Tamara Osso explores roots of the self through a dance of artmaking 

Tamara Osso, Making Grass (2023), image from Tamara Osso_s Instagram.

By Mamelodi Marakalala

We have different relationships with our bodies. The one that stares us in the face the most is biology and functionality. The body eats and dispels, the body stands and walks, runs and claims mastery over tools and machines. Through the Making Grass exhibition at David Krut Projects, Tamara Osso invites us to see the body as an expression of the entanglement between physical space and the psychological elements existing within that space with every sophisticated motion and breath. In this sense, we can see the body as an iconic vessel occupying space, echoing through time, and turning into a site of feeling and archiving present moments. 

A dancer at the core, Osso can be seen engaging with and merging brushes, charcoal powder, her whole arms, legs, and body in the Making Grass Documentary filmed by Jonathan Pinkhard. As she lifts herself from the once blank paper, she has left dark shadows coming into a horizon and a tent that seems mountainous and volcanic. As the viewer, you can anticipate a sunrise in the artwork Interruption (2023) and an eruption of magma that trickles its lava down to the foot in Tent (2023).  At the bottom of it all is grass and the roots from which it grows. “Dancers are energy, and I am so intrigued by whether that energy can translate onto a page or in a drawing,” she says in the opening of the film. These translations can clearly be seen as one enters the doors of the David Krut Projects exhibition space in Parkwood. You are greeted by the traces of unearthed selves that have spilled onto these objects of art hanging on the walls and on the floor in the centre of the gallery. There are charcoal marks on the canvas but, somehow, the works shine together in the room like newly watered foliage. 

She unearths not only personhood in this body of work but also addresses humanity in a remarkable way through the footprints, arm lines, loops, and circles through which one can vividly follow our intrinsic and essential need to leave a trace of ourselves and energies in the world for future generations.  Her work connects the self to sources and mirrors of nature that ensure our continuation and that we can see ourselves through. Within the spillage of charcoal and the canvas dance, is the self connected to an African principle as old as time and as favoured as living itself, motho ke motho ka batho (Sepedi for ‘I am because other people are’). She (poly)centralises the self as rooted in togetherness, by involving her community of dancers from Moving Into Dance Mophatong in this multidisciplinary action – the fine art dance performance through which some of the artworks were created. Further acknowledging that it is our collective heartfelt stories and languages in our motions as a sole unit that plant the seeds of tomorrow’s histories. 

Making Grass exhibited from July 1, 2023, until August 12, 2023, at David Krut Projects, 142 Jan Smuts Ave, Parkwood, Johannesburg. 

Gallery hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10:00 – 14:00, or by appointment. 

Follow Tamara Osso on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tamaraosso/.

This story is made possible by the Arts Story Incubator programme of Breinstorm Brand Architects, in collaboration with Klyntji and IQOQO. It is funded by a PESP-3 grant that is supported by BASA and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

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