Making sense of what landscape is about: a conversation with Mduduzi Xakaza

by Mario Pissarra

Mduduzi Xakaza (1965–) paints landscapes that draw on his lived experience in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Localised histories and concerns are brought into conversation with broader philosophical questions regarding relations between humans and the natural environment, and the role of aesthetics in creating a dialogue or exchange between artist and spectator. Deliberately eschewing grand narratives, Xakaza’s paintings quietly elicit contemplation of contemporary debates about land ownership and usage, and the extent to which western aesthetic tropes can be repurposed to articulate contemporary African perspectives. [1]

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Umsi: Exhibition review

Note: This review was originally published online in 2005.

Umsi (the smoke) is a group exhibition featuring Lindile Magunya, Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi, Thulani Shuku, Dathini Mzayiya, Lonwabo Kilani, and Vivien Kohler. Inspired by Magunyas “documentation of the ongoing burning of the shacks in his area”; the artists share a “common concern around the housing problems in the Western Cape [and are] questioning the ongoing burning of the informal settlements”. They believe that through coming together they can “voice these social issues louder than an individual can.” The motivation for collective action is also a practical one. The artists, who between them have studied at every local institution accessible them, primarily NGO’s, colleges and workshops, “decided to create our own opportunities [to build] our group career as well as our individual careers [due to] the gap …between galleries and emerging artists, and … the lack of resources for …solo exhibitions” Guided by emerging curator Vuyile Voyiya, who has been mentor to the group, these paintings come from a workshop held last year as well as from works produced subsequently.

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Barbie Bartmann: Homecoming Queen [review]

Note: This review was originally published online in 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, “sanitized narratives.”

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Garth Erasmus: The unorthodox painter

Note: This review was originally published online in 2005.

Garth Erasmus comes from rural roots in the Eastern Cape . He studied Fine Arts at Rhodes University (1978-80) before moving to Cape Town . He taught art from 1982-1997 before becoming a full-time artist. Erasmus is well represented in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, Washington DC.

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Awakenings: impulses and threads in the art of Lionel Davis

By Mario Pissarra

This text first appeared on Davis’ artist page on asai.co.za in 2014

Lionel Davis is a significant figure in South African art circles. Core elements of his personal biography are well known, and his contribution as an artist is integral to accounts of seminal art organisations such as the Community Arts Project, Vakalisa, and the Thupelo Workshop. His early history as a District Six resident and political prisoner has made him an invaluable resource for post apartheid heritage projects, such as the District Six and Robben Island Museums. An articulate, charismatic and sociable personality, Davis is popular and respected, with an active public life and media presence.

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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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Affirmations of humanity: Sfiso Ka-Mkame’s dialogues with himself

by Mario Pissarra

Unpublished text for opening speech at opening of Sfiso Ka-Mkame’s ‘Dialogues with myself’ solo exhibition at the African Art Centre, Durban, 2016. It was originally published on Ka-Mkame’s page on asai.co.za in 2016.

I wish to thank the artist and the African Art Centre for inviting me to open this exhibition. I am indeed honoured to have this opportunity to share some thoughts about Sfiso ka-Mkame, an artist who I hold in high esteem.

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Sfiso Ka-Mkame: Charting his own course

by Mario Pissarra

This profile was originally commissioned by the Africa Centre (London) for their Contemporary Africa Database (www.africaexpert.org, no longer online), published in 2003. It was reprinted by the African Art Centre, Durban, for a catalogue produced for the exhibition Sfiso Ka-Mkame: Exhibition of oil pastels 13 to 30 October 2004, and first appeared on asai.co.za on Ka-Mkame’s artist page.

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Quiet Provocations: Thoughts on two works by Randolph Hartzenberg

by Mario Pissarra

This text was originally published on Hartzenberg’s page on asai.co.za in October 2014

Randolph Hartzenberg has worked most of his professional life as an educator. For several years, he taught art at Alexander Sinton High School in Athlone and later lectured in design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Alongside his work as an educator, Hartzenberg has produced a rich body of artworks. He first attracted attention for his work as a painter, notably Domestic Baggage (1994), and later received some attention for his printmaking (Map of the Neighbourhood (1996)). In more recent years, there has been increased interest in his performances and installations. For the latter, there is typically a strong sculptural element, although these pieces tend to be categorised as installations because most make use of found materials and are produced for specific locale, usually in response to invitations from curators.

