Gamakhulu Diniso and the Busang Effect: Arts and politics in the Vaal Triangle

by Nkululeko Khumalo


The 1980s in South Africa are remembered for their heightened political turmoil. This was a turning point, as the apartheid government began to weaken for a number of reasons, including increased pressure from the arts sector. This could be seen in the activities of the United Democratic Front (UDF), and other anti-apartheid cultural work in the form of festivals, conferences and exhibitions. [1] It was the decade of art’s increasing use as a ‘political tool’, instrumentalising the slogan, “culture as a weapon of the struggle”. [2]

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Hiding behind simple things: the iconography of the Everyday in the work of Randolph Hartzenberg

by Thelma Mort

I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me;
if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things,
you’ll touch what my hand has touched,
Our hand-prints will merge.  

Yannis Ritsos, “The Meaning of Simplicity” [1]

Randolph Hartzenberg’s work — encompassing painting, drawing, printmaking, installation, sculpture, performance and video — spans several decades. Prone to working in series, and exploring a theme with intense subjectivity over a span of a few years, his output can be described as extensive and varied. Despite this, common threads in themes and iconography can be found running through his work. 

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Sociocultural themes in the art of Velile Soha

by Sule Ameh James

Born in Cape Town in 1957, Velile Soha was interested in art from a young age. This interest was nurtured through his informal education at the Nyanga Arts Centre in the 1970s. It was there that he was encouraged to apply to study at the Evangelical Lutheran Art and Craft Centre (commonly known as Rorke’s Drift), KwaZulu-Natal, where he enrolled in 1981. Established in the 1960s, Rorke’s Drift was one of the earliest centres that provided art training for black South Africans under apartheid. It aimed to nurture the artistic heritage of Africa in its practitioners. 

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Making sense of what landscape is about: a conversation with Mduduzi Xakaza

by Mario Pissarra

Mduduzi Xakaza (1965–) paints landscapes that draw on his lived experience in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Localised histories and concerns are brought into conversation with broader philosophical questions regarding relations between humans and the natural environment, and the role of aesthetics in creating a dialogue or exchange between artist and spectator. Deliberately eschewing grand narratives, Xakaza’s paintings quietly elicit contemplation of contemporary debates about land ownership and usage, and the extent to which western aesthetic tropes can be repurposed to articulate contemporary African perspectives. [1]

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Nkoali Nawa‘s Visual Aesthetics of Social Reportage and Dialogues with Being-Black-in-the-World

by Kolodi Senong

Bonang banna ba rona (see our husbands)
Ba tjheka taemane, gauta (digging for diamonds, gold)
Majwe ruo la heso (precious stones our wealth)
Bonang tjhaba sa heso (see our nation)
Makgoba re fetotswe (were turned into slaves)
Bonang fatshe la bo ntata rona (see the land of our fathers)
Madi a rona a phalla (our blood spilling)
Matla a rona a hodisa ba ditjhabeng (our energy spent nurturing foreigners)
Ba mose (from abroad)

Caiphus Katse Semenya, “Hauteng”

Born in 1965, Nkoali Nawa’s life and work brings to mind the mournful “Hauteng (Gauteng),” written by Caiphus Semenya and sung by Miriam Makeba. Released in 1974, the song laments how, since the colonial-apartheid era, black people have worked in the mines while being accommodated in gloomy and overcrowded compounds. [2] Interestingly, Nawa asserts that “listening to Hugh Masekela’s song, ‘Stimela,’ provided the ideas for most of my work, which explores the harsh realities of life in the mines,” [3] where certain people used to live like dogs in the barracks. [4] Many of these migrant workers perished in the hazardous process of enriching foreigners, leaving behind broken families, orphans and widows. Laws made leaving such contracted work for any reason whatsoever a punishable offence deserving of a jail term. [5] Nawa himself underwent the controversial and humiliating mine medical examinations [6] as a rite of passage into Goldfields’ mankalanyana (rail-mounted locomotives) section. [7] During his two years toiling in the belly of the earth, Nawa also taught adult literacy classes in order to supplement his meagre remuneration. He then spent a further two years working as a mine security guard. Unsatisfied with his career prospects, Nawa resolved to save money to study the visual arts. 

