In The Beginning of Stories, Nkosi examines the political nature of belonging through a personal lens, repositioning herself within narratives of her country and her various peoples. This film is part of an ongoing investigation into stories: stories we share as communities, ethnic groups, nations and families; stories of home that come from exile; stories we tell our children about who they are; stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. There is a Zulu myth that says all stories come from the sea. The sea – and the stories that come from it – are a recurring motif in Nkosi’s work. People are crossing borders and oceans in greater numbers than ever before, raising the question of belonging from a personal one to a political one.
As the child of exiles, belonging is an elusive concept for Nkosi, too. Despite returning “home” to South Africa, her sense of exile persists as she comes face to face with the gap between the narratives she was raised on about who she was supposed to be, and the reality of the country. In investigating the history of exile on both sides of her own family in parallel with contemporary experiences of migration, Nkosi seeks to confront and expose the ahistorical perspectives that inform much of the anti-migration rhetoric prevalent today. Are we not all children of the sea?
Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi (1980) was born in New York and grew up there, as well as in Harare and Johannesburg. She divides her time between studio work, performance, and navigating the field of art as social practice. Her work has been shown in various international institutions such as the Ifa Gallery (Berlin); the South London Gallery and Tate Modern (London); the Museum of Contemporary Art (Rio de Janeiro); Standard Bank Gallery (Johannesburg); and the Louis Vuitton Foundation (Paris). Her artworks are included in private and corporate collections in Europe, South Africa, and the US.