Kali van der Merwe hails from Johannesburg and presently lives near the village of Baardskeerdersbos. She has a diverse creative career as an artist, award-winning filmmaker, photographer, sound designer, social activist and skills trainer.
After graduating with honours in sculpture at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, Kali worked in the mediums of ceramics, printmaking and sculpture and exhibited at galleries nationally and internationally. Her early work has been collected by the Iziko South African National Gallery and exhibited at MOMA in Oxford England.
Kali lived in Berlin for five years, experimenting with many mediums including filmmaking and photography in the chaotic environment post the wall coming down. Collaboration with anarchist, art collectives led to multi-media interventions in various European capitals.
Returning to South Africa, Kali co-founded and co-directed the non-profit organization Other-Wise media, producing innovative media on gender and social issues while training youth and women participants in the making process. A 15-year filmmaking career has seen Kali’s documentaries screened around the world to critical acclaim, winning many awards including; Best African documentary at the Milan African, Asian and South American Festival and Best South African documentary at the Durban International Film Festival. Her erotic, taboo-challenging photographic and short video projects were finalists in national art awards and screened at local and international film festivals.
Three years ago, out of a desire to return to more personal creativity, Kali put herself in front of her own cameras. In this practice she works with long exposures and light, exploring archetypal and mythological states of being from a contemporary perspective. She has also been deeply inspired by the fynbos and indigenous forest in her surroundings and images sacred connectedness between the embodied soul and the soulscapes of nature.
K a l i - t h e - G o d d e s s
Devi-Mahatmya (Great Goddess)
The name Kali was first known by in 4 AD
By you this universe is born, by you this world is created
By you it is protected, O Devi. By you it is consumed at the end
You who are eternally the form of the whole world,
at the time of creation you are the form of the creative force,
at the time of preservation you are the form of the protective power,
and at the time of the dissolution of the world
you are the form of the destructive power.
You are the Supreme Knowledge, as well as ignorance,
intellect and contemplation
Kali is usually represented naked – stripped of all illusion – she is nature (prakriti). She gives birth to the cosmos – she has the male principle within her. Her hair is the fabric of space time which organises the matter out of chaos. Her garland of 50 human heads represent the 50 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet – this symbolises knowledge and wisdom. She wears a girdle of human hands signifying karma - hands being the instruments of work – accumulation of deeds. Her red lolling tongue represents the rajas – the activating quality in nature. She has 4 hands. In her left hand she holds a severed head – indicating the annihilation of ego bound evil forces. In her other hand she carries a bloody sickle sword which cuts off heads. She is limitless primordial power awakening unmanifest Shiva beneath her feet.
She is the archetypal image of birth and death, giver of life and destroyer. The vital principles of the visible universe which has many faces – gracious cruel – creative – destructive, loving – indifferent – the endless possibility of the active energy at the heart of the world. She can be benevolent and frightening.
She can be worshipped in the form of a naked female, the further away from the accepted norms of beauty the better. But the worshipper must feel the same awe and fear as when worshipping the terrible mother goddess.