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Julia Hango: Techniques of Asserting Humanity

by Bongisa Msutu

How individuals of differing society define their humanity is based on what that particular society prioritises. The modern western colonial point of view prioritisesthe sense of sight. All things, people and processes are judged according to what or how they look, and this is why the human body has become the site onto which social construction of differences are mapped. [1] Humanity was and still has been reserved for bodies that look a particular way – white European bodies. Discriminatory systems were legalised to ensure that bodies behave in an acceptable manner socially and politically. Black female bodies – within the modern colonial framework – have been subjected to legislated systems of sexism, hypersexuality and racism in an effort to justify their abuse and to dehumanise them. Even beyond the eradication of these discriminating legal systems, the doctrine (Christianity) that advocated them still exists, and the narrative thereof is deeply entrenched in society. Modern western citizenship is not available for female bodies, as they (‘naturally’) transgress social and cultural constructions of sexual appropriateness and political acceptability. [2]

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Helena Uambembe: Listening to images of 32 Battalion

by Keely Shinners

From 1966 to 1990, during the Apartheid era in South Africa, an estimated 600,000 men — most of them school-leaving white men — were conscripted for national military service in the South African Defence Force (SADF). They underwent training and were deployed to fight against liberation movements in Namibia and Angola. [1] These conflicts in neighbouring countries have been rather vaguely described as the Border War, both at the time and in contemporary literature. They formed a part of the National Party’s total response to what it perceived as a total onslaught of communism and African nationalism, and as a result, the state regularly enacted violence against its own citizens in an attempt to suppress anti-Apartheid resistance in South Africa. [2] A useful way to think about the function of the SADF might be found in Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics (2019): “Power … continuously refers and appeals to exception, emergency, and a fictionalised notion of the enemy. It also labours to produce the same exception, emergency, and fictionalised enemy.” [3] 

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Lizette Chirrime: Metamorphosis, healing and hybridity

by Lena Sulik

Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life, to make something that is fragmented — which is what fear and anxiety do to a person — into something whole. Louise Bourgeois [1]

A young girl from a land of mermaids faces a wicked stepmother; she undergoes an arduous journey to a distant place to fulfil her destiny; she dreams in signs and portents; she returns home armed with new knowledge, reborn.[2] The work of Mozambican textile artist Lizette Chirrime flows from a pool of myth and a personal history of anguish, weaving together elements of form, texture and colour in compositions that re-imagine the way the artist experiences the world. Creating primarily bold collages of intricately patterned African fabric in which abstracted figures float and dance on bright surfaces, Chirrime makes compelling use of both the material aspects inherent in her medium and its complicated history in order to heal the wounds of her past and tell a new life story. “I refashion my self-image and transcend a painful upbringing that left me shattered and broken,” she explains. “I have literally ‘re-stitched’ myself together.”[3]

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Peter Clarke: There was always tomorrow

By Candice Allison

South Africa is a very inspiring place. I am very much interested in people. […] People here are more involved with each other. The climate has a lot to do with it. And the variety of people — the physical variety — is very exciting in fact and the way people interact or not. I used to think of South Africa as a mad house but a mad house is far more interesting, really.[1]

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Zemba Luzamba: Postcolonial identities in motion

by Khanyisile Mawhayi

It was the formal qualities in the painting of Zemba Luzamba – notably his crisply delineated forms, vivid use of colour, and economical application of paint – that first attracted me to his work. Subsequently, I became intrigued by his complex layered themes and the question regarding the extent to which his identity as a Congolese artist resident in South Africa infuses his work. His paintings carry with them the personal, social, and political histories of the artist. Despite this specificity, they also speak to a broader sense of the artist as a global citizen.

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­­Participatory Pedagogies: The African Institute of Art (AIA)

by Steven Sack

Author’s note: This is a personal account of the establishment of the African Institute of Art. As a lecturer at the time in the Art History and Fine Art Department at the University of South Africa (UNISA) from 1984, I spent time in the early years of the AIA as the first director and later a board member. This article is an attempt to describe the conditions that enabled the AIA to develop, thrive, and ultimately collapse. 