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Recalling The Natal Visual Arts Organisation: a roundtable conversation

Proceedings of a conversation with Sfiso ka Mkame, Thami Jali, Paul Sibisi and Zamani Makhanya, moderated by Mario Pissarra, with contributions from Scott Williams and Russel Hlongwane. 

Editorial note: Participants arrived at various times during the morning, leading to certain points being revisited with different inputs.

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Dogs on Duty: The unsettling aesthetic of Trevor Makhoba

By Mario Pissarra

Editorial note: This was originally commissioned by the Africa Centre, London and published on their now off-line website, Contemporary Africa Database, c. 2001, with the title “Trevor Makhoba Profile”. Apart from the correction of minor typographic errors, the essay is retained as in the original. It can be noted that the retrospective exhibition referred to at the conclusion of the essay was cancelled, due to unforeseen problems arising from negotiations with the late artist’s family. A photocopied series of essays commissioned for the catalogue can be found in some South African libraries (universities and museums). Makhoba’s work can be viewed in H. Proud (ed), ReVisions, SAHO and Unisa Press, 2006.

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Time to stand up for the South African National Gallery: or why no one cares any more…

To begin: why is it that we hear criticism of Zeitz Mocaa, and that the Department of Arts and Culture is routinely condemned for its handling of the Venice Biennale, but we hear next-to-nothing about the ongoing crisis at the South African National Gallery (SANG)? Can it be because Zeitz Mocaa and the Venice Biennale represent power and prospects, whereas the National Gallery has already sunk so low that no one really thinks it is worth fighting for?

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Imvaba in the ‘hub of the struggle buzz’, an interview with Annette du Plessis

ASAI: What were the factors that contributed to the establishment of Imvaba? How was Imvaba established?

ADP: Following in the footsteps of the 1970’s struggle, and more specifically during the mid-1980’s, as well as after the establishment of the United Democratic Front (UDF), a large number of activists from Port Elizabeth and surrounds, increasingly arose from the masses. In addition, the local establishments of workers unions were particularly taking off more.

The need for arts and cultural support in taking the anti-apartheid revolution forward was urgent. The local liberation movement needed new logos, banners, art backdrops, leaflets and pamphlets, t-shirts designs, resistance poetry and literature, as well as support from all other art disciplines – and Imvaba became a vibrant vanguard tool in the forefront of the Struggle.

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GATHERING STRANDS: Keynote address for opening of Lionel Davis retrospective exhibition, Iziko South African National Gallery, 21 June 2017

Mario Pissarra, 22 June 2017

(It is indeed a great honour to have been invited by Lionel Davis to open his retrospective exhibition. I wish to congratulate the curators, Tina Smith, Ayesha Price, Ernestine White and their team, as well as District Six Museum and Iziko Museums for this historic occasion, and for making the artist’s 81st birthday an unforgettable one, Happy Birthday Lionel!)

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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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More or less ‘Co-existence’? Some thoughts on the Ir/relevance of the idea: opening remarks for the exhibition ‘Co-Existence part II – Manfred Zylla, Garth Erasmus and Antonin Mares’, Erdmann Contemporary, Cape Town, 28 July 2015.

Mario Pissarra, 15 August 2015

This group exhibition, the press release reminds us, constitutes the second installment of a curatorial project established in 2014. The inaugural exhibit featured, again in the words of the press statement, ‘three artists from three continents’.

Now, I will begin by making what may seem to be a very disparaging set of remarks. As an idea for a group exhibition, ‘co-existence’ may be considered to be a pretty lame concept. It is lame, in the sense that it lends itself to a very passive approach to the world. It implies a disengaged acceptance, perhaps tolerance, of global diversity and difference. Now what is wrong with that, you may ask? The problem with ‘co-existence’, I would argue, is that we need more of a critical engagement with the world, not simply an acceptance of the way things are.

