Jamila Prowse

Jamila Prowse

Jamila Prowse is an artist and writer working across moving image and textiles to visualise mixed race identity and the lived experience of disability.

Jamila Prowse is an artist, writer and researcher who uses her experiences as a mixed race disabled person of Black parentage to understand and subvert barriers to working in the arts. Her research is preoccupied with oral testimony and the possibilities and limitations of complaint to protect art workers. Within her artistic practice, Jamila works across moving image and textiles to consider methodologies for visualising mixed race identity and the lived experience of disability. She is drawn to stitch making and patchwork as a tactile form of processing complex family histories and mapping disability journeys, and moving image as a site of self-archiving and autoethnography.

Presently, Jamila is working on the first iteration of a series of three films, An Echo For My Father, tracing the history of her ancestry through her relationship with her late father Russell Herman, a South African jazz musician who passed away when Jamila was three.

Jamila is part of an upcoming group show at Hordaland Kunstsenter, Norway (October 2021) and was studio residency artist at Gasworks from January to April 2021. She curated and hosted a series of podcasts for Lighthouse, Collective Imaginings, of conversations with art workers about their experiences of navigating the sector, was a recipient of a GRAIN writing bursary and Guest Editor of Photoworks Annual 26. As a writer, her reviews and essays have appeared in Frieze, Elephant Dazed, GRAIN, Art Work Magazine and Photoworks.

An Echo For My Father

HD Video / 20:00 min / 2021

06:26 min excerpt

‘An Echo For My Father’ is the first moving image work by artist Jamila Prowse. The twenty-minute film is catalysed by the artist’s curiosity about her late father Russell Herman, a South African jazz musician, who passed away when Prowse was three. Herman was born and raised in District Six, Cape Town and grew up during Apartheid, later migrating to the UK in the 1980s. Prior to entering into research and production on the project, Prowse knew very little about her father. The viewer is, thus, taken on a journey of self and intergenerational discovery.

The film is the first in a series of three moving image works seeking to understand Prowse’s ancestry. Beginning with the micro experience of absence – what it means to have an absent parent and not to have access to one side of your heritage – Prowse uncovers archival material related to her paternal lineage. ‘Echoes’ are a duo of textile wall hangings made by the artist for the film. She is documented stitching the hangings in real time within the film, and the textiles then hang in the background of one of the scenes. Prowse is preoccupied with stitch work as a tactile form of processing complex familial histories. Simultaneously, Prowse sourced rare records by her dad, before recording herself listening
to his music for the first time on film.

Created collaboratively with Director of Photography, Editor and Sound Designer Marcel Mckenzie; for the film, Mckenzie wrote an original score, reinterpreting Herman’s music through echoes and reverberations. Mckenzie draws upon his own background as a saxophonist, and his instinctual musicality while referencing Herman.

Prowse is interested in visualising mixed-race diasporic identity on screen, and the potentials for self-archiving. Each subsequent film in the series will expand out further, concluding with a depiction of the macro cultural connections between Cape Town and London.

Through ‘An Echo For My Father’, Prowse holds commune with her dad, establishing a discursive practice of echoes between the artist’s writing and her dad’s lyrics. The result is an intimate, unfolding consideration of the relationship between a daughter and her father; the ways connection can extend across generations and beyond the afterlife.

‘An Echo for My Father’ is co-commissioned by Lighthouse through the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, part of Re-Imagine Europe. With support from Arts Council England, Norwegian Arts Council and Hordaland Kunstsenter. Themajority of the film was recorded during a studio residency at Gasworks, London between January – April 2021.