alongside others turned out wonderfully. There were some images printed on banners and two of the three banners have since been stolen as they were used as outside displays for the show.
The layout inside the gallery has since been moved around since the opening to ensure the coherence of the story when Terra is doing walkabouts. There have been more than 6 walkabouts done thus far and these include students, artists, general citizens and photography lecturers from University of Cape Town, ORMS School of Photography, Varsity College, College of Cape Town and so forth. Most of these lecturers have asked to bring their students to see the show. This has been an amazing response to Terra’s work which proves that your story is yours to tell because you tell it best. Social media and word of mouth have been the most powerful ways the show gained traction from outsiders and this has given Terra the opportunity to share their work with more people.
The positive comments from those who attended the opening were a further indication of the power and healing to anyone who engaged with Terra’s work. Brave became the word used by most which was exactly how this body of work confronts the viewers eye. Powerful, honest, bare, strong, healing, inspirational and brilliant were some of the words used by the attendees at the opening. Personally, I think the work is the beginning of a new era for Terra who has broken boundaries to be where they are today as a lesbian identifying artist in a field dominated by heterosexual men. Terra has and continues to teach us that where you come from does not matter it is where you are going that matters and for Terra higher and higher is where their journey goes.