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Maimuna Adam: Negotiating the in-between

Maimuna Adam has history of frequent travel and movement through Mozambique, Sweden, South Africa, and the United Kingdom which affected her practice, perspectives, and identity. These experiences of travel, crossing boundaries and developing work in a variety of other spaces is reflected in her past and current practice as a contemporary artist. In a series of exchanges via email and Zoom Adam and I spoke about how home, heritage, and displacement are expressed and documented in her works.[1]

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African Art Centre: Against all odds

by Anthea Martin

Download this essay as a PDF

Over the last sixty years the African Art Centre (AAC) in Durban has survived against all odds.  It was initiated during the darkest days of apartheid South Africa, when lack of educational and artistic opportunities threatened to keep the talents of black artists out of sight. Despite many obstacles, the AAC persevered from the 1960s through to the 1990s and became the hub of many artistic initiatives in KwaZulu-Natal, supporting and promoting black artists who were deliberately disadvantaged by apartheid legislation. Despite the obstructive constraints, a climate of optimism, expectation and excitement prevailed in the world of African art in the province. 

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Jill Trappler: A way of Reading

by Ricky Burnett

“There are things that seem like secrets that someone is keeping, but aren’t being kept by anyone.” Cesar Aira, The Seamstress and the Wind [1]

To read a painting, one must gather some insight into its origins, look to the ground of the painting’s being. To read a painting is not to describe it, it is not to describe its effects and affects, nor is it to describe its mechanisms, though this can be helpful. To read a painting well is to begin to understand the roots of its seriousness.

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The Alexandra Arts Centre: Interviews with Bongiwe Dhlomo-Mautloa, Stephen Maqashela and Gabriel Masike.

by Sipho Gwala 

I grew up in Alexandra Township, and all my life have had to leave the township in order to learn visual arts, which is why I am so interested in the history of the Alexandra Arts Centre (AAC). As artists and organisers now, getting more insight into the AAC and its cultural work histories is important, as many of the people who knew the centre are passing away, and there is little documentation. Here, I interview Bongiwe Dhlomo-Mautloa, Stephen Maqashela, and Gabriel Masike, who were all directly linked to the centre, either as students or staff members.

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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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Ann Gollifer: Seeking pathways to home

by Khumo Sebambo

Ann Gollifer engages with narratives of heritage, displacement and belonging. Gollifer uses heritage and history — sometimes filtered through personal experience, memory and imagination — as reference points for her art. At various points her work can’t be discerned from her history and the contexts she comes from.

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Dathini Mzayiya: Letting the music take him

by Ben Verghese

At the 1978 Jazz Festival Willisau (Switzerland), Johnny Mbizo Dyani, best known as a member of the Blue Notes, closed his solo concert with a song, Let the Music Take You.[1] Out of a circling piano melody Dyani sings: “Music is love, everybody knows. Let the music take you!” it is believed that a year earlier, when in Lagos at Festac ’77, Dyani was recruited by the ANC to represent the organisation from his sites of exile in Scandinavia. Almost nine months after Dyani’s Willisau gig, Dathini Mzayiya was born in Komani (then Queenstown) in the Eastern Cape.

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“Ordinary People, Ordinary Issues, Ordinary Emotions”: Practising with Garth Erasmus and black consciousness

by Thulile Gamedze

“Although much still remains to be discovered, and still more to be developed, this Biko—who knew that we inhabit a ‘larger world than the sophisticated westerner’—still has a lot to say. This Biko belongs to a different order of time, heterogeneous and dense, where the dead still live with us, and past and present are reconfigured in the instantaneous time of the here and now.” [1]

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An explosion of worker creativity in Natal: The catalytic role of the Culture and Working Life Project

by Frank Meintjies


The Culture and Working Life Project (CWLP) was launched in 1983, to assist union members in giving expression to their experiences of exploitation and oppression, in the form of cultural productions. [1] Initiated by Ari Sitas, and based with him in the Sociology Department at the University of Natal, CWLP worked closely with the trade unions. It:

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Faith XLVII: Optimism is a strategy for making a better future

by Lena Sulik

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.” — Toni Morrison[1]

“Optimism Is a Strategy for Making a Better Future”. Written in letters a storey high, these words underline The Silent Watcher, an almost 200-square-metre mural painted by Faith XLVII in Philadelphia, 2019.[2] While their selection was inspired by the writings of Noam Chomsky (who was born in the city), the words are not just a convenient quotation.

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On Fish, Birds and Pears: A conversation with Kristin NG-Yang

Interview by Carol Brown

Kristin Ng-Yang was born in Shandong, China in 1970 and came to South Africa to in 2001 to study English. She settled in Pietermaritzburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal where she still lives. I had met Kristin briefly and have always been fascinated by her art.  The interview was meant to be a chat over coffee, but the COVID-19 lockdown changed that. Instead, we spoke over Zoom and exchanged emails. 

