At a record 65.6 million, the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes has increased sharply over the past five years. Never before, reports the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have so many people been affected by displacement, having fled persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. Broadly stable around the 40 million mark during the first decade of the century, the size of the global forcibly displaced population has in recent years been on a distressingly steep upward trend to current unprecedented levels.
Displaced is a retrospective of the oeuvre of artist Emma Willemse who has, in her academic and creative work across a number of genres and media, for more than a decade been dealing intensively with the themes of home, the loss of a home and displacement. Apart from the Western Cape where she is based, she has exhibited in Florence, Dakar, Johannesburg and Paris, and her extensive body of work includes moving, magisterial pieces.
Tracing the arc of her creative output over the years and contextualising it against local and global realities, this timely film is a profoundly empathetic engagement, refracted through art, with the traumatic experience of the forcibly displaced.
Through scenes of the artist at work, cinematic set pieces presenting her work, and interviews with academics, gallerists and curators, the intriguing relationship between materiality and meaning is explored: how we imbue objects with meaning both in the artmaking process and in life, how the layers of meaning can be unpacked in almost archaeological fashion, and how the deep engagement with a great, richly layered work of art can rank among life’s most rewarding experiences, adding to our high-level understanding of the world, and helping to guide our actions through its manifold, daunting complexities.
Filmmaker Victor van Aswegen holds master’s degrees in economics from the universities of Stellenbosch and Cambridge, and worked in finance for twenty five years. He is the founder of Cape Town-based Moving Image Technologies, a high-end digital film production and post-production facility, and CineSouth Studios, and has made Coast and Máquina do Mundo.