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

[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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