Conversations

An Engaged Practice: a conversation with Ayesha Price

[1]

by Greer Valley

I first met Ayesha Price in 2007 when I volunteered for an art project in Cape Town called PEACEJAM where she was a facilitator. I remember how in awe I was of the way she skillfully switched between media and commanded the attention of a room full of young artists who would travel from across the city to attend the weekly art workshops held at the District Six Museum. The joy of making, a pedagogical impulse and a commitment to social justice are central to Price’s practice. The choice of meeting place for this interview – the District Six Museum’s café speaks to her rootedness in the District Six community, the part of Cape Town she calls home, and her ongoing commitment to marking its significance in the city’s history – a history that is often at risk of erasure or misrepresentation through the city’s political and market-driven projects.

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Dress Code: the politics of dress, oppression and self-determination in the works of Zemba Luzamba

By Kirsty Cockerill

Zemba Luzamba sits on a black swivel desk chair in his Cape Town home studio, surrounded by methodically organised paintings in progress, his white t-shirt freshly ironed is neatly tucked into misty blue jeans. The T-shirt is branded with the black logo of Picha, the art biennale held in his home town of Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of Congo). Fire engine red socks assert themselves before disappearing into his brilliantly polished shoes. I relax into a chestnut coloured leather couch warm from the sun, my feet comfortable on a Prussian blue and burgundy Persian carpet. Drinking tea out of crockery decorated with the cobalt blue willow pattern, we begin our conversation on the morning Africa hears that Robert Mugabe has died.

Through our conversation I seek to investigate three distinct yet interwoven aspects of Luzamba’s practise. The first is the inclusion of historically significant articles of clothing and the body posture of his subjects. The second relates to his use of paint, the colour, texture and compositional structure. The third is to understand the reasons that have lead Luzamba to produce his work in this way.

The conversation begins in his studio and continues for the next three weeks, first as a trickle of restrained emails, and later as a bouquet of voice notes. Luzamba is straightforward, charismatic, an easy and generous conversationalist when you get him on a subject he has feeling for. His manner of speaking, the pronunciation and affectation pumps gravitas into words and concepts he has passion for. The repetitive patterns of his speech builds the timing, a story teller of much grandeur, the voice notes are an auditory delight, English spoken with the reverberation of a French- African accent.

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Art harmonious: an interview with Lizette Chirrime

by Keely Shinners

Lizette Chirrime is on a mission to heal us all. Her work, characterised by rich, hand-stitched recycled textiles weave together complex stories about trauma and reconciliation, ancestry and rebirth. Her simultaneously corporeal and abstract figures treat the body⁠ – as Chirrime specifies, the femme body⁠ – not as a site of exploitation, but mutability. But it’s not just about the artworks. There’s something restorative about Chirrime’s way of being-in-the-world. Perhaps it’s the space she creates for herself, so well-curated with objects holy and homemade. Perhaps it’s how she listens to the world around her, sensitive to the violence we continue to enact on the earth and each other, while refusing to tunnel into pessimism. Perhaps it’s the way she respects herself, speaking both candidly about her vulnerabilities and confidently about her life’s work.

Chirrime was kind enough to invite me into her home in Salt River to speak, over strawberries, about personal, political and spiritual healing.

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Liberated Mind: a conversation with Avhashoni Mainganye

by Nolan Stevens

At its conception former President Thabo Mbeki’s “I Am An African” speech sounded more utopian than a reflection of the times. As those words age, their echoes etch deeper into collective consciousness of all those with ties to the continent. The truths in those words find us today living in a global age of African ascension; evident in the time where every facet of life and culture appears to be touched by the influence of the African continent. Almost as if the once dubbed dark continent demanded to have its light seen in as many forms as possible – from blockbuster Hollywood Afro-futurist films like Black Panther to cross cultural fashion collaborations, such as that of the Wafrica Collection which heavily features African designs on the Japanese traditional kimono garment. The continent’s latest culturally influential global status can be found in music and dance seen in west African Afrobeats rhythms and southern African Ngqom and Kwaito sounds amongst diaspora communities globally. There is also a rise in Afro-orientated narratives being thrust to the fore in the theatrical sphere, both on the continent as well as abroad. South African theatre is concentrating more now than in previous years on local and Afrocentric content; with inclusions such as The Market Theatre’s annual Black History Month programme which focuses on struggle content – which is as relevant to the African-American slave experience as it is to the South African struggle. The visual arts arena is also one not to be ignored by this African chic trend. This is evident in the ever-increasing appeal of the African aesthetic both seen in contemporary African art fairs such as the 1-54 (which has bases in both London and Marrakech), the Investec Cape Town International Art Fair as well as the FNB Jo’burg Art Fair’s recent inclusion of the fringe, L’Attitudes Art Fair. They all have a vested interest in furthering artistic voices of and from the continent. So much so is the impact of the continent’s appeal of late, that one may be compelled to believing that Africa’s time has truly come. However, for the Limpopo based multidisciplinary visual artist, educator, poet and cultural activist, Avhashoni Mainganye, Africa and its diverse cultural heritage has seemingly never not been in vogue. I stole a few minutes of this artist’s time to discover what lies beneath this his process, and practice.

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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 [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 [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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Thami Jali talks to curator Jenny Stretton about his vision for the future

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

JS: Metal features prominently in your work, what attracts you to the material?

TJ: You see, I have always been a person who likes to experiment. I have never been afraid to use alternative materials. Of course this whole thing about painting on metal, that on its own I see as a statement. I picked those things up in Clermont, they are of the area and they talk about process, life in the township. That particular container, when I went out in the street to dismantle it, I wasn’t sure I was safe doing it, because drug addicts and hooligans were using it as a shelter. So I was destroying something that was very important to them. Fortunately I didn’t encounter any problems. The fact that I managed to get out there, take all this iron sheeting and destroy this home that was so dangerous to people, to me it is actually a statement, because I live in that area. I am very much affected by what is happening there. Why metaI…I find that the material itself has opened up a new direction for me. I don’t just use any iron sheeting. I use sheeting that has been through fire. In the 80’s when the struggle was at its peak, we saw a lot of buildings being destroyed by fire … people just setting the buildings on fire. I feel that I don’t have to paint people to express the hardships in the township, I can just show it observing spaces and buildings.

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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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In conversation: Meshack Raphalalani, Avhashoni Mainganye and Jameson Ramvivhelo on the need to revive the VhaVenda Art Foundation and Ḓitike

Editorial note: This is a translated transcript of a conversation between former members of the VhaVenda Art Foundation, held on 5 August 2017 at the Victim Empowerment Centre, Thohoyandou, Limpopo. The original video recording (in TshiVenda) can be viewed on YouTube. The conversation formed part of a series of roundtable conversations with community arts networks active in the 1980s and early 1990s that have been convened by ASAI, with financial support from the National Lotteries Commission. Thank you to Gudani Ramikosi for the translation and transcription.

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Owning your Liberation History: Nise Malange on the work and lessons of the Culture and Working Life Project

Note: Nise Malange, poet, activist, archivist and director of the BAT Centre, Durban, was interviewed by ASAI’s Mario Pissarra, Tasneem Wentzel and Scott Williams. The interview took place at the BAT Centre on 24 March 2017, and forms part of ASAI’s Community Arts Legacy Archive, funded by the National Lotteries Commission.

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