September 24, 2008
Born in Kenya of Indian heritage, Brendan Fernandes immigrated to Canada in the 1990s. He completed the Independent Study Program of the in 2007; earned his MFA in 2005 from The University of Western Ontario; and his BFA from . Accolades include grants from The Ontario and for the Arts, including the International Residency in Trinidad and Tobago. Fernandes currently works between Toronto and New York. His new video Foe will screen at Harvestworks on Wednesday, September 24th (7-9pm).
“As a Goan who has never set foot in Indiamuch less Goa, and as a Goan-Kenyan who has lived the greater portion of his life in Canada, having left Kenya at a young age and currently residing in New York, I wonder what to call myself? The work Foe represents video footage of me receiving lessons where I have hired an acting coach to teach me the “accents” of my cultural backgrounds. I am not interested in the authenticity of these accents but in the idea of being taught to speak in these voices. This work is compelled by a personal narrative of my time in Kenya. Growing up there as a child, I used to speak Swahili fluently, but after having lived in Canada for twenty years now, I cannot speak the language anymore. My realization of this came when I was given the opportunity to speak with my caregiver, a woman who looked after me and whom I considered my second mother. After years of being away, our phone reunion concluded that I could not form the words to speak to her; I had forgotten the language. Although traumatic, this event has made me question my migration and ideas of who I [am or] have become since leaving my place of birth.
The text that I am speaking is taken from a book with the same titled as my piece. This book, a sequel to “J. M. Coetzee. In this book, Friday (the savage) has been mutilated; his tongue has been removed and he cannot speak. For this work I have memorized the specific passage where Crusoe explains this to another.” was written by
The video depicts my struggle to learn the accents that are supposedly a part of who I am. Throughout the video are cuts that include my rehearsal of the script where I am learning the accents, as well as movement exercises in which I am training my mouth to articulate the accent’s pattern and sound. The work is humorous as well as critical; I am questioning my authenticity to my place(s) of origin. The metaphor of Friday having no tongue is uncannily similar to my inability to speak any of my native “tongues.” My tongue in a way has been removed. What does this say about who I am?”
Fernandes has exhibited internationally, recently participating in The Third Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou, China (2008) and the Biennial through The in Buffalo, New York (2007). This year alone, he was a resident artist for the ; Emerge 10 at Aljira in ; and in the graduate program for C at the