The Investec Cape Town Art Fair is a platform that showcases the great diversity of contemporary art from Africa to the world. In its 8th edition, the fair takes place from the 14th to the 16th of February. Africa Is Now will be selling limited prints of some of our work and t-shirts. In anticipation for the fair, here are 10 reasons to to experience art from Africa and the world.
1. TODAY HERE, TOMORROW THE WORLD
New visions of the continent and the arrival of artists from Africa and its diaspora as important participants on the international art scene can be witnessed on the main exhibitions of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair.
TOMORROWS/TODAY will be a curated section about the sociopolitical dynamics of the present day. The guest co-curators for 2020 – Nkule Mabaso (Curator at Michaelis Galleries, Cape Town) and Luigi Fassi (Artistic Director of MAN Contemporary Art Museum in Nuoro, Italy) – have curated a cross-section of the most exciting, emerging and artists from Africa and the Diaspora.
From its inception, the aim of TOMORROWS/TODAY has been to shine a light on emerging and under-represented artists; set to be tomorrow’s leading names. It is open to those working on and beyond the African continent and, as the title implies, the ongoing theme is one of transformation, and experimentation showcasing unorthodox art forms addressing current social and political issues.
2. GOING SOLO
The third iteration of the SOLO section will examine the issue of space: its politicisation through issues of geopolitics, migration, spatial practice and theory, diasporic studies and borders, national and abstract.
In anticipation of the exhibition, art fair director Laura Vincenti says that the theme has been selected to communicate how artists speak and relate to Space in their works and beyond.
“So there is a double theme in one theme — the space inside the artwork, and how the work is placed to interact with space.” The theme of Space also gestures towards broader cultural sensitivities in the sociopolitical moment, in which there is a heated national debate about historical entitlements to Space.
3. WELCOME TO THE WORLD STAGE
The list of great artists due to land in Cape Town is staggering, reflecting on the significance of the moment. With the proliferation of art fairs in the world, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair is the only international fair on the continent. The Investec Cape Town Art Fair stands as a medium for creating a dialogue between the northern and southern hemisphere – it is fair to say that the 2020 edition of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair presents itself as a unique and special opportunity to experience an international platform for artists from all over the world.
The Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020 will happen on what can be described as a veritable world stage, showcasing talent, dialogue and curated display.
4. WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF ARTE POVERA
Local visitors to the Investec Cape Town Art Fair will be introduced to the wonderful art movement Arte Povera when one of its major founders is exhibited this year.
Experience the complex world of outsider art when it takes this bold step, at the art fair, towards making itself known to the broader art audience.
5. AMERICA ON POINT
Due to be featured at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020, is Haitian artist Andy Robert, represented by Los Angeles-based gallery Hannah Hoffman. Robert is based in Brooklyn, New York, and his large-scale, experimental paintings pick apart our visual reality so that we may examine the minutiae of life. The Investec Cape Town Art Fair will again host the American gallery Hannah Hoffman, forging a path for intersectional dialogue down South.
New York-born artist Amelia Etlinger, represented by Osart Gallery in Milan, was an artist associated with the Fluxus movement, visual poetry and the Italian Poesie Vivisa community. Etlinger moved with her family to Clifton Park, New York in the late 1960s. Etlinger regarded herself as a poet; after reading E.E. Cummings, she started to create visual poetry that evolved into elaborate and collaborative works of natural material collected in the woods behind her house as well as fabric, thread, beads, costume jewellery, Japanese papers, and other found material.
At the same time, Los Angeles-born artist Riley Holloway will appear on the SOLO platform of the Investec Art Fair 2020. Represented by German gallery Lars Kristen Bode, Holloway is a prestigious Hunting Prize finalist. A figurative painter, he works out of Dallas but was born in Los Angeles. In his paintings he examines Black masculinity and asks us to imagine a world where dignity is not a privilege but a right.
6. WASTE NOT WANT NOT
Taking cognisance of our overburdened planet a host of artists exhibiting at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020, are using the detritus of human life as inspiration or raw material for their work.
Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, represented at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair by gallery Mimmo Scognamiglio in Milan, Italy. In her work she re-contextualises and de-contextualises existing objects; and is known for making a chandelier out of tampons. She rose to prominence after exhibiting at the 51stVenice Biennale in 2005, was the first woman and the youngest artist to exhibit at the Palace of Versailles, and has had a solo show at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Congolese artist Patrick Bongoy (represented by EBONY/CURATED of Cape Town) who will exhibit his creatures created from rubber and hessian. The Cape Town based artist’s work is a response to the global reality of literal and figurative environmental pollution. This encompasses the entire spectrum from the erosion of economic viability, the impact on a community and individual behaviour and socio-cultural decay of the rural and urban landscape.
Nigerian artist Nnenna Okore, represented by German gallery, Sakihle&Me, has received international acclaim for her richly textured abstract sculptures and installations. Her highly tactile sculptures respond to the rhythms and contours of everyday life, combining reductive methods of shredding, fraying, twisting and teasing with constructive processes of tying, weaving, stitching and dyeing. Inspired by forms, topographies, and phenomena related to place, memory, time, and language, she invites her viewers to consider and encounter earthly structures more delicately. She is deeply concerned with earth’s vulnerability amidst the wave of climate disaster in its path. In her works, she romanticizes nature’s sublimity and the essence of life.
7. IT’S ALL TALK
It’s time again for the art-going public to hear and be heard. It is customary in the art world to give artists, curators, gallerists and specialist collectors a platform upon which they can interact. Tumelo Mosaka will return to Investec Cape Town Art Fair in the capacity of guest curator for Cultural Platforms and the Talks Programme.
Commenting on the contribution of a strong Talks Programme to Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Mosaka says, “The Talks Programme is a perfect platform to explore various topics engaged by artists. It is the vehicle for generating discussion, and debate about current issues and the marketplace. It provides an opportunity to share and learn from international professionals alongside local specialists.”
Hot topics in 2020 include Philanthropy in Africa, an artists’ discussion titled Constructing Landscapes of Possibilities with Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi and Malebona Maphutse, moderated by Sharlene Khan; discussion between artists Kemang we Lehulere and François-Xavier Gbré of France; Museums in the 21st Century with Adriana Rispoli, an Independent Curator from Italy with Koyo Kouoh, Director of Zeitz MOCAA, and Sonia Lawson, Director of the Palais de Lomé in Togo. Other topics include Investing in Culture and the Quest for Sustainable Art Platforms.
8. NIGHT VIBES
Once again, the hugely successful Gallery Night will take visitors to explore the culture of Cape Town evenings. The Friday night event allows visitors to hop on a bus and tour the city galleries.
Visitors from beyond the Cape, who’ve identified artists and galleries from the city, at the fair, will gain a greater understanding of Cape Town and its diverse offerings.
Film fans are also in for a treat as art meets cinema at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2020. Don’t miss out on a curated art documentaries sundowns at the Labia Theatre, Cape Town’s renowned oldest cinema. The programme ART.DOC is the most recent edition to the fair’s programme; and is part of an initiative to educate those who are interested in art locally and internationally.
This event is sponsored by The Consulate of Italy in Cape Town, free of charge to all visitors and is on a first-come first-serve basis.
9. MODERN MASTERS
Expect a foundation course in South African art pioneers at the Past/Modern section of this year’s Fair, which will showcase work by photographers David Goldblatt, Peter Magubane and Paul Weinberg, a solo presentation by Dr. Esther Mahlangu, as well as a selection of works by the increasingly sought after Amadlozi group, Cecil Skotnes, Edoardo Villa, Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae.
Curated by Cape Town veteran gallerist Joāo Ferreira, visitors can expect a panorama of works from coveted areas of historical South African art movements.
Ferreira’s curatorial statement reminds us that “Artistic expression has always been an accurate social barometer. Past / Modern will draw from South Africa’s history of late colonial, apartheid and post-apartheid years – including artists originating from formal education, community centres, self-taught or cultural tradition, who have reached consensus as to their vital contribution to the evolution of South African art history.”
10. CHAMPIONING CRUCIAL CULTURAL CAUSES
The ongoing Cultural Platform section presents the work of cultural institutions and non-profit organisations who nurture and support artistic production in the region, through exhibitions and artist residencies.
Fair visitors will be struck by the appearance of artwork by the late, great Gerard Sekoto presented by The Gerard Sekoto Foundation, under the aegis of The Norval Foundation.
The NJE Collective of Namibia, an artist-run collective initiated for artists from Southern Africa in general, will present three artists: Rudolf Seibeb (Namibia), Chuma Somdaka (South Africa) and Jo Rogge (South Africa / Namibia).
