Photo of Donovan Ward

Donovan Ward

b. Cape Town, 1962

Working innovatively with found objects, images, text and paint, Donovan Ward provocatively addresses issues of globalisation and identity.

Barbie Bartmann: Homecoming Queen [review]

© Mario Pissarra, 1/06/2005

 

English critic Mathew Collings says that art today is little more than a sound-bite, and he can’t recall when last he was seriously ‘challenged’ by an artist’s work. Ward’s latest exhibition, a series of Barbie dolls modeled on Sarah Bartmann, which are (mostly) dressed individually and displayed for sale on a glass shelf, tests Collings’€™ ideas. One could quickly construct not one but several soundbites: the displacement of a Eurocentric ideal by an Afro-centric one; the transformation of Sarah Bartmann into a symbol, an icon, and consequently a commodity; an iconoclastic, ‘lite’€™ treatment of a serious subject… Viewed as sound-bite art one can imagine offence being taken at this latest objectification of an already objectified, tragic figure, and Ward may be treading on dangerous grounds here. But Ward is a challenging artist: he makes art using the most unlikely of materials (‘painting’ with cement, for example); and over the last year alone his work could be mistaken as that of at least three different artists. Not least Ward is concerned with critical issues such as globalization, history, culture and identity; and refuses to make, as he puts it, “€œsanitized narratives.”

Ward interprets Bartmann as both victim and agent, and links these ideas to contemporary South African identities. The result is provocative: you are required to make the leap between a historical figure and a metaphor of displacement and repatriation, as well as of fragmentation and unity; and individual Barbies raise different questions. ContemporaryArtist, who is naked, raises the distinctions between Bartmann’€™s display as an exotic, sexualized object in colonial Europe and representations of the body by contemporary female artists. Examples such as Gay Barbie have little obvious relationship to their title, suggesting the importance of naming in conferring identities. Some Barbies highlight multiple, dynamic identities: a picketing figure refers to the crisis in the textile industry (Miss Spring Queen 2004). Then there are Barbies that seem to defy stereotypes but are actually spot on, such as NGO Barbie who reminds me of dolly comrades that do really exist. The invite, an image of Sandy Bay Barbie photographed on the beach suggests that contexts impact on identities. Clearly there is more going on here than can be done justice in 375 words, never mind a sound-bite.

* A slightly edited version of this review appeared in Art South Africa , 2005

Conversations with Donovan Ward [catalogue essay] – Mario Pissarra, 6/06/2005

This essay featured in the catalogue for Botaki Exhibition 3: Conversations with Donovan Ward, an exhibition curated by Mario Pissarra for Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town, 2005

Open article

Coloured by the Other

© Donovan Ward, 03/04/2012

Ideally art is a space for exploration, playing and learning. This work is the antithesis of creativity as its producers abdicate their individualised voices to work within a predetermined framework. This work is presented as a primed, colour by numbers canvas with a portrait, in black line, of an influential, powerful recognisable person who €œspeaks for government and who has gained notoriety for his racialised comments. The lines mark out areas where 10 premixed colours are to be applied. Each area is numbered to correspond to the supplied colours. Viewers are invited to assist in sequentially painting it by referring to the colour code and painting instructions. The completed painting reveals this subject’s altered identity. The restrictive, predictable method and outcome of production also metaphorically illustrates the simplistic way people are essentialised or constructed by power elites .

