Vakalisa Arts Associates, 1982 – 1992: Reflections

by Keith Adams

South Africa has undergone many political, social and economic changes since the arrival of the colonists on its shores in the early 17th century. Both British and white Afrikaner minority rule effectively dispossessed the local black majority of land, resources, and basic human rights.

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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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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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Maskerade – Exhibition Review

by Bridget Thompson

Review of ‘Maskerade’ by Lionel Davis, Association of Visual Arts, August 2009.
This text was originally published on Davis’ artist page on asai.co.za, August 2009.

Lionel Davis is for the first time at 70 plus working as a full- time artist.

His life has traversed childhood and youth in District 6, political activism and imprisonment on Robben Island, two years of art training at Rorke’s Drift, many contributions to the social practice of art like running the Community Arts Project silkscreen workshop for 8 years, participating in the annual Thupelo workshops for more than 20 years, formal study at UCT where he gained a BAFA in 1995, back to Robben Island as a tour guide for 10 years and now finally full time artist.

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Picking Up the Strands of Our Heritage

by Garth King

This text was originally published on Davis’ artist page on asai.co.za

Muizenberg artist Lionel Davis, 77, had a special connection with Nelson Mandela — as a fellow political prisoner in the B-Section of Robben Island’s Maximum Security Prison in the 1960s.

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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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The Imvaba Arts Collective: A brief history of its activities and significance (1)

By Eben Lochner

As political conditions were changing following the unbanning of political prisoners on 2 Feb 1990 there was a sense among activists that the conditions and goals of their work would shift. Already, activist and Judge Albie Sachs made an infamous call in 1989 to ban the use of art as a weapon of struggle. This drew responses from various cultural activists that challenged the legitimacy of his assessment of the state of art in South Africa as well as his suggestion for moving forward. (2) Inherent in Sachs’ critique was the idea that artwork representing the political struggle was somehow not appropriate for a new democracy. This was due to a shallow agit-prop visual culture which relied on re-using the same slogans for legitimacy and disregarded aesthetic quality. Examining the history of the Imvaba arts collective in Port Elizabeth gives us insight into the productive role played by artists in visually articulating vision for a new South Africa. In this article I will show that Imvaba’s approach to art was not about simple sloganeering, but the promotion of a value system that was believed to be vital to a non-racial South Africa.

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