The organisation Eh!Woza will screen youth-made films examining the local HIV and TB co-epidemic. And, from KwaZulu-Natal, the KZNSA, the force behind Durban’s leading contemporary gallery, will exhibit the renowned Derrick Nxumalo and Andile Maphumulo, in a celebration of township and urban life through the expressionistic use of colour and wild geometric lines.
For more information visit investeccapetownartfair.co.za
on paper, 39.3 x 26 in
Acclaimed artists Johan Conradie and Karl Gustav Sevenster form the artist duo AD-Reflex. Their current work, Hindsights and Foresights is a navigation of moments of unexpected beauty in the mundane.
‘Of all the forms of wisdom, ‘hindsight’ is by general consent the least merciful, the most unforgiving. With the benefit of hindsight, one begins to search one’s past for such “turning points”, and is apt to start seeing them everywhere.’-
Where does your name, AD-Reflex originate?
The “AD” within AD-Reflex, refers to notions of ‘ascent’ and ‘descent’.
Seemingly opposites collide and coexist in the work of the artist duo. These so-called ‘collision boundaries’ where opposites meet, spark the “reflex” or the creative energy, that is AD-Reflex.
Ad-Reflex is a collaborative duo. How does this dynamic work and how does it translate to your practice?
Collaboration implies the rejection of the idea of the individual artist as genius. Instead, our collective voice spontaneously becomes a singular voice. From the start, we had very similar overlapping interests and visual observations. The impetus of new work might be sparked by anything from travels, to mundane daily life experiences. We compile various design/collage ideas that are vigorously scrutinized to achieve the desired identity and vision of a new artwork. Fine-tuning the initial concept to achieve the most desired final result follows this, including elements like size, scale, technical and production process. Although we both have distinctly different skill sets, we share a unified vision, and that includes equal involvement throughout the process.
There are recurring themes of the classical present in much of your work, but also the subversive. Tell us more about this process’ evolution and the AD-Reflex language.
Our initial partnership was sparked by an intense shared interest and love for the baroque and the classical. Both artists have embraced ever-present ‘duality’ in the baroque, as well as ‘drama’, ‘pathos’, ‘sensuous colours’ and ‘swelling, sculptural forms’. In spite of the love of the baroque and the classical, we retain a firm grounding in the contemporary. We undermine the idea of flawless progress in the contemporary moment, that the right direction is always known.
Instead, everything can mix with everything; everything is
possible and in perpetual transformation. Triviality mingles with glamour, banality with sophistication, and despair with beauty.
In several works from Hindsights and Foresights, subjects from the local lived urban everyday experience are a pivotal departure. Can you elaborate on that?
We don’t see it as a pivotal departure. The similarity between a Rembrandt etching of the poor and destitute in the 17th century, and a 21st-century man scrambling through garbage in contemporary Africa in a recycling effort seems distinctly similar to us. The garbage collectors have become an everyday reality within the South African contemporary landscape. In conversation with several of these guys, we become aware of the pivotal role they play, and their collective sense of community.
Beauty and despair appear constants of the AD-Reflex oeuvre. The tactility and movement of paint as a sculptural medium could also be seen as an impassioned, near-violent response. Can you elaborate on how these reconcile in your work and why?
Duality is ever-present in our work. We see it as our task to subvert the expected and the known. We want to subvert what is traditionally seen as the ‘rift’ between the painterly and the digital. Instead, we celebrate the co-existence or dance between the two art forms. The liminal space where these two meet forms the core of the AD-Reflex expression.
Amongst the various merchants and tea ladies of al Souq al Arabi, one of the city’s oldest and most disreputable open-air markets, Khartoum’s contemporary art scene brews. Hidden above market stalls bursting with produce, toys, electronics and clothes are a collection of sunlit studios where some of Khartoum’s best amateur and professional artists create fine art that explores topics from the youth-led revolution to the divine femininity of the African woman. Deeply talented and beautifully abstract in their expression, these artists often share studios in the small makeshift offices housed inside the high rise buildings within and around the Souq. One organization that seeks to amplify the creativity of the Souq’s scene is Rahiem Shadad’s Sol for Change, a nonprofit that aims to grant artists exposure and revenue through exhibitions, showcases and galleries. Raheim is a curator redefining what it means to exhibit art in Sudan; I caught up with him at his new gallery in al Souq al Arabi.
