Ann Gollifer: Seeking pathways to home

by Khumo Sebambo

Ann Gollifer’s art embodies and engages 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.

Like his compatriot, Mzayiya makes art that blurs the lines between political action and music; their music and artmaking are political acts. This essay focuses on a selection of artworks and projects composed by Mzayiya between 2012 and 2018, years in which the artist lived in Cape Town. Underscoring this reading is recognition of the musicality reverberating through Mzayiya’s practice and his continued engagement with collective/conversational experimentations with musicians.

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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

Introduction 

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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