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Going for a Wrong? Hell, it don’t matter

Mario Pissarra, 31 October 2014

One of the functions traditionally performed by auction houses is the authentification of works of art. Art historians usually stop short of selling themselves as connoisseurs, but in the auction business the sales person claiming the mantle of expert is essential to establish authority, and secure ‘value’. So, along with formal attire we have special protocols and language that includes exotic (French) terms like “provenance”, which translates into something not unlike the pedigree certificate you can expect from the Miniature Doberman Society.

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The Death of OPINION? (OPINION pt 5)

Mario Pissarra, 3 February 2014

Note: This was originally posted on ASAI Connect on 30 January 2014 They burst upon the scene with gusto, launching missiles at Iziko Mausoleums of Excellence, and then they disappeared… What happened to the terrorists calling themselves OPINION (Our Public Institutions Need Intervention Or Not)?

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Deviant Museums Plan Secession (OPINION pt. 4)

Mario Pissarra, 3 February 2014

Note: This was originally posted on ASAI Connect on 10 January 2014.

Following rumours of endemic discontent within the Iziko Consortium of Excellence, the cultural terrorists calling themselves OPINION (Our Public Institutions Need Intervention Or Not) paid a clandestine visit… to the Iziko West Coast Fossil Park. There they were shocked to discover an Iziko site without its sacred logo.

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OPINION Strikes Again! (OPINION pt 3)

Mario Pissarra, 3 February 2014

Note: This was originally posted on ASAI Connect on 19 December 2013

Babel O. Piziko, contemporary spokesperson for OPINION (Our Public Institutions Need Intervention Or Not), has released a third set of multiple-choice questions designed to test public knowledge and perceptions of Iziko Museums of Somewhere or Other.

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OPINION: The Return of (OPINION pt 2)

Mario Pissarra, 3 February 2014

Note: this was originally posted on ASAI connect on 12 December 2013

RESPONSE FROM IZIKO = Azikho (literal translation from isiXhosa: “there is nothing”)

However, a dubious body calling itself the Indifferent Atrocity, apparently the shadowy executive of the Zippo Consortium of Amusement claimed that Iziko (literal translation from isiXhosa “a hearth”) was in mourning for the loss of a brand even greater than itself, and besides, it did not talk to terrorists, even if they were cultural.

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Our Public Institutions Need Intervention or Not (OPINION pt 1)

Mario Pissarra, 3 February 2014

Note: this was originally posted on ASAI Connect on 5 December 2013

Desperate terrorists have hacked their way into ASAI’s facebook page, where they have released a weapon of crass distraction code-named OPINION. According to the Ministry of Counter-Intelligence in the Newly Independent Bantustan of the Mind, OPINION apparently translates “Our Public Institutions Need Intervention Or Not”.

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South Africa in Black & White

Mario Pissarra, 30 January 2014

Note: originally published as editorial to Third Text Africa vol 2 no. 3m 2010

When, in 1989, Albie Sachs presented his paper “Preparing Ourselves for Freedom”, he was addressing two audiences. In immediate terms, he was addressing his comrades in the ANC, in anticipation of a transfer of power and the concomitant shift from resistance to governance. But he was also speaking to a much broader audience, much of which was not present at the ANC seminar in Lusaka, namely the nascent, democratic South Africa.

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Re/framed 2

Mario Pissarra, 30 January 2014

Note: originally published as editorial to Third Text Africa vol 2 no. 2, 2010

Any day now one expects the proclamation that ‘contemporary African art’ is dead. After all, its been rumoured for some time, but it seems that no-one will listen until someone with an ego bigger than a continent says so.

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Dis/locating Africa/s, or How Championing a Cause Lost a Continent

Mario Pissarra, 30 January 2014

Note: originally published as editorial for Third Text Africa vol 2 no. 1, 2010

Few could argue that it has been critically important to unsettle dominant notions of Africa. When Africa was widely reduced to a stereotype of backwardness, to an unchanging land without history and differentiation, it was imperative to challenge and counter this image by presenting imaginative and inspiring alternatives. In the main this was done by casting off the boundaries of continent and by turning the binary between the West and Africa inside out.

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Re/centering Artists

Mario Pissarra, 30 January 2014

Note: original published as editorial to Third Text Africa vol 1 no. 4, 2009

This fourth edition of Third Text Africa compiles early texts from Third Text that address the work of specific artists. This act of validating earlier validations of artists introduces a set of its own questions. These questions apply more broadly to the related issues of visibility and validation than they do to the specific texts featured.