Why did you open your current gallery location in al Souq al Arabi?
Never have I worked with full on professional artists nor have I ever had more than 20 meters of wall space to exhibit anything. Through my artist friend who I had invited to a previous gallery I met my business partner Nicole; we immediately synced and had the same ideas of what curating in Sudan should look like. She told me she had this gallery space in al Souq al Arabi and I said I wanted to see it and I loved it so we said let’s do it.
What are the challenges you face as a curator?
Let’s just start off, from the get-go, with the fact that there is no curating in Sudan. It almost doesn’t exist and there are no icons to follow. There’s also the issue of public opinion. I don’t want to say that
most people in Sudan are extroverts, but they’re very- they require a lot to be excited. Most people in Sudan are used to seeing art as an expo where fifty artists are filling the entire wall and not leaving one inch empty. What we do is we put a big piece on a wall and leave nothing around it, so you can focus on the piece and you can live the artist’s story and that is not very common here. So it gives us a marketing issue.
We’re slowly working that challenge out.
Does your location in the Souq impact the way you curate art?
This location in the middle of the Souq al Arabi is not the favorite place of people here considering how messy this place is and everything.. [laughs.] We’ve called it the ‘gem of al Souq al Arabi,’ so there’s real pressure to create something that is super elegant and super fancy yet super cultural in the middle of this place. Access is an issue here, with jams and traffic and fumes and the noise and all the things that we see, so we need to work around all of that to be able to deliver something that equals the value of the artwork.
Do you think there’s anything that can be gained by being in this location?
Definitely. I think al Souq al Arabi in general resembles eighty to ninety percent of the truth of Sudan. The diversity that al Souq al Arabi has is very rare to be seen anywhere. If you just sit down at the tea lady downstairs you’ll see someone who’s Nubian, Arab, from the East, from the North and so on. In addition to that, the Souq is a hub for business and trading, so it has all kinds of interests and passions; it is a place where hardworking people come. I think al Souq al Arabi is an underground society in itself. Having people to go through the jam and the fumes and noise is a part of the experience because they have to acknowledge what Sudan is, they have to acknowledge what Sudan
has and that these are the Sudanese people, one hundred percent. You have to acknowledge the Sudanese person and then stand in front of Sudanese artwork; that is the message that is being delivered in this gallery.
So this underground network that exists here, this gallery and the artists and the studios here and there, do you see this network staying here in the Souq? Or are people only here until they can go somewhere better?
I think that having something happening in the Souq that would require you to put in just a little extra effort to reach it makes you really appreciate the art that is being created here. It makes you get out of your bubble a little bit. As for artists, I think most artists might rent a place outside of the Souq to exhibit, but I don’t think in terms of studios they would leave. Because here you are literally two steps away from the biggest bookstore in Khartoum, two steps away from someone who can do your carpentry for you, two steps away from the guy who can do your framing, so most artists would prefer to work from here, it’s just natural.
Offering to take me to visit the studio of a painter based in the Souq named Almoghera Abdulbagi, Raheim leads me through a winding five minute walk through a crowd of traders, buyers and vendors. We duck into a seemingly abandoned building nestled between two storefronts and brave the trek to the top floor where I pass a few doors with signs signifying what lies behind them: a lawyer, a consultant, another lawyer. We knock on the last door in the hallway, painted a brick red, and are greeted by an artist who was borrowing the studio to paint. He had set up right in front of the open window, where the cars and sounds of the pedestrians lie far below and the buildings of the financial district glisten in the near distance. The studio was beautifully sunlit; the walls were covered from ceiling to floor with sketches and drawings. A series of breathtaking paintings- that I would see framed the next day at AlMoghera’s solo exhibition- were propped up around the room to dry. In that airy, golden, colorful studio, it was difficult to hold back curiosity about the artist behind the art. I met up with Almoghera outside the University of Khartoum a few days later, where he was collaborating with local artists on a mural.
Tell me a little bit about your journey towards becoming an artist.
To be honest this whole art and painting thing started with me pretty early but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it because there was no teacher teaching it in high school or something that would make
me think to pursue art. I ended up trying to get a certificate in interior design but that wasn’t an option unless it was a bachelor’s degree, so I ended up doing fine arts instead. It was a really hard beginning trying to create a relationship with painting and color, but now I’m studying fine arts and painting at an institution. There, I feel like I have full freedom to do the things I want to do and explore themes that can touch anybody, whether it’s to do with culture or society.
