For Caught Between the Tongue, Ujmaia has created a series of sunflower seed pulp paintings and terracotta sculptures. These are made in relation to specific objects and motifs associated with or housed in the Syriac Heritage Museum in Ankawa, an archive which is of key interest to Ujmaia’s current research.
Concerned with developing a studio lexicon, Ujmaia manipulates the concentration of seed in pulp in order to achieve different hues and intensity of line and colour. Importantly, this application of the sunflower seeds resonates with Ujmaia’s use of parsley and pomegranate as content and medium in past works. The significance of these materials lies not just in their connection to Chaldean culture, but also in their potential to become writing instruments for the oral tradition of that language. They express a central concern of Ujmaia’s practice: a commitment to language and languaging.
The cracking open of sunflower seeds forms a nexus in social engagement, a connection for diaspora between the sites of displacement and resettlement. If the tongue is the muscular site where the slipperiness of speech unfurls, and the movement and fluidity of a tongue extends and complicates readability; then the artworks in Caught Between the Tongue are demonstrating these complications, while also performing a faith in preservation.
Sarah Ujmaia (b.1995) is a first generation Chaldean artist living and working on unceded Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung and Boon Wurrung/Bunurong lands. She is currently a HDR candidate and Teaching Associate at Monash University in the Faculty of Fine Art. Recent solo exhibitions include Care Label (Instalment One), Cathedral Cabinet, Melbourne, 2020; Care Label (Instalment Two), Cathedral Cabinet, Melbourne, 2020; Show and Tell, BLINDSIDE, Melbourne, 2020; Lap of Honey, Bus Projects, Melbourne, 2018; The Interface Between You and Me, with Kate ten Buuren, c3, Melbourne, 2018; Space: Outer and Personal, Seventh Gallery, Melbourne, 2017. Recent group exhibitions include Accumulates in the throat, emerges from the mouth, KINGS, Melbourne 2021; Sounds of Pacing, Conners Conners, 2020; Debut XVI: To Love It All Again, BLINDSIDE, Melbourne, 2020; MADA Now, MADA Gallery, Melbourne, 2019; Valid, Neon Parlour, Melbourne, 2017 and MADA Now, MADA Gallery, Melbourne, 2016.Exhibition text: Chi Tran, 'A Lifelong Event', 2021