Alicia Samson

Words by: Alicia Samson Published on: 4 May, 2023

What is your relationship to your family archive: photographs, films, sound collections, memories, oral histories?


Photographer: Alicia Samson. Date: 2019 06 20

You have shared with us visual material connected to your family. What does this material represent for you?

I had a dream after building this pot (bottom right). In my dream the word Nama was spoken to me over and over again. I recall nothing else of that dream except someone repeating Nama Nama Nama Nama. As a child I often asked my mother ”mommy, how come we don’t have a culture?”. You see I grew up in Cape Town on the Cape Flats in Apartheid South Africa and I understood that coloured was a name given to people who looked like me and black was a name given to people who looked darker than me. But the black people kept their Xhosa name and language alive amongst themselves. So I wondered what my culture was and what language I should be speaking.

This question stayed with me my whole life until I *started pottery in 2019 and that dream came to me. I asked my mum and family if they knew what Nama meant. They didn’t. Time went by, I worked on another pot (left image) which had been standing on the shelf waiting to be decorated. When that pot was done, the decoration reminded me of a Namaqualand landscape, a place in South Africa. I built another pot and named it Namaqu Flower (top right). After a while, something clicked, Nama. Namaqua. Namibia.

So I did my research and discovered the history of the Nama people in Namibia. Later I discovered that there are Nama people in South Africa (and mainly in the Namaqualand region!) as well as !Xam !Kung and other groups who are all KhoiKhoi/ San people. These are the people who the Europeans met when they first arrived in the Cape in 1652. These were the people who were colonised, forced to assimilate, displaced and ”erased”.

Today many of these people still live on the Cape Flats in Cape Town. Sometimes our art and dreams can give us the answers we were searching for… *Why I started pottery in Sweden is a story in itself. One filled with discrimination and a different type of erasure.

Provide a short description of the people in the visual material and the context if possible.

The dreams I receive when I make vessels made me realise that clay holds memory because clay is Mother Earth and it has become clear to me that my ancestors speak through her.

What does a Black Archive mean to you?

Black archive is about community – Ubuntu.

About Alicia:

I am 47 years old, reside in Stockholm and I make a living as ceramic artist. My ethnicity is South African, Afro-Swede. But what is ethnicity for someone like me who is part of the diaspora?

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