Word View

Jill Joubert’s Joyful Agency

“A folktale must be recreated each time. At the core of the narrative is the storyteller.”– Calvino, Italo, Italian Folktales [1]

by Sindi-Leigh McBride

1

I started this essay looking for a golden thread to tie Jill Joubert’s biography to her artistic practice, convinced that there was a simple way to frame my curiosity about her work, to explain the delight derived from poring over photos of her puppet-sculptures. While contemplating critical ways to situate her work, I continued to take pleasure in little things like the precision of simple mechanisms springing apparently-dead wood into action and the fantastic footnotes throughout her thesis submission for her Master of Fine Art degree, an interpretation and transformation of the Italian fairy tale, Apple Girl.

According to Joubert, “a puppet is neither a doll nor a sculpture…[but] a spirit figure with an uncanny sense of life.” [2] Her idiosyncratic tableaux-on-wheels can be described as groups of sculptural spiritual figures with the potential of movement, arranged to represent a scene from a story or legend. [3] Conceived through the properties of carved wood and found-objects, collectively, the tableaux constellations also function as miniature puppet theatres that are either animated through performances by Joubert or viewed as static artworks, fixed arrangements to which the performance has given a framework for interpretation.

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The Land of Cedric Nunn

by Candice Jansen

 W.T.J. Mitchell’s, Landscape and Power (1994) helped change the understanding of the word “landscape” from a noun to a verb. The anthology “asks that we think of landscape, not as an object to be seen or a text to be read, but as a process by which social and subjective identities are formed.” [1] If landscape then is a practice or a process, not just an image, how can we imagine the landscapes of South African photographer, Cedric Nunn (1957-)? “I am not a landscape photographer per se,” [2] he deflects in the post-script to his first photographic monograph, Unsettled: The 100 Years War of Resistance by Xhosa against Boer and British (2015). His book of photographic landscapes evokes a forgotten resistance history and maps critical sites of memory that he writes, are “about imagining, my imagining.” [3]

Nunn photographs both a distant past and an “attitude towards land.” [4] He may not consider himself a ‘landscape photographer’, but his activism has always been touched by land as a history, an identity, and a feeling that colours the lives of rural Black people. He came to photography during the early 1980s as the cultural movement against apartheid gained momentum after the 1982 Culture and Resistance Festival in Gaborone, hosted by the Medu Arts Ensemble. There documentary photography emerged as a collective practice of resistance, called for by late photographer, Peter McKenzie (1955-2017) in his address, “Bringing the Struggle into Focus.” [5] Taking sides became the ethos of Afrapix, the iconic anti-apartheid photography collective, who through the decade served as a critical intermediary between the mainstream and alternative press, between the visual needs of political and grassroots organisations around South Africa and in exile.

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Garth Erasmus: the knots of time and place

“I was Simply Never Part of The Dance. I Was a Wall Flower.”

by Valeria Geselev and Garth Erasmus [1]

I can’t recall the first time I met Garth Erasmus. It might have been in 2014 at one of his performances with As Is in Observatory, Cape Town. Or it could have been in 2015 at an exhibition opening or a workshop hosted by Greatmore in the neighbouring Woodstock. He was around being active, and I was around being curious.

Whatever it is I now cannot remember, the point is that we were already familiar by the time we were to spend ten days together as part of 2018 Thupelo workshop in Stellenbosch.

During that time I started calling him “prof”. Here, too, my memory fails me and I cannot recall the exact moment of “inventing” this nickname. Maybe because I was then working for Gallery of Stellenbosch University (GUS), and the academic title was a wink at that context. It stuck since.

I never asked him what he thinks of it, but I like it. For me he is a professor – a man of great knowledge and authority, a senior committed to education. Grammar probably requires a prof to be a Prof., but I see Garth Erasmus as a lower case prof – because all about him is down-to-earth, non-hierarchical.

And that captures his unique appeal for me, as a curator carving out her way, searching for people to learn from, people who do not act superior. I felt that Garth Erasmus was the ideal mentor figure, mastering the delicate balance of having an impressive track record, and being kind, generous and a good listener. A people’s prof.

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Transformative art practice: a conversation with Kim Berman

by Simone Heymans and Kim Berman [1]

Simone Heymans: Can you please share reflections on your personal art practice and what you are currently creating and addressing? [2]

Kim Berman: I did my masters in Boston, at the Museum School of Fine Arts at Tufts University. I was there from 1983 to 1990. So that was during the height of the State of Emergency in South Africa. The work that I was doing connected to the State of Emergency. Because I was politically involved in the anti-apartheid movement, with the African National Congress (ANC) in exile, we were smuggling out quite a lot of Afrapix photographs and video footage from Afravision. There was so much silence through the pervasive censorship and what was happening at the height of oppression. The documentary material we brought out was banned and illegal in South Africa, so it became imperative to try and put it out there from the relative safety of living in Boston. And my own work became very much about that; a way of documentation and bearing witness of what was happening in South Africa during that very repressive period. I used the Afrapix photos and video footage as source material to make very large black and white monoprints and drypoints as artists books. One of those works Alex Under Siege is now at the Constitutional Court which was a big screenprint I did for my masters thesis exhibition. [3] Then when I came back to South Africa, in 1990, I started to introduce a little bit of texture and colour in my work and made series of work, some of them small artists books that I called Rediscovering the Ordinary. They were about trying to find the ordinary in a South African landscape that was different to my experience of a land at war while I lived in Boston for 7 years.