Now that you have this freedom to create, how do you go about choosing a theme for your art?
For example, your recent exhibition at the gallery in the Souq explores the diversity of women, or the “divine feminine.” Diversity in Sudan is plentiful. On any level, whether its culture, language, tribalism or even just skin color, and people can’t get along because of systems like politics or colonialism that disrupted ourcommunities and brought in racism, regionalism and this pervasive movement towards Arabism; everybody wants to be Arab and forget who we really are.
So do you think of yourself as a political artist?
Any artist could be a political artist without necessarily belonging to one political party or schema but the topics we handle and the solutions we find are coming from an artist’s perspective, of what we see to be right or wrong. The revolution was able to achieve a lot of wins that were right; there have been organizations in Sudan for years that were not able to achieve anything for women’s rights or humans rights, but the revolution was able to achieve this. It is incredible enough that women were referred to as kandakas, which is a word that was only reserved for the Queen of Nubia in older times. So respect for the woman was found, she had a place amongst men, and her role was clearly defined [as a revolutionary.] So this is what I’m honored by, that women were on the frontlines of the revolution and men followed that lead.
Is that what inspired you?
Yes, all of those things are inspiring to me. An artist’s inspiration always comes from the nature around him, whether it’s the community, life at home, higher education, his grandparents.. all of these things are his pathways to knowledge and the things that inspire him. Environment has a huge impact on anybody, so whatever your environment is is what you end up deriving themes from.
You work out of your studio in the Souq al Arabi, how do you find this location?
Well, firstly the Souq allows you to be close to the people. Secondly, I’m very comfortable there because it has a massive diversity of people and tribes and I see different topics and issues discussed there everyday. So I find myself very comfortable there.
Is there a culture between all the artists there?
It’s like any community, we all know each other and have our different sects and unions. The younger guys, we tend to meet up at the cafes or congregate on the streets of al Arabi and drink from the tea
ladies. We also gather at events, whether its museums or galleries and so close relationships naturally form. All our worries and thoughts about society and the world are the same, so there will always be someone who will add to your point of view rather than detract from it.
What is your vision as a Sudanese artist?
My dreams are always going to be big, but the idea is to have art reach the home of every Sudanese family and for people to connect to and value it. The rest of the world was already impressed with what happened here; Sudanese artists are known worldwide. But I don’t want the global attention that comes from the world, I want the global attention that comes from local recognition. I want my people to be the ones that will introduce me to the world, that would be enough.
ARTWORKS: ALMOGHERA ABDULBAGI
PHOTOGRAPHER: IBRAHIM MOHAMMED
TEXT: RUBA EL MELIK
Tsoku Maela is a visual artist hailing from the Lebowakgomo municipality in Limpopo. “An archivist of a future African past in the present time”, Tsoku’s work is an amalgamation of our past, present and future struggles resulting in a visual language that is so vivid it evokes our inherent desire for liberation. Tsoku took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to AFRICA IS NOW about Afrofuturism, mental well-being and his series titled Book Of Maskuline.
What prompted you to pick up a camera and experiment with photography?
Life. And at that time a confusing and miserable one. I was looking for a way out of myself and the only thing I had was a camera that I hadn’t used in 3 years or so. It was a moment when my quiet desperation to live and to live beautifully came into contact with the dying embers of my soul. I just wanted to see them for myself. So I used what I had, which was a bedroom in Woodstock, a window for lighting, an entry-level camera plus kit lens, and a stack of books for a tripod. For the first time in my life, I felt completely free and realized the value of life regardless of my circumstances.
Your work tends to focus on Afrofuturism and this vision of our future society, why is this important for you?
Most of the art we consume as South Africans is political art that focuses on colonial history and the black body within it. While this archiving of history makes sense given our relatively young democracy, it offers us no solutions. The role of Afrofuturism isn’t to introduce an aesthetic that looks African but to tap into the power of African collective memory by creating references we can use to re-imagine the African narrative. To cure the ills that plague the African psyche. And there is a lot we need to get through in our PTSD. But we must not lose sight of the power to choose who we become tomorrow and it all begins today. So I’d like to create an archive that appeases the idea.
Mental health in Africa. We as Africans have faced and are still facing so much adversity, what do you think can be attributed to the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of mental health issues in African communities?