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Surveying South Africa

Mario Pissarra, 30 January 2014

Note: originally published  as editorial to Third Text Africa vol 1 no. 3, 2009

This third edition of Third Text Africa comprises selected articles on South African themes published in Third Text between 1991 and 2000. Each comprises a survey of sorts – whether a critical account of South African art practice or a review of an exhibition that was panoramic in scope. Since Third Text only covered a small fraction of such material generated during this period, this edition could be seen to be a random sample of a random sample.

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Re/framed

Mario Pissarra, 30 January 2014

Note: originally written as editorial for Third Text Africa vol 1 no. 2, 2009

“Jerry Jones is a soul singer.”

That would be an innocuous sentence, except that, as Jones assures us, “Still waters run deep.”

Jerry Jones is a soul singer, but you won’t find her on an anthology of soul music. This may seem strange, particularly since Jerry Jones was a black, Alabama born singer who released albums in 1970 and 1971, i.e. when soul was entering its mature phase – Marvin Gaye was about to release Motown’s first ‘protest’ album (What’s Going On) and Curtis Mayfield was beginning his solo career.

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Mud Times

Mario Pissarra, 30 January 2014

Note: Extracted from editorial for Third Text Africa vol 1 no. 1, 2009

For this inaugural issue of Third Text Africa I have focused on the critiques of neo-primitivism that developed in the wake of Magiciens de la Terre in 1989. This critique is ably encapsulated in the content and tone of Rasheed Araeen’s seminal ”Our Bauhaus, Others’ Mudhouse”. John Picton vividly characterised this curatorial trope as ‘neo-primitivist exotica’. In more recent times Sylvester Ogbechie has characterised it as the ‘Pigozzi paradigm’, after the collector inspired by Magiciens.

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Uche Okeke’s Legacy Challenges the Ongoing Decolonisation of Art & Art History

Mario Pissarra, 31 May 2013

Note: This was first published as “Art and the nation?” in Art South Africa 11(3): 52

Uche Okeke is widely regarded as a pivotal figure in modern Nigerian art. This accolade stems in large part from his leading role in the Zaria Art Society, an association of students formed in the years preceding political independence from Britain, who challenged the eurocentrism of the art curriculum taught at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science & Technology. In particular Okeke’s formulation of the notion of Natural Synthesis is frequently taken as a foundational moment in the orientation of modern Nigerian art, one that would find full fruition after his teaching appointment at the University of Nsukka in 1970.

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Booing It, Badly: A Response to Sharlene Khan

Mario Pissarra, 15 April 2011

In response to Sharlene Khan’s sequel to her earlier “Doing it for daddy” piece, I would like to briefly make a few observations. Firstly, there is much I agree with. I concur that there is “stagnation in transformation”, although I have my doubts whether it was ever really underway. I also concur that race, gender and class and their relationship to power is still critical to consider, not least in the visual arts. I also despair at the lack of engagement of the DAC with transformation, particularly in the visual arts, although I do think we should be wary about their ability to lead on this issue, given their dismal record. Like Khan, I welcome Riason Naidoo’s appointment at Iziko SANG.

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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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De-segregating the Audience: Race & the Politics of Exhibitions

Mario Pissarra, 23 August 2010

This was prepared for a panel discussion with the same title, held at the Centre for the Book, Cape Town, on 19 August 2010. The panel formed part of the “Beyond the Racial Lens” conference, which was itself  part of the “Bonani 2010 Festival of Documentary Photography” convened by SAHO. Thembinkosi Goniwe and Kwezi Gule were also part of the panel, which was chaired by Farzanah Badsha.

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Doing things differently: the promise of Africa. cont

Mario Pissarra, 20 May 2010

When Jose Antonio Fernandes Dias, visual arts advisor to the Gulbenkian Foundation, was asked by the Mayor of Lisbon what he thought of the idea of a museum for contemporary African art in Portugal, an idea that came from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dias said that it was not a good idea. He told the Mayor that museums risk becoming static places and would keep the “ghetto of contemporary African art” alive. Something more dynamic was needed. Dias was asked to come up with a proposal. That was in 2007. Today he is heading the establishment of a new multi-disciplinary organisation, Africa.Cont, which will be housed in a new building, designed by David Adjaye, to be completed in 2012. A mildly edited version of this appeared in Art South Africa vol. 8 no. 2, 2010, p. 76.

