Kitso L. Lelliott, By and By Some Trace Remains (2015)
Often inspired by her extensive research on historical sites, in the video By and By Some Trace Remains Kitso L. Lelliott engages a disused office buried deep within Constitution Hill, Johannesburg in order to excavate traces of the past within its walls. Accessible via a trapdoor and adjacent to a mortuary and police station, the room’s location invites us to ponder what else might have taken place there. Although today Constitution Hill functions as a heritage and judicial centre, until recently the site was most known for housing political activists and common criminals who had broken colonial rule or apartheid law. Lelliott’s video poetically reappraises this history by portraying symbolic acts of recovery and erasure as a means of voicing narratives that have heretofore remained untold.
Throughout the video, our gaze into the dark room is restricted by an iron-hinged doorframe. Contrasting the neat and systematic histories typically offered by museums on top of the hill, the video’s underground site is soiled and messy. Layers of the past have settled in the sediment of the room and a woman is tasked with cleaning its debris. Shadows conceal a presence as the woman’s actions are heard long before they are seen. Dressed in white throughout, the transient figure alternately appears in a domestic garment or a regal gown, suggesting the types of women who may have occupied the site. The woman sweeps and scrubs the room with no clear signs of progress. Her voice is registered through interludes of rushed breath fighting against the suffocating dust. Freedom fighter, aspiring student or domestic worker, the protagonist in By and By Some Trace Remains is a woman confined by a system that persistently suppresses her, yet which she must continue to serve.
Kitso L. Lelliott
Born in 1984 in Molepolole, Botswana – Lives in Johannesburg