What's On

And she was wearing trousers: a call to our heroines

An exhibition curated by Roberta Joy Rich and Naomi Velaphi

World Premiere
Presented by Arts House

Thursday 30 June – Saturday 6 August, 2022 

This program is a series of contemporary art installations, sound, musical performance and talks. See individual events for dates, times and booking details.

Arts House
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
North Melbourne

Assistance Animal
Wheelchair Accessible

An incredible line-up of local and international artists across Australia and Africa’s Southern region share diverse dialogues and creative responses to questions posed by curators Naomi Velaphi and Roberta Joy Rich to create And she was wearing trousers: a call to our heroines. 

These artists are inspired by the many women who have shaped Southern African culture, history and identity, from freedom fighters to forgotten feminists. 

Through a series of contemporary art installations, sound, musical performance and talks, this program is a powerful and illuminating foray into lives, movements and ideas that continue to exert their influence on the moment in which we live. 

And she was wearing trousers: a call to our heroines full program here:

Exhibition30 June – 6 August

Public Program16 July – 23 July

Windows Installation – Memeza – 30 June – 18 September


Artists Statement

Archives that speak of copper wire, liberation, teachers, linguists and queens, of women who we should know but don’t know, are constructed through colonised frames and histories. The title, translated from lyrics of Dorothy Masuka's song ‘Nolishwa,’ And she was wearing trousers reimagines the possibilities of African heroines in Southern African history through a series of exchanges of text and dialogue between Southern African artists; between those living on the continent and those from the diaspora. How do we hear of them? What do we learn from them?

The exhibition brings together a culmination of a series of conversations with women of the African diaspora and those on the continent around how female figures in Southern African histories serve as entry points into reimagining the Bla(c)k female experience in the past and future. These women are often framed as contentious, yet their contributions to society are influential, equivocal and are important African women's voices to platform, share and learn from. 

The power of interpretation and nuance creates a space for tension, discovery and continuity and allows us to creatively explore our relationships with these women, and the proximity we share with them.


About the Artists


Roberta Joy Rich and Naomi Velaphi
Roberta Joy Rich and Naomi Velaphi are southern African diaspora women who work as artists, curators and producers in settler nation Australia. They share a vision to learn and unearth the histories of their mother-lands. Most recently, they have revelled in discovering stories of dynamic heroines and their legacies.

Naomi is an arts producer born on Whadjuk Noongar country, residing in Naarm. She strives to nurture artists' work and practices exploring alternative narratives, radical thought and deep connection. Centered on producing the work of contemporary, diverse and interdisciplinary artists, her experience spans working for and amongst galleries, festivals and performance spaces. Through her independent practice she aims to unearth honest and generous collaborations between artists, producers, curators and presenters and create pathways for new work creation. 

Roberta Joy Rich is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who utilises language, story, archives and sometimes satire, drawing from various socio-political, historical and popular culture epistemologies in her video, installation and mixed media projects. Engaging with notions of “authenticity”, Roberta hopes to deconstruct colonial modalities and propose sites of self-determination within her practice. 

Naomi and Roberta’s practices over a sustained period of time have shared interests that have brought the two together, working collaboratively for the past 4 years. They continue to explore their relationships with southern African archives and the significant feminists within these. Naomi and Roberta explore the proximities they share with these women, and ask, ‘Who are the feminists of our southern African culture? How do we hear of them? And what do we learn from them?’ 


blk banaana (Duduetsang Lamola)
Duduetsang Lamola (artist name ‘blk banaana’) is a South African multidisciplinary artist working with handmade and digital collage, video art and installation. Her practice explores visualizing fragmentation and speculative reconstruction through collage, reimagining notions of time, place, space, identity, being and belonging produced by Western historical, anthropologic and algorithmic forces.

As an emerging artist, she has collaborated with many artists and organisations in South Africa and globally, over the past two years, working as both a designer and artistic collaborator. 

