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Mario Pissarra – Against the Grain

Author: Mario Pissarra
Publisher: Africa South Art Initiative
Date: 2013
ISBN: 978 0 620 5

Against the Grain profiles five wood sculptors from the Cape – Isaac Makeleni, Ishmael Thyssen, Shepherd Mbanya, Timothy Mafenuka and Thami Kiti. Working for decades with little support and public acknowledgment, these artists have produced significant works that are skilful and imaginative, earnest and playful. They address a diversity of themes that engage with the recent and distant past as well as the contemporary present.

Against the Grain questions the dominant narratives of South African wood carving, firmly in place since the Tributaries exhibition (1985), that have failed to recognise the existence of black wood-carvers outsides of the “Venda” region. It also questions the reasons behind the low visibility of black African wood sculptors internationally, suggesting that black wood-carvers have been unduly prejudiced since the development of new discourses in contemporary African art since the 1990s.

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