Donovan Ward,
Ingekleur: Outside The Lines The AVA Gallery, Cape Town l 12 March – 4 April 2012

Guguletu Seven Memorial


© Donovan Ward & Paul Hendricks, 15/03/2006

On 3 March 1986 in the township of Guguletu, seven youth were murdered by the South African state. The Guguletu Seven memorial, dedicated to these seven youth who lost their lives during the liberation struggle, is located in close proximity to where the killings occurred. The memorial is built from Rustenberg granite, steel, screws, tile adhesive, bronze, bricks, cement and concrete. The sculpture represents a discontinuous wall like structure. The seven figures cut out from the concrete and granite slabs speak to the seven families and the nation’€™s loss. The poses representing the seven youth are suggestive of play, dance and resistance, as it seeks to capture their humanity and spirit despite their absence. Their silhouetted forms are derived from the stenciled and spray-can art of the 1980s. On the supporting plinth, beneath each figure, is a bronze plaque with information on it dedicated to one of the youth. Each one of the seven youth are represented in this way. The bronze plaques do not all bear portraits and dates of birth (due to the non-availability of personal details of certain of the youth). Each of the seven plaques however contain the name and date-of-death of the youth. The layout and wording of the plaques are styled on the silk-screened type commemorative posters of the 1980s. The work pays tribute to and commemorates those who made the ultimate sacrifice to build a better South Africa and indeed world. The work is also representative of nation building, as it displays elements of ruin or incompleteness juxtaposed with areas that appears to have been recently built, thus echoing the Nicaraguan woman poet Vidaluz Meneses message: “Pain has been our challenge and the future our hope. We build as though composing a poem: writing, erasing, and creating anew”. These words reflect the spirit of the memorial, as it captures elements of completeness and incompleteness; ruin and visible structure, regularity and irregularity, asserting graphically and symbolically potential, possibility and hope.

Donovan Ward & Paul Hendricks Details of image: Finished drawing for Memorial

Barbie Bartmann: Homecoming Queen

© Donovan Ward, 11/12/2005

Generalized representations become fixed within a culture and conceptualized as if ‘true’€™ because constant repetition in a variety of forms and locales validate the oft repeated image and lends credibility to mytholised forms. Barbara Buntman, Whose Identity do we see? Born in 1789 in the vicinity of the Eastern Cape, Sara Bartmann lived for a short period as a slave near Cape Town. Baptised in in 1811 as Sara Bartmann, a ‘Hottentot’ from the Cape Colony, her indigenous name is unknown to us. It was in England and later Paris that Sara Bartmann was displayed as a sexualized exotic object, and subjected to medical and anthropological scrutiny. In Paris she allegedly lived as a prostitute, and after her death there in 1818 her dissected body was displayed at the Musee de l’Homme as a museum curiosity. It was only 184 years later, in 2002, that her remains were repatriated to her homeland, where she was buried as a Khoisan woman near the little town of Hankey . Sara Bartmann has become a controversial and contentious historical figure, as many groups and individuals claim the right to represent her, and have contested the various roles she apparently assumed. Sara Bartmann most probably belonged to the Gonaqua tribe, and was called many things in her lifetime. These included a ‘€˜slave’€™, ‘€˜Hottentot’€™, ‘€˜showgirl’€™ and ‘prostitute’€™. Presently she continues to be labeled an ‘exotic aboriginal woman’, ‘Khoisan woman’€™, ‘ouma’€™, ‘mama’, and ‘€˜mother of the nation’€™. This work attempts to explore the complexity of an African Identity as it relates to Sara Bartmann. It challenges stereotypical representations of community and fixed identities associated with race, class, culture and language. While on the one hand this work acknowledges Sara Bartmann as a national icon symbolizing South Africa’s fragmented history, I also selected her image to highlight the manner in which historical images and symbols have been appropriated and commodified in a world of commercial interests.

Donovan Ward

The Corporate Garden

Power in its various forms often overrides as well as mimics ethical and environmental interests. This artwork informs and is informed by my ongoing observations of dislocation, erasure and substitution.

Past land theft and new forms of dispossession, particularly gentrification, the desecration of burial sites by property developers, and more generally the erasure of physical memory, one that connects people to history, are engaged with in varying degrees in this artwork. Alluded to in this piece as well, are forms of real estate development, which corresponds with global neo-liberal models that drive ‘development’ projects but are disproportionately harmful to the environment and human beings.