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Tracey Derrick: Water that glistens, rinses and brings us home

by Clare Patrick

Working in the photographic darkroom is like a ritual, a meditative process that requires focus, care, and time. It is a collaboration of delicate synchronisation between the photographer, materials, machines, and chemistry. Tracey Derrick’s work holds the residue of ritual and time, understood through her commitment to darkroom processes and manifested in the themes of her photography. Water recurs throughout her images and across her years of working, as a subject, as a theme, as a surface and as a tool in the darkroom. Her considered use of water exemplified in three series: Basic Necessity, a series of portraits focused on her days spent with sex workers, images from Liquid Life which are drawn from projects throughout her career, and The Waters of Life series that is situated within the ritual of baptism amidst ocean waves. Water is a central component to each of these works, mediating the way figures interact with each other, with their surroundings and with Derrick as the photographer.

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Broadening the ‘Black Consciousness Aesthetic’: Muziwakhe Nhlabatsi’s illustrations for Staffrider, 1979-1981

By Deirdre Pretorius 

Muziwakhe Nhlabatsi, born in April of 1954, contributed illustrations to the anti-apartheid literary magazine Staffrider, from 1979 to 1987, under the shortened name “Mzwakhe”. [1] His illustrations appeared from the first issue of the second volume in 1979, until the fourth issue of the sixth volume in 1987. During this time, his illustrations graced three covers and he contributed over seventy images to accompany short stories, extracts from books, poems, plays and other texts by well-known authors such as Es’kia Mphahlele, Njabulo Ndebele, Mothobi Mutloatse, Chris van Wyk, Mongane Wally Serote and Andries Oliphant.  

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Jon Berndt: Imagined Billboards

by Keely Shinners

This essay examines three posters from Jon Berndt’s Imagined Billboards series (2005-2010), a body of work which has yet to be critiqued, due largely to Berndt having positioned himself outside the structures of the South African art industry. So too because the works were only exhibited after his death, in a seminar room named in his honour in the Arts Block at the University of Cape Town.    

Seeing as there is little published material regarding Jon Berndt’s life and career, some biographical detail is warranted to understand what drove him to create the Imagined Billboard series [1]. Particularly potent for me is how the Billboards, which were proposed towards the end of his life, synthesise Berndt’s interests in art, activism, study and design.

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Umsi: Exhibition review

Note: This review was originally published online in 2005.

Umsi (the smoke) is a group exhibition featuring Lindile Magunya, Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi, Thulani Shuku, Dathini Mzayiya, Lonwabo Kilani, and Vivien Kohler. Inspired by Magunyas “documentation of the ongoing burning of the shacks in his area”; the artists share a “common concern around the housing problems in the Western Cape [and are] questioning the ongoing burning of the informal settlements”. They believe that through coming together they can “voice these social issues louder than an individual can.” The motivation for collective action is also a practical one. The artists, who between them have studied at every local institution accessible them, primarily NGO’s, colleges and workshops, “decided to create our own opportunities [to build] our group career as well as our individual careers [due to] the gap …between galleries and emerging artists, and … the lack of resources for …solo exhibitions” Guided by emerging curator Vuyile Voyiya, who has been mentor to the group, these paintings come from a workshop held last year as well as from works produced subsequently.

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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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Garth Erasmus: The unorthodox painter

Note: This review was originally published online in 2005.

Garth Erasmus comes from rural roots in the Eastern Cape . He studied Fine Arts at Rhodes University (1978-80) before moving to Cape Town . He taught art from 1982-1997 before becoming a full-time artist. Erasmus is well represented in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, Washington DC.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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White/Left: the discursive cartoons of Stacey Stent

by Keely Shinners

Aristocrats’ potbellies swell out of their suits. Politicians’ heads balloon as one defamatory statement after another pours out of their overgrown mouths. This is the language of the political cartoon. It’s satirical and hyperbolic, cutthroat and to the point. It’s the language through which cartoonists are able to talk about power. The cartoonist draws attention to all that is criminal, atrocious and corrupt about those in power, while, at the same time, upends their authority, making them out for fools. South African political cartoons, for the most part, follow these same tropes, both visually and thematically. See, for instance, the work of Zapiro, Derek Bauer, Anton Kannemeyer, Conrad Botes, and Mogorosi Motshumi, to name a few. [1]

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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


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.

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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]

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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.

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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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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


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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