It’s a myriad of reasons but one of the most common influences is the remnants of a colonial machine. When we take a closer look at colonialism we realize that one of its many functions is to stunt the culture of the oppressed. And one of the aspects of a community that suffers from a stagnant culture is its language as time moves on and technology evolves. Afrikaans people in SA have Stellenbosch University where Science can be taught in their language. So it comes as no surprise that they have a word for depression: “depressie”.
I am aware and have been made aware during several talks of the stigmas that exist surrounding mental illnesses in white communities, but at least there is a language and structures to handle it. With Africans, the stigmas, or misunderstandings as you place them, exist because we don’t have a language for it. There is no empathy for it. When you place that understanding within the context of the generational mental suffering endured during Apartheid or slavery and the need to be resilient to survive, the acceptance of pain and punishment as a way of life, you quickly see why Africans refuse to accept that they are “crazy”. We would rather say we are bewitched.
It’s heartening to see somebody, particularly an African man, explore depression publicly. What do you see as the value or risk of doing that?
Well, the risk was always that my family would become implicated in the community they live in. I am black, speaking of having a mental illness. The stigmas apply to me, too. But based on conversations and e-mails I’ve received from black people across the world, I think it’s very important that this was and continues to be spoken about. You see, depression and anxiety are the zeitgeist of our time, but these conversations open up a whole new world of mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and addiction. Which African people do suffer from. It also opens up our understanding of the differences between “mental health” and “mental illness”. Which in turn promotes conversations about our past, about trauma in our families and lineages.
A lot of African cultures incorporate highly misogynistic traditions, how does one begin to break down the walls built by toxic masculinity without losing one’s ‘roots’?
When I walk down the street and see another male, regardless of race, I know nothing about them for sure. Except that we have both been victims of patriarchy.
Misogyny and toxic masculinity are by-products of a bigger and more nuanced cultural issue that is Patriarchy. When people talk of patriarchy today they think “Anti-feminism”, but that is giving patriarchy a huge slap on the wrist because patriarchy is “Anti-Human” and “Anti-Life”. It taps into the masculine energy in little boys and mutes their femininity through cultural institutions that portray it as weak. So, I do not think this is inherently an African issue in terms of culture, it just a cultural issue for all of us living or adopting western values. Neo-liberal capitalism being one of them, which is another institution that requires complete loyalty to Patriarchy. If I was to write a book on how to become a CEO, essentially I’d be writing about patriarchy and toxic masculinity. We need to instill a culture of transparency in our boys and the same in our men. We have to create those spaces for ourselves, too. Where we can talk freely about how we feel so we can heal. If not, I am afraid we will continue killing our environment and killing our women. It’s called the frustration-aggression theory for a reason and it’s very applicable here.
Why do you think your work resonates with so many people?
I don’t know. But I imagine it’s what it feels like to think you’re completely weird and then bumping into someone even as weird and thinking “Oh my god. He is so chill about being weird. Maybe, like, we’re not weird and everyone else is. Is that weird?”
You’re a photographer, director and writer. Which is harder? Telling a story in one single frame or multiple frames?
Technically it’s harder to tell a whole story in a single frame, but my brain just gets it. So this answer may be flipped the other way around for others, but for me, it’s harder to tell a story in moving pictures. I overthink it sometimes because you have more room to work with. I prefer to create a room within confines and discover what stories lay hidden in the spaces I work in.
When people look at your work, what feelings and thoughts would you like to provoke in them?
I don’t think about that at all. For me it’s never about the work, but the process of making it. It’s a process that allows you to go within yourself beyond the physical state. Beyond your own memories. So, I suppose if I was to ever have hope for a feeling in another person it would that transcendent experience. For them to question everything.
Tell us about the image below from your series titled Book Of Maskuline.
Book of Maskuline explores masculinity as a religion and juxtaposes the role of God as the Father figure in a home and Jesus the unquestioning son on a quest to fulfill his Father’s wishes. One of the verses in this book of maskuline reads as follows:
“We are constantly confronted by three versions of self:
Who we are.
Who we think we are.
Who the world thinks we are.
If you can, choose the first of the three”
The key phrase here is “if you can” because we tend to conflate the three to be one. We can quite easily become who we think we are. Most people on our planet, actually, are stuck in that realm. “As a man thinketh…”. Most of us unfortunately also become products of our environments and external opinions. Very few of us have the time or space to go deep within themselves to at least find out who this ever-evolving creation is and why it is said they are made in the image of God. In the context of the series, by choosing who you are, you realize that the message of God isn’t that you should serve this external God all your life, but that you should find God within yourself and serve that. With great power comes great responsibility, though.
