Thulani Rachia: obuyile

St Giles' Cathedral

you paint music in the sand and i follow…

obuyile, a new composition for four cellists creates an intervention in the urban landscape by Thulani Rachia. The title of the work is in Thulani’s mother tongue isiZulu and translates as the one who returns. The compositions are translations of melodies gathered over several years, during encounters with various cities Rachia has moved between.

The melodies express a difficulty in voicing the brutality of the built environment in urban spaces towards certain bodies, culminating in a score which maps an ongoing journey of healing from trauma. Spanning a week, fragments of the composition will be heard over six days combining to create a full score on the seventh day. Long moments of rest are intentionally written into obuyile’s score. Considered the instrument with a range most similar to the human voice, the cello articulates the unspeakable.

The Zulu word phefumula translates as either rest or breath. In these moments, Rachia makes clear that it is not about doing nothing, conversely there is a refusal and healing work that occurs in these periods. obuyile’s specific duration relates to an anecdote about Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895). Whilst in Edinburgh Douglass purchased a violin and learnt to play it over the course of a week. For Douglass, learning the instrument became a way to process and heal from trauma. With their own work Rachia, understands how “trauma fragments time and how we experience it. In a lot of the work I am doing, I am piecing things together trying to make sense of the present.

obuyile will be on view as an installation in the cathedral during general opening times from 1 – 28 August and the cellists will perform at the following times:

Sunday 1 August, 3pm
usuku lokuqala (Day 1) 1minute 16 seconds. 1 cellist


Monday 2 August, 1pm
usuku lwesibili (Day 2) 1 minute 2 seconds. 2 cellists


Tuesday 3 August, 1pm
usuku okwesithathu (Day 3) 1 minute 5 seconds. 3 cellists


Wednesday 4 August, 1pm
usuku okwesine (Day 4) 1 minute, 48 seconds. 2 cellists


Thursday 5 August, 1pm
usuku okwesihlanu (Day 5) 3 minutes, 30 seconds. 3 cellists


Friday 6 August, 1pm
usuku owesithupha (Day 6) 4 minutes, 23 seconds. 2 cellists


Saturday 7 August – 3pm
usuku owesikhombisa (Day 7) 10 minutes, 47 seconds. Quartet


Fridays 13, 20, 27 August – 1pm
usuku owesithupha (Day 6) 4 minutes, 23 seconds. 3 cellists

Saturdays 14, 21, 28 August – 3pm
usuku owesikhombisa (Day 7) 10 minutes, 47 seconds. Quartet

Cellists: Simone Seales, Justyna Jablonska, Joanna Stark, Atzi Muramatsu, Iain McHugh, Dr Claire Garabedian

Composer: Thulani Rachia

Transcriber: Taner Kemirtlek

Garment architecture: Asia Przytarska

Garment architecture print design: Thulani Rachia

Print design into vector: Christian Noelle Charles

Thulani Rachia (South Africa) is an artist and educator based in Glasgow.

Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund and EventScotland. Our Commissions Programme is kindly supported by the Patrons of our Commissioning Circle.

Thulani Rachia: obuyile


Thulani Rachia


St Giles' Cathedral

0131 226 6558

Opening times

1 August – 28 August

Mon – Wed, 10am – 2pm
Thur – Sat, 10am – 4pm

Visitor information

  • Wheelchair Accessible
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COVID Safety

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Ticket information

Free, drop-in (limited capacity)

Associate Artist Programme

We are delighted to collaborate with artist, film-maker and programmer Tako Taal, to present a series of artists’ projects for the 2021 commissions programme.

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St Giles' Cathedral

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