Kabe Wilson, Of One Woman or So

Our 2019 Woolf summer course ended with a most interesting talk by artist Kabe Wilson, who undertook a huge project over several years, rewriting Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929). Kabe offers both a tribute to, and a critique of, this classic work.

Woolf’s book contains 37,971 words, every one of which is re-used by Kabe to create a new story entitled Of One Woman or So by Olivia N’Gowfri (anagrams of the original title and author’s name). The story is set in contemporary Cambridge. A young African woman student challenges her course of study, and offers some radical rethinking of what she wants from an education, what an institution can offer; what needs to be overturned, and what preserved. How should change come about; how can we create the new while keeping the good parts of the old? These are complex questions which much exercised Woolf in the 1920s and 1930s, and continue to challenge students today.

Kabe Wilson explores some of the changing views on class, gender, nation, and race in the 90 years since A Room of One’s Own was written, and he also celebrates the power of Woolf’s brilliant, playful, imperfect work.

Once he had worked out the story, Kabe then cut up two printed copies of Woolf’s book and pasted every word in its new place, set in pages which are spread neatly across a vast sheet, 4 feet wide x 13 feet long. The sheer shape and size of this ‘exploded’ book are part of the fascination of this remarkable project. Grateful thanks to Kabe for sharing this work with us. He has spoken at several of our summer courses, and each time his work reveals further layers of meaning.

Links

Kabe Wilson on The Dreadlock Hoak of 2014.
Malachi Mackintosh on Of One Woman Or So, English Faculty magazine, Cambridge, 2014.
Alison Flood on Kabe Wilson, Guardian, Sept 2014.
Zeljka Marosevic on Of One Woman or So.
Guest Blog by Kabe Wilson for Literature Cambridge, May 2016.

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