What are you looking forward to the most next year?
This year has been an absolute blast and I am grateful that most of it had to do with the art functioning outside of the art world. I have met many incredible people doing incredible things for other people and our planet. So, you know, more of the same please. More growth and compassion and hopefully there will more art to talk about. Who knows.
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF TSOKU MAELA
TEXT: JOHN CLAUDE
Nigerian mixed-media artist Dandelion Eghosa is creating new a modern language through photography, collage-art, poetry, and film. Through her artworks, this language is used to communicate, document and permeate the expressions of marginalized bodies and to confront social norms of her community with regards to gender, sexual identity and mental health.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I’m 26 years old and from Edo state. I graduated in 2014 after studying Modern languages and I moved to Lagos.
How useful was your classical training in Modern languages in shaping your artistic aesthetic and how you communicate the narrative of your artworks?
I’m uncertain how much the study of language has influenced my aesthetic. As a poet, the impacts can be seen in my works and titles. More so than anything, I express love for language, wherein I imbue small, soft details.
What was it that initially drew you to documenting the expressions of marginalized identities?
There are a few reasons why I’ve been drawn to documenting marginalized bodies. First, both I and the people that I love wear the same shoes. As soon as we begin talking about our experiences, I’ve found it relieving to know that we aren’t alone. It’s important to tell these stories and document our lives as this provides us with a powerful source of emotional release. It’s cathartic in that, for most of us, this was the first time we’ve had that chance to feel seen.
Why is it important for you to tell the stories that you do in a wide range of varying mixed media?
When I started mixed media, I remember thinking that it would make me less of a photographer. However, no matter the medium, the message the work carried always hit home. In my creative journey, I’ve found that my curiosity for the unknown has been a constant search, which has led me to explore other perspectives in regards to delivery. With mixed media, the process is an experience and it’s quite adventurous. There’s always something new to see and something new to think about.
How do the images which you capture inform or translate into other works you make?
In my work, I capture the expressions of everyday life. This includes celebrating the lives of people who brave living on their own terms and not as society has conditioned them to. As well, this means telling the stories of people who are rarely heard and struggling to negotiate an authentic identity in certain spaces. In many ways, this practice helps us — both myself and people in my stories — imagine our freedom. Isn’t an individual a product of their own experiences?
Your first solo exhibition was titled ‘Unspoken Rudiments’, where did the idea for it stem from?
The idea for Unspoken rudiments came from collecting memories of home—the feeling of nostalgia and a constant sense of longing.
Tell us more about your documentary film “Ahoèmon-egbé” and the experience of creating it.
My film titled ‘Ahoemoe-egbe’—which translates to love in the Esan language— is an ongoing documentary. This film aims to explore the perspectives of women living in rural communities who didn’t choose their husbands on the meaning of love. It was important to me that these women explain love in their own language and in their own cultural contexts. Language is one of the barriers that prevent them from having these kinds of conversations. In the future, the plan is to broaden the demographic to accommodate those who are evolving in their experiment with love. I grew up with these women and in this community so creating this film was both nostalgic and bittersweet.
What is it about collage art that excites you most?
Collage art is an adventure. I have found layers of myself in this creative process that I never knew before. The exciting part is the fun, formlessness and flexibility of the experience.
You tend to mask the identities of your subjects in your collages, what is the symbolism here?
The masks keep the identities of my subjects anonymous. People tend to search for personal stories—including gender and sexuality—on the faces of others. The idea is to remove the focus from the surface to challenge people to look beyond what they see.
What sort of conversations do you wish your art to spark regarding gender and sexual identity in retrospect to the status quo in Nigeria?
It’s a list but a few questions are in regards to the psychological effects of being closeted, domestic abuse across all gender/sexual spectrums, and taking accountability for how we practice love.
Mental health is one of the many paradigms that your artworks confront, what draws you to this issue and what about it do you want your viewers to learn through your art?
I have struggled with mental illness for a good part of my adulthood. I know what it’s like to be in an environment where mental illness is stigmatized and trivialized. As well, I know how it feels to be in the dark where love can’t reach you. I’d like my viewers to know that I am opening a space through my art for them to have honest conversations about their lives, they aren’t alone and should remember to be a little kinder to themselves.