Made from fabricated, organic and inorganic objects, this art piece, the size of a grave, constitutes a landscape embodying contradiction, contrast and paradox. The fictitious sections of the work include plastic flowers, razor wire, cement, and a synthetic lawn used at burial ceremonies superimposed on indigenous flora and fauna. Remnants of the natural environment were collected from the lower slopes of Table Mountain, close to an encroaching residential area, and incorporated into the work; they include bone fragments, dead insects, stones, bits of dried indigenous plants, leaves and gravel.

Through juxtaposing the artificial with the real and superimposing the synthetic over the natural, this work speaks to the displacement of the natural and native by imitation and simulation. It, moreover, points to the paradoxical role of technology in exposing yet furthering the ‘dis-placement’ and ‘re-placement’ of the natural and indigenous with simulated fictive environments.

Donovan Ward

Art Education


1991: Part-time (sculpture), Community Arts Project, Woodstock.
1982-1985: Ruth Prowse School of Art, Salt River, Cape Town.

Workshops & Residencies


2013: Local Artists Public Artmaking Project, Lentegeur Civic Office,Mitchells Plain, co-ordination and facilitation
2009: Drakenstein Remembers June 16 Visual Art Workshop, co-ordination and facilitation
2004: 10, Castle of Goodhope, Cape Town.
2002: Spirit of the Place, Bangor, Wales.
1995: Thupelo Workshop, Cape Town.

Solo exhibitions


2014: Brutalised Barbie, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
2005: Barbie Bartmann: Homecoming Queen, AVA, Cape Town.
2002: Ash, Dust and Trade Marks, Bell Roberts Gallery, Cape Town.
1998: Residues and Emergences, Mau Mau Gallery, Cape Town.

Group exhibitions


2016: Beyond Binaries. Essence Festival, Durban
2012: Ingekleur: Outside the Lines, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
20011/12: Natural Selection, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town
2010: View from the South, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town.
2009: In Black and White, Bell Roberts Contemporary Art Gallery, Cape Town. Sex Power Money, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town. Wood, Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town.
2007: ReCenter, Look Out Hill, Khayelitsha, Cape Town. africa south, AVA, Cape Town. Greenhouse: From Painting to Plastic, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Somerset West, South Africa.
2006: Anthology: A Collection of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town. 20 artists 06, Bell Roberts Gallery, Cape Town; Art on Paper Gallery, Johannesburg.
2005: Botaki Exhibition 3, Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town. Man, Rust-En-Vrede Gallery, Durbanville, Cape Town.
2004: Upfront and Personal, South African National Gallery, Cape Town. Botaki, Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town. Art Cool, Bell Roberts Gallery. Gender and Visuality, University of the Western Cape, Bellville. 10, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town.
2003: Supermarket, Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees.
2001: Telling Tales, 3rd I Gallery, Cape Town.
2000: Allsorts, Bell Roberts Gallery. Praat, Thetha, Talk, Idasa Gallery, Cape Town. One City Festival, Returning the Gaze, Public Art Project, Cape Town.
1999: Prophecy 2000, 3rd I Gallery, Cape Town. New Beginnings, Battswood Art Centre, Grassy Park, Cape Town.
1998: Dis Nag, Iziko South African Cultural History Museum, Cape Town. Urban Objects of Desire, Mau Mau Gallery, Cape Town. Ekhaya, Tsoga Environmental Resource Centre, Langa, Cape Town.
1997: District Six Public Sculpture Project, District Six, Cape Town. The Legacy of Steve Biko, District Six Museum, Cape Town. Committees Choice, AVA, Cape Town.
1996: Barricaded Rainbow… Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, Cape Town. 5 Cape Artists, South African Cultural History Museum. Beyond the Rainbow, Athlone Civic Centre, Cape Town.
1995: Outsider Art, Market Gallery, Johannesburg. Volkskas Atelier Award National Exhibition, University of Stellenbosch. Volkskas Atelier Award Regional Exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town.
1994: Man on Woman, Seeff Trust Art Gallery, Cape Town.
1993: The Art of Peace, Seeff Trust Art Gallery, Cape Town.
1991: Community Arts Project Exhibition, Woodstock, Cape Town.
1990: Pieces of Africa, Athlone Technical College, Cape Town.

