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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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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