Kirsty Marillier
Kirsty Marillier is a South African actor and award-winning playwright. She is currently a part of the Emerging Writers Group at Sydney Theatre Company and has two original works in development. Her first work, Orange Thrower, had its stage premiere in February 2022 with Griffin Theatre Company and National Theatre of Parramatta. Orange Thrower was the winner of the 2019 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award.

Kirsty is currently in development with Belvoir St Theatre for her second play – The Zap, winner of the 2020 Max Afford Playwrights Award, which was developed with Playwriting Australia and Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s Next In Line program. She has been a part of multiple creative programs including Griffin Theatre Company’s Studio Artist Program (2020), Sydney Theatre Company’s Rough Draft Program (2019) and Malthouse Theatre’s Besen Writers Group (2018).

Tariro Mavondo
Based in Melbourne, Tariro is a multi-disciplinary storyteller, theatre maker, curator, cultural diversity and performance consultant, performance facilitator across performing arts, education, government, mental health, law enforcement and social justice. She graduated in 2011 from the Victorian College of the Arts with a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, and received the Irene Mitchell Award for excellence in her final year. 

Tariro has co-directed theatre productions that have been seen at the Malthouse Theatre and Arts Centre Melbourne. She was an Australian Poetry Slam National Finalist (2010) and State Finalist (2009), the founder and producer of Africa’s Got Talent (2013–2014) and a founding member of Still Waters African Women’s Storytelling Collective and Centre of Poetic Justice.

Sethembile Msezane
Sethembile Msezane was born in 1991 in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. She lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. She was awarded a Masters in Fine Arts in 2017 from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Msezane’s work has been widely exhibited across South Africa and internationally. Using interdisciplinary practice encompassing performance, photography, film, sculpture and drawing, Msezane creates commanding works heavy with spiritual and political symbolism. The artist explores issues around spirituality, commemoration and African knowledge systems. She processes her dreams as a medium through a lens of the plurality of existence across space and time, asking questions about the remembrance of ancestry. Part of her work has examined the processes of mythmaking which are used to construct history, calling attention to the absence of the black female body in both the narratives and physical spaces of historical commemoration.

Nontsikelelo Mutiti
Nontsikelelo Mutiti is a Zimbabwean-born visual artist and educator. She is invested in elevating the work and practices of Black peoples past, present, and future through a conceptual approach to design, publishing, archiving practices, and institution building. Mutiti holds a diploma in multimedia from the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA) and an MFA from the Yale School of Art, with a concentration in graphic design.

Jabu Nadia Newman
Jabu Nadia Newman is an award-winning artist and filmmaker who works through the mediums of photography and videography. Using an agenda of pushing intersectional feminism her work is largely based on the different and complex identities of South African women. Newman independently wrote and directed South Africa’s newest and critically acclaimed feminist web series The Foxy Five. In 2020 Newman was commissioned by NOWNESS, British Film Institute and the British Council to write and direct a short film exploring diaspora aesthetics and issues of afro-futurism, The Dream That Refused Me (2021) which won two awards at the Ciclope Africa Awards Festival 2021 as well as a Silver Cannes Young Director Award. Her newest short film Inside Out premiered at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival 2021. Most recently Newman won Bronze for the Shots EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) 2021 New Director of the Year Award.

Rara Zulu
Rara Zulu is a South African born, Melbourne based vocalist and musician with a wholesome rawness and a unique tendency to pull you into a state of vulnerability through her music. Her sound is heavily influenced by Soul, R’n’B and Hip Hop; made apparent in the rhythm and depth in her voice. Rara has performed in numerous venues across Sydney and Melbourne, including Footscray Community Art Centre’s HEAR Footscray, and has musically collaborated and supported national and international artists such as Ijale, Horatio Luna, Elle Shimada and Sibusile Xaba.


Artist credits
blk banana (Duduetsang Lamola)
Kirsty Marillier
Tariro Mavondo
Sethembile Msezane
Nontiskelelo Mutiti
Jabu Nadia Newman
Rara Zulu

And she was wearing trousers has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and the City of Melbourne through Arts House.

Image Credit: Still from As high as the stars so far unseen by blk banaana.

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