Reviews & Reports

Madi Phala’s “Herdbooyz” at AVA – Exhibition review

by Mario Pissarra

This text was originally published on Phala’s page on asai.co.za, October 2005. A slightly edited version of this review appeared in Art South Africa, 2005.

For many years Madi Phala put most of his creative energies into mentoring others. Last year’s move south to Cape Town has coincided with him stepping out as an artist in his own right. Recent shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg have been well received by the buying public. His emerging profile is matched by a successful transition from small and modestly sized works to a much bolder scale, and in the increased physicality of his new works.

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Maskerade – Exhibition Review

by Bridget Thompson

Review of ‘Maskerade’ by Lionel Davis, Association of Visual Arts, August 2009.
This text was originally published on Davis’ artist page on asai.co.za, August 2009.

Lionel Davis is for the first time at 70 plus working as a full- time artist.

His life has traversed childhood and youth in District 6, political activism and imprisonment on Robben Island, two years of art training at Rorke’s Drift, many contributions to the social practice of art like running the Community Arts Project silkscreen workshop for 8 years, participating in the annual Thupelo workshops for more than 20 years, formal study at UCT where he gained a BAFA in 1995, back to Robben Island as a tour guide for 10 years and now finally full time artist.

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Salt On My Breath

by Deela Khan

Review of ‘Prints in the Artsstrip’ by Randolph Hartzenberg at the AVA Gallery: 14 July – 1 August 2008.
This text was originally published on Hartzenberg’s page on asai.co.za

The exhibition comprises works from Hartzenberg’s Monotype Series “Map of the Neighbourhood” and a selection of Screen Prints from his series “Abbreviations”. The contiguity of the imagery, metaphor and iconography make a powerful statement. They bear testimony to the artist’s concerns with the ‘inner neighbourhood’ that has evolved for more than a decade.

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Resilience and empathy: Sfiso Ka-Mkame at the AVA

by Mario Pissarra

Review of Sfiso Ka-Mkame’s solo exhibition at the AVA, Cape Town, published in Artthrob, 2003
http://artthrob.co.za/03oct/reviews/ava.html

There is an integrity to Ka-Mkame’s engagement with his materials and his subjects. His use of oil pastels is spectacular, the result of years of practice: “we understand each other” he says of this most modest of mediums. His subject matter also demonstrates continuity as he began chronicling the trials and tribulations of women in the eighties. Today this theme is more prominent, and his work is increasingly bold in scale, colour and pattern. He often contrasts naturalistic colour (usually applied to skin tone, land and sky) with a more subjective use of colour best seen in his depiction of female clothing, but also featuring sometimes in the landscape as with the intensely emotive red sky in “Sorrow Swallow Me”

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Making Art History in Africa: a review of Making Art in Africa, 1960-2010

Mario Pissarra, 19 August 2015

Making Art in Africa is an important contribution to the development of an African art history. It deserves this accolade because of its centering of the voices of artists on the African continent. But it is also a book that takes a bit of work to clarify its purpose, and it is only once this is done that its value becomes evident.

Any publication that takes the kind of title this one does will provoke a necessary, if somewhat predictable response. The title sets up the expectation of the book being a representative, historical survey. Such projects inevitably solicit responses that centre on perceptions of whether the ‘right’ artists have been selected. At a glance, the inclusion of canonical artists such as John Muafangejo and Malangatana suggests that a historic perspective is indeed at play. But there are few of their celebrated peers present, which means that anyone looking for an authoritative, historical overview may be disappointed.

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Modernist Primitivism & Indigenous Modernisms: Transnational Discourse & Local Art Histories

Anitra Nettleton, 28 March 2011

Editor’s note: Anitra Nettleton was discussant for “Modernist Primitivism and Indigenous Modernisms: Transnational Discourse and Local Art Histories”, a panel convened by Ruth B. Phillips (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada) for “Other Views: Art History in (South) Africa and the Global South” at the University of the Witwatersrand, 12 – 15 January 2011.[i]

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Art & Decolonisation: Small Steps Towards a Global Art History

Mario Pissarra, 1 February 2011

Introduction

On 14 January 2011 I convened two sessions of a panel on “art as an act of decolonisation” for an international colloquium convened by the South African Visual Arts Historians (SAVAH).(1) The panel comprised ten papers selected from 25 abstracts submitted in response to my call.(2)

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Art, Censorship & the Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe

Sokwanele, 17 September 2010

This report was issued by Sokwanele on 15 September 2010 and it appears here with their permission.

This article is the first in a series that will look at forms of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. Politics has so infiltrated our lives that the personal, social and cultural are all political, and as always with Zimbabwe, it is impossible to talk about one without referencing the other. What we hope to do is to encourage people to think beyond the minutiae detail of political immediacies, and to debate who we are as people in this maelstrom, how do we define ourselves, where do we want to be going, how can we get there, and is there space for this richness of identity to be defined and celebrated in Zimbabwe today?

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Art in Tunisia: A Visibility in the Making

Mohamed Ben Soltane, 14 September 2010

This has been translated from French. To read the original version click here.

One of Tunisia’s paradoxes is that it is among the wealthiest African countries economically, and the most socially stable, but is also among the least visible from a cultural point of view. This invisibility is reaching worrying proportions when we speak about contemporary art.
If North African artists  have been recognised  within the African and international scene, such as the Algerians Adel Abdessemed and Zineb Sédira, the Moroccans Mounir Fatmi and Yto Barrada, and the Egyptians Moataz Nasr and Ghada Amer, in Tunisia it is difficult to speak of two artists who have achieved a comparable reputation. Even if North Africa is not very well represented in the catalogued events of ‘contemporary African art’, Tunisia registers a significant absence in comparison with its neighbours.

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Imbacu [exhibition review]

Mario Pissarra, 31 August 2007

From the outset I welcomed this exhibition since exile (‘Imbacu’ in isiXhosa) has received scant attention from South African curators and art historians, despite being perhaps the earliest form of resistance practiced by our artists. I was also curious whether Loyiso Qanya’s curatorial debut represented a shift within the SANG, an institution that has done little to create meaningful curatorial opportunities for trainees.

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