Hermine Spies Coleman and the Art of Transition

by Louise Torr

Hermine Spies Coleman’s recent work reflects her intensely personal journey as an artist, from academic training to dealing courageously and compassionately with deeply personal and contemporary issues, demonstrating to viewers the complexities of gender transformation. In a recent exhibition, The Power of Loss and Gain,[1] Hermine explores how the hardship of change and loss is often positively rewarded by gain.

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‘Scars Should also be Crowned’: reflecting on Shelley Barry’s cinematic oeuvre

by Sihle Motsa

Where do we create from? We create from inherently political places. Our stories, when we tell them, reflect our positionality. Whether imperfect, jarring, odd or bold, they mirror our experiences, yearnings, fears and most importantly our experiences of embodiment. We write ourselves figuratively and literally through the reflection of our lives, our traumas. We name ourselves through these acts of creation. Even when our lens is outward bound it betrays a particular disposition, a purview, and articulates, in the words of poet Adrienne Rich, ‘a politics of location’. [1] We create with and from our bodies, spinning intricate webs around these vessels, which simultaneously burden and liberate us.

Shelley Barry works as an artist and filmmaker who exists and creates from a being that is both within and at the edge of the world. Her films are synopses that map the neglected inner world of the queer and disabled subject. They trace what it means to live and be in the nexus of disability and queerness, what it means to love, cry, dream and create from this place, a place that for many represents barrenness, given the ways disability is posited as lack.

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Collective Healing through the Archive: Nomusa Makhubu inserting the erased

by Sibongile Oageng Msimango

Documentary photography serves to present accurate accounts of historical events. The key word in this understanding is ‘accurate’, which gives the impression that what is documented is fact or undisputable truth. The issue with such a simplified definition is that it disregards the subjectivity and perspective of the photographer. It is through the eyes and the lens of the photographer that the image is constructed and captured. The extent of the subjectivity of the photographer can be noticed in anthropological photographic archives, where European photographers documented the indigenous people they encountered on their explorations without providing much context as to who they were, to which cultures they belonged or what their names were.

A prime example, is the archive of J.W. Lindt where he took portraits of various First Australian groups of people in the 1800s, in a studio that was dressed to look like the subjects were out in the wild, in their ‘natural habitat’. J.W. Lindt captioned the photographs such as “Aboriginal man” without even attempting to place them in the context of their respective cultures or mentioning their names. Would it be true to say that such documentary photography captured in a wildly adorned studio through the western gaze is an accurate depiction of an undisputable truth?

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The Silent Revolutionary: an interview with Judy Ann Seidman

by Sipho Mdanda

Judy Ann Seidman is a visual artist and cultural activist with a long history of producing politically and socially engaged work. Born in the USA in 1951, she moved with her parents to newly independent Ghana and subsequently lived most of her life in the frontline states, before moving to South Africa in 1990.

Sipho Mdanda: What are your earliest memories of encounters with art and art-making and how old were you when you decided to be an artist, if that is your preferred title?

Judy Ann Seidman: My grandmother was an artist, a life-long political activist, feminist and pacifist.  So I was brought up with art-making, particularly art-making as an act of political activism. When I was five or six, I announced that I wanted to be a painter or a pirate (pirate was not a practical career choice, of course).

SM: What artists did you look to for inspiration?

JAS: Early influences were my grandmother’s work, then the drawings of German artist Kathe Kollwitz when I was around 8 or 9. I was overwhelmed by the work of Mexican muralists (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros) which we saw on a trip to Mexico when I was 10. At that time, Frida Khalo was not known as one of the group — a major act of gender discrimination in art history. I only became aware of her work when she was “discovered” in the late 1960s. 

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Self as Ghost: Haunted whiteness in Lizza Littlewort’s painting

by Lize van Robbroeck

“In great pain and terror one begins to access the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to re-create oneself according a principle more humane and more liberating: one begins to attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history” – James Baldwin [1]

As a composite of ‘haunting’ and ‘ontology’, Derrida’s ‘hauntology’ provides a way of dealing with the spectral presence of a past that is very much with us. [2] Since hauntology is an attempt to make sense of a haunted present, it is a practice that responds particularly to times that are ‘out of joint’. [3] Lizza Littlewort’s forays into South African colonial history can be interpreted as such a hauntological investigation into the ways in which Western capitalist exploitation caused global diasporic spatial and temporal disjunctions not only for the colonised, but also for a settler subject that is haunted by her own ontological displacement. In her more recent works, this interest in the haunted aftermath of global capitalism expands to encompass the apocalyptic environmental effects and affects of the Capitalocene. [4]

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An Engaged Practice: a conversation with Ayesha Price


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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Gabrielle Goliath: performance as a ‘different kind of inhabitance’

by M. Neelika Jayawardane


Gabrielle Goliath’s range of works – from her earliest exhibited work, Ek is ‘n Kimberly Coloured (2007), and following that, Berenice 10-28 (2010), Stumbling Block (2011), Roulette (2012), Personal Accounts (2014), Elegy (2015), and her latest work, This Song Is For… (2019) – employ embodied or voice-centred performances, and/or installations that utilise sound and video. Her work situates itself, as she notes, “within contexts marked by the traces, disparities and as-of-yet unreconciled traumas of colonialism and apartheid, as well as socially entrenched structures of patriarchal power and rape-culture.” [1] The imperative to expose – to make visible that which we would otherwise wish to maintain unacknowledged, out-of-sight, or masked by veils of performative concern – is a thread that runs through each of Goliath’s projects. In drawing urgent attention to gender-based and sexual violence, and the broad, long-lasting effects of land dispossession and forced migrations, her work speaks powerfully to present day effects of seemingly distant legislative decisions, and the violent patriarchy behind much of South Africa’s present.

However, although Goliath’s projects unapologetically unmask the brutality with which we treat women, non-binary, and transgender people, they are more than a commentary that seeks to highlight systematic and systemic violence that subtend our ordinary interactions and ways of being. And whilst her works create spaces for reflection and mourning, they are more than ritualised lamentations that highlight victimhood. The endpoint for Goliath’s works is not ‘bringing attention’ to the violence that we, as individuals, communities, and nations are often not ready to address. After all, it takes more than ‘awareness building’ and ‘talking about it’ to challenge patriarchal and state violence. Instead, performance allows Goliath to create more complex possibilities, offering her means of “resisting erasure and violation of bodies routinely subjected to forms of physical, ontological and structural violence.” [2] For audiences, her projects create spaces for “opportunities for affective, relational encounters” that refute “the violence through which black, brown, feminine, queer and vulnerable bodies are routinely fixed through forms of representation.” [3]

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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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