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Portugal as a place for Africa.cont

Mario Pissarra, 11 January 2010

This was presented at a meeting of Africa.cont (www.africacont.org) held on 5 December 2009 at the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. It was prepared for a panel discussion that was intended to address the possibilities and limitations of Portugal as a location for Africa.cont. Alda Costa, Barthelemy Toguo and Paul Goodwin were also on this panel, which was chaired by Roger Meintjes.
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Decolonisation of art in Africa: a post-apartheid South African perspective

Mario Pissarra, 26 November 2009

This was presented at the annual conference of the South African Visual Arts Historians at the University of Stellenbosch, 2008.

This is not a tightly argued paper, but more of a loose mapping of ideas that have preoccupied me for several years, ideas triggered by the implications of the concept of decolonization, specifically as it has relevance for the visual arts, within but not limited to the contemporary South African context. (1)

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Chalk and cheese, or yam and potatoes? Some thoughts on the need to develop a comparative critical practice

Mario Pissarra, 25 November 2009

This was prepared for an AICA/Vansa seminar on art criticism in Africa, November 2007.

Sometime in the very early 90s the Johannesburg based Afrika Cultural Center invited and hosted Ngugi wa Mirrii, the Kenyan born, Zimbabwe based theatre for development practitioner. As the general secretary of the Cultural Workers Congress, western Cape, I took on the task of organizing a day-long itinerary for Ngugi so that he could meet with a range of community arts organization in Cape Town. One of the most memorable incidents occurred at the Community Arts Project, then located in Chapel Street, Woodstock. Ngugi, having been subjected to a series of presentations highlighting the lack of resources for NGOs said something to the effect that: “You South Africans don’t know how good you have it, in Zimbabwe we do most of our training outdoors under a tree”.

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Decolonising art in Africa: some preliminary thoughts on the relevance of the discourse on decolonization for contemporary African art, with particular reference to post-apartheid South Africa.

Mario Pissarra, 25 November 2009

This was initially presented at a lunch-time lecture at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2006. Some of these ideas have been further developed in subsequent papers. It is published here in its original form.

1. The construction and imposition of “authenticities”

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Creating New Conditions for Creativity: Mario Pissarra in conversation with Uche Okeke

Mario Pissarra & Uche Okeke, 10 July 2008

[This is an edited version of a recorded telephone conversation that took place on 10 July 2006. It formed part of a series of conversations conducted for From the Ground Up, the Reader developed for the Cape Africa Platform’s Trans Cape exhibition. Unfortunately, the publication of the Reader was held back indefinitely, as a consequence of the funding shortfall which saw Trans Cape being replaced by the Cape 07 exhibition. This version is identical to that which was prepared for publication. It should also be noted that Okeke has recently relocated to Lagos.]

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Re-reading Malangatana

Mario Pissarra, 6 January 2008

[An edited version of this essay appeared in Farafina # 11]

For more than 40 years Malangatana has been one of Mozambique’s best known cultural figures, and indisputably her best known visual artist. Since his first appearance in a group exhibition in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) in 1959, Malangatana’s works have been shown in numerous countries across the globe. His trademark style- dense compositions contained within shallow pictorial space, consisting of simplified shapes, mostly figurative, often with pronounced eyes and teeth, and typically rendered with a bright palette and bold outlines- is instantly recognizable.

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The JAG is the SANG

Mario Pissarra, 13 October 2007

I have long argued that transformation of the South African National Gallery has been badly managed. Thirteen years into democracy it has failed to produce a demographically representative pool of curators. Perhaps more importantly, it has failed to re-orientate its Eurocentric origins by neglecting to prioritise developing relationships with other African countries. Instead, in the name of transformation, the SANG has been absorbed into a seemingly dysfunctional, costly bureacracy called Iziko Museums, a top heavy administration that has few admirers, even amongst its own ranks.