Group exhibitions (international)


2007: Apartheid/ the South african Mirror, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Spain. Uniform: South Africa’s New Clothes, Spanierman Modern, New York. Arts of Revolution, Saba Cultural and artistic Institute, Tehran.
2002: DAK’ART 2002 Biennale, Dakar, Senegal.
2001-2003: Spirit of the Place, travelling exhibition, Wales/ South Africa.

Other projects


1999: Anti Racism mural (in collaboration with artists and learners), Landsdowne Public Library, Cape Town.

Public collections


2005: University of South Africa, Pretoria.

Private collections


South Africa, Holland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Australia, USA, Switzerland, ESKOM, The Ellerman House Collection,the Earl of Spencer Collection, Annette and Peter Nobel Collection

Commissions


2011: UDF Memorial ,Rocklands Civic Centre Mitchells plain, Commissioned by the City of Cape Town[ In collaboration with Paul Hendricks]
2011: Ashley Kriel Memorial, Community House, Salt River
2010: Building and Wood Workers International, Trophy Design
2009: Media & Labour Award Design, Workers World Media Productions 2006. Meru, Artwork Commission, Safmarine
2006: Basil D’Olivera Memorial, Sunday Times Heritage Project, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town.
2005: 20 Artists 06, digital print, Bell Roberts Gallery. Gugulethu 7 Memorial, in collaboration with Paul Hendricks, public sculpture, a joint Provincial Government & City Council project.
2004: Art Cool, LG electronics.
2002: Book cover, International Labour Resource & Information Group.
2001: Book cover, Gender Education & Training Network. Mural/ large canvas painting, in collaboration with Selvin November, Workers World Radio Productions. Returning the Gaze, billboard, BLAC.
1995: Right to Work, mural/ large painting on board, WLP, with Paul Hendricks.

Publications (catalogues)


2011: Visual Century, Vol.4, Wits University Press & the Visual Century Project, 2011
2010: NY Arts, Vol 15, Fall, 2010 2010. Press Art Sammlung Catalogue, Annette and Peter Nobel Collection 2009.Public Sculpture, Statues & Memorials ….An Ibhabhathane Project
2007. Apartheid / The South African Mirror, Exhibition Catalogue 2007. from Weapon to Ornament, AMAC Heritage Series
2007: Pep Subiros, Apartheid: The South African Mirror, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Barcelona. Jon Bernt, From Weapon to Ornament: the CAP Media Project posters (1982 to 1994), Arts and Media Access Centre Heritage Series, Cape Town.
2005: Mario Pissarra, Botaki Exhibition 3, Old Mutual Asset Managers, Cape Town.
2004: Mario Pissarra, Botaki, Omam, Cape Town. 10, Everard Read. Art Cool. Upfront and Personal.
2002: Dak’ art: Biennale de l’ Art Africain Contemporain, Dakar.
2001: Spirit of the Place. Returning the Gaze Public Arts Project.
1997: The McCabe Gallery. District Six Public Sculpture Project.
1995: Volkskas Atelier Award.

Publications (reviews)


2005: M. Pissarra, Donovan Ward, Art South Africa Vol. 4 Issue 1, p. 83.
2004: M. Pro Sobopha, 10, Art South Africa Vol. 2 Issue 4, p. 72.

Publications (other)

2003: Africa e Mediterraneo, Issue 41. 2001: M. Pro Sobopha, Returning the Gaze, NKA Journal of Contemporary Art, 13/14, pp. 56-61.

Awards/ Prizes

1993: First prize, The Art of Peace, Seef Trust Art Gallery, Cape Town.

Awards/ Grants

2002: Cape Tercentenary Foundation