Kemang Wa Lehulere collaborates with 11 Manchester writers and over 100 residents of the city to create a surprising collection of love letters – a new book for Central Library.
Head to Manchester Central Library as a brand-new tome is inaugurated into the permanent collection. The first in an international series, I Love You Too is a powerful and personal book of love letters rooted in our city and inspired by the time the South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere spent in residence at Manchester International Festival two years ago. Together with the publication, the magnificent domed Reading Room at Central Library will host an exhibition of Wa Lehulere’s new sculpture, created especially for the space – the installation will be in situ 2 to 10 July, and is free to visit.
Eleven Manchester-based writers collaborated with the participants, putting their words on to the page and composing love letters that reflected and reinterpreted the individual contributions.
In early 2021, over 100 people from across Manchester were invited to share their love stories – to people, to places, even to possessions. Via online and in person interviews, a group of 11 Manchester-based writers collaborated with the participants, putting their words on to the page and composing love letters that reflected and reinterpreted the individual contributions to create the compilation that is I Love You Too. Involved were poets, prose writers and performers: Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Dominic Berry, Sarah Butler, Cathy Crabb, Ali Gadema, Zoe Iqbal, Shamshad Khan, Jessica El Mal, Jardel Rodrigues, Keisha Thompson and Louise Wallwein.
Lead I Love You Too artist Kemang Wa Lehulere was born in 1984 in Cape Town to a white Irish father and black South African mother, the product of a union considered illegal under the apartheid regime. Both had died by the time he was 12, and while he was told he would amount to nothing, he has a BA Fine Arts degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and his work has been shown in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa, in New York and San Francisco in the States, and in Bern, Switzerland, at the Biennale de Lyon, France, the Berlin Biennale and at Edinburgh Art Festival. He has won numerous awards, and was Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year for 2017 and artist-in-residence at MIF in 2019.
Wa Lehulere uses performance together with a range of media, including murals, painting and installation, to explore history – including the troubled history of his native South Africa – and events receding in collective memory, and collaboration is key to his work. In 2007, he co-founded the Gugulective artist collective, and he often incorporates other people into his pieces. “My practice […] has a lot to do with the various experiences that I have had throughout my life,” he has said. “Working in different forms with different people.”
I Love You Too was commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival in partnership with Library Live and Creative Spaces, Manchester Libraries’ cultural programmes, and is supported by Arts Council England and National Lottery funding.
Part of Manchester International Festival 2021.