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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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Dirty Laundry: Can we think beyond Venice?

Mario Pissarra, 7 June 2007

I have previously argued that Africa’s representation in Venice is irrelevant when compared to the need to develop alternatives at ‘home’. In essence my argument is that we should not judge the success of South African art (or African or ‘non-western’ art for that matter) by its presence or absence in the prime venues of the ‘international’ arena, of which the Venice Biennale is both a leading example and symbol. The health of a country’s art should not be judged by the number of international ‘stars’ it generates, since this may provide a false picture of the state of art in that country or region. Rather it should be evaluated on the quality and extent of its art practice, galleries and museums, art education, publishing, patronage, and all the critical components of art infrastructure that are essential for the development of art.

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Beyond current debates on representation: a few thoughts on the need to develop infrastructure for art in Africa

Mario Pissarra, 20 November 2006

The discourse on contemporary African art is a comparatively recent one, and has to a large extent been dominated by issues of representation: what image of Africa is or has been communicated to the world, and to itself? Who is or who should be representing Africa? And who and what is Africa? Much of the discourse has been led by Africans in the diaspora. This generation of intellectuals has taken on the critical need to address negative, sometimes racist constructions of Africa that have been dominant, particularly but not exclusively in the West. This need to address negative perceptions of Africa, coupled with the present location of a critical mass of African artists, academics and curators in the USA and Europe goes some way in explaining why there has been an emphasis on interrogating ‘Africa’ as a concept, and why issues of representation have been fore-grounded.

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Venetian Blind: A response to Malcolm Payne

Mario Pissarra, 18 June 2006

[This is a response to Malcolm Payne’s “Viva Venice… Viva… Long live!” (ArtThrob, June 2006). Payne’s piece was a response to my “Death to Venice” (ASAI, May 2006), which was a response to Marilyn Martin’s companion pieces “Death in Venice” and “Faultlines and Fumblings” (ArtThrob, September 2003), as well as to Sue Williamsons remarks on the Venice Biennale (ArtThrob, July, 2003).] [i]

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Partial Revisionism: How the British Museum’s re-framing of Africa reflects its own institutional interests and cultural bias. A review of John Mack (ed) Africa: Arts and Cultures

Mario Pissarra, 4 June 2006

[Africa: Arts and Cultures edited by John Mack, British Museum Press, London, 2000, 135 colour & 9 b/w plates, 5 b/w maps, index, bibliography, 224pp, £16.99  An edited version of this review was published as “Defining African Art” on www.cloudband.com in 2001, but is no longer available. Apart from the title no changes have been made to the original text]
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Picasso and Africa: Are we asking the right questions?

Mario Pissarra, 14 May 2006

[Slightly revised version of a paper presented for a panel discussion at the Picasso and Africa seminar, Centre for the Book, Cape Town, 13 May 2006]

There is no doubt that Europe has stolen, and continues to steal from Africa. Thieves by nature do not usually disclose the sources of their wealth and therefore it is at times necessary to challenge and expose them. Personally I suspect that the Picasso & Africa exhibition attracted such high levels of interest and support on the part of our President and Minister of Arts & Culture precisely because here is one example where a case for Europe’s debt to Africa can be made. However I believe that centering the debate on the question of Picasso’s debt to Africa should not be the focus of our intellectual enquiry at this point in time.

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I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It! How the Minister’s Imbizo resurrected suppressed childhood memories and hurled me into the horrors of the present

Mario Pissarra, 16 April 2006

After five years at the local, whites-only government school I was sent to a private, then boys-only, Catholic boarding school. Sending your children to be educated by strangers with a penchant for corporal punishment was entirely consistent with the child rearing ethics of the post slavery/colonial plantation class. Where the school stood apart was that it was more liberal than most- it was modeled on Thomas More, the English chancellor who chose to lose his head rather than his principles, and the school adopted his motto of “truth conquers all”. In 1977 I attended my first ever political meeting, called by the Black Sash to protest against deaths in detention, dressed in my Sunday Best. One prize-giving ceremony a few years earlier we were treated to the Chief Minister of Kwa Zulu, Mangosuthu Buthulezi who arrived with a fleet of black Mercedes’ with number plates one to six.

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