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African Paradox Anthologies Statement

by Joe Madisia

This statement appears in the book African Paradox: Experienced in Namibia, an anthology of linocut prints and poems that pay tribute to the late John Muafangejo and the late Peter Clarke.

This anthology of black and white linocut prints and poetic-rhymes are created from an artist’s perspective and comprise of 11 works. These works excavate the deeper symbolism and meaning of the artwork, and reflect on issues to do with ownership, possession, abundance, greed, money… you name it. Some poems also throw light on theology, ethics, economics and biblical studies, and they seek to explore how African people find value in having things. It is also about how having things in turn gives value to life in communities and society, including the grassroots as a whole.

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The Role of Artists in the Concept of Progress: Perspective of a Namibian Artist

by Joe Madisia

Background

The past one and a half decade of Namibian post independence have witnessed intense discussion, dissent, protests and changes in the artistic and cultural industries across the country. To focus on the concept of progress in Namibian art and cultural development is need to consider the background of past German and South African (apartheid’s regime) colonial affects, and only the recent independence. Namibia is currently experiencing a challenging, process of Nation building that need to be based on a cultural self-understanding of “unity in diversity”.

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Avhashoni Mainganye: tireless spirit

by Vonani Bila

Avhashoni Ntsengeni Frederick Mainganye Mundalamo is the prolific and versatile visual artist from Phiphidi. The village’s main marvel after Mainganye is surely the Phiphidi Falls which lie within a dense forest on the Mutshundudi River near Thohoyandou. Most people of his age are flabby with pot bellies and often complain about stiff and painful joints, backaches, arthritis, ceaseless headaches, diabetes, hypertension and gout. Not for the soft-spoken Shoni or Mainganye, as he is affectionately addressed by friends. He grew up eating the nutritious mopane worms – masonja – whose protein and iodine levels are super high. And yes, art has kept him young and vibrant. Diminutive in stature, the slim and energetic grey-bearded man wearing his not-so-long dreadlocks, a pair of jeans and a military cap is a hard working artist. His ID says he was born in 1960. I meet him dressed in his apron, busy at work, at the Thohoyandou Arts and Crafts Centre, outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo province. It’s a warm Saturday late morning.

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Recalling Community Mural Projects

by Thami Jali

My first encounter with mural painting happened in 1990 when I went to Britain as one of ten South African artists who were invited to paint murals at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. South Africa, by that time, was still divided into four provinces: Natal, Transvaal, Orange Free State and the Cape. The group included artists such as David Koloane [group leader], Helen Sebidi, Sophie Peters, Louise Almon and Bhekisani Manyoni [each artist representing their respective province]. Menzi Mchunu and myself represented Natal.

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Directions to find Thami Jali

by  Witty Nyide

This text was first published by Durban Art Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Thami Jali: Restless Spirit’, 2014.

Going through ‘Top Rank’, Zazi road, Claremont you pass a bus shelter-turned kiosk, it’s busy, and the proprietor a pensioner in a white headdress seems overworked. Three primary school kids peck at a packet of cheese puffs next to a group of young men gathered around a red 1985 Jetta coupe, a youth magnet. Residential space collides with business here, newspaper headlines and 2014 election campaigning posters cling to the electricity poles, hand-written adverts tout for business edging out the digitally printed, some new some faded and tatty. Pass a white double storey near Mavundla tuck shop and turn left into Tenth Avenue. It’s the third house on the left, nearly 85-year-old the building is now an artist’s studio and gallery and home to Thamsanqa (Thami) Rutherford Jali.

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Terry-Anne Stevenson reflects on an artistic life shared with Thami Jali

by Bren Brophy in conversation with Terry-Anne Stevenson

This text was first published by Durban Art Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition ‘Thami Jali: Restless Spirit’, 2014.

In 1904 Constantin Brancusi on arriving in Paris was forced to support himself as a dishwasher. In response to Auguste Rodin’s proposition that he work as his apprentice Brancusi immortalized his refusal noting that “Nothing grows in the shadow of a great tree”. Within the South African artistic Zeitgeist one might presume to the contrary, that a great deal of creative growth and shared inspiration takes place under the shade of great trees. Thus it was for veteran KwaZulu-Natal artists Terry-anne Stevenson and Thami Jali.

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