What’s next for you?
I doubt it will be exciting if I let you know my next move, so I guess we’d have to wait and see.
Where can people go to follow your work?
My website is ready in December, but for now, you can find me on @pastonoiseau.
While observing Ayobola Kekere-Ekun’s work, what stands out the most is the vivid narratives portrayed and the intermixing of lines and fabrics to create these portraits. Oh her fascination with lines, Ayobola states that “a line can connect and separate, enclose and exclude, direct and misdirect, all at the same time.” In her portraits, she finds herself “constantly oscillating between admiration for the tenacity of the human spirit and anger for humanity’s seemingly unwavering commitment to cruelty and hypocrisy.”
Your skillful use of quilling in your art is amazing and that combined with your ability to creatively tell stories is a unique and refreshing combination. How did you learn your technique?
I started quilling and working with paper entirely by accident. In my last year of undergrad, a guy gave me a flier on campus one day and I was rolling it and playing with it, and when I got to my room, I dropped it, and it landed on its edge. I remember looking at the coil and seeing how it had its own little pocket of highlights and shadows; like a mini-universe onto itself; and I thought: “if there’s some way to secure this, surely it would stay put”. So I left the house, got a bunch of papers, cut them up, started experimenting, and didn’t stop till the next morning. At the time I didn’t even know there was a name for the technique, I just knew I had found something truly interesting.
How was the process of marrying the technique and the storytelling?
If there’s a way to marry the two effortlessly, I haven’t found it yet. I still struggle from time to time. Quite often, I have a very clear idea of what I want to say and how I want a piece or an entire body of work to feel. What that it might look like isn’t always clear right off the bat. I’ve found that it really helps to just let ideas percolate for as long as they need to. There isn’t a lot of room for error in my practice, so I don’t start the process of actually making the work till I’m sure about its visual direction.
Progress for a talented person such as yourself seems inevitable but what does progress mean to you and your craft?
This is a tough one for me. I tend to be an aggressively future-oriented person, and the dark side of that is that I’m rarely pleased for long. A year ago I’d have said progress is never ever staying in the same spot. Now progress for me is enjoying or at least trying to enjoy whatever part of my practice I’m experiencing at a time.
In your series, The Crown, you address issues of misogyny while also acknowledging the progress we’ve made as a society towards achieving gender equality. What are some of the things that society can do to fast-track this progress?
I think we need more empathy and radical honesty as a collective society. The main crux of the Crown series is the idea of performative progress. Too often we’re more concerned with the appearance of progress as opposed to actual growth. Yes, we’ve come a long way in our journey towards equality, but it would be disastrous to think we’re there yet, especially when we consider the issue from a global perspective. Women can ‘get an education now’, but in many spaces, girls are statistically less likely to be prioritised for formal education, in addition to being statistically less likely to complete secondary school. Women can ‘occupy space in the workplace now’, but they are still routinely subject to discrimination and harassment in a myriad of forms. We need to stop acting like everything is fine and dandy and acknowledge that there are still a lot of systemic structures in place that actively prevent true equality.
What motivated you to pursue your PhD in Art and Design?
My research is exploring place branding in Lagos. In my academic life, I’m a graphic designer. I’m not sure what it says about me, but I’ve always been fascinated by how manipulative advertising can be. I’m fascinated by how the dance between information and ‘seduction’ plays out visually. My PhD is an extension of that interest.
Would you say you have mastered the balance between work and study so far and what is the key?
I actually laughed out loud at this. I don’t think I have. Maintaining a balance between the two is a bit like walking on a tightrope. Every time I think I’ve got the hang of it, my hubris tips me out of balance. It’s quite difficult, to be honest. It requires a lot of discipline and careful time management.
As this year ends, what are you looking forward to the most?
I have to admit; it’s been an amazing year for my practice. There have been so many changes. I had my first solo exhibition this year. This is also my first year being signed to my fabulous gallerist Julie Taylor of Guns and Rain gallery. I’d say I’m most looking forward to continuing bodies of work I’ve had to delay working on and completing and PhD next year.
Richard Average is a Cape Town-based illustrator. His skillful and unrestricted use of color in his creations is not only a reflection of his personality but also serves as an ode to the creative nature of Cape Town youth. His work speaks for itself and if it’s somehow not loud enough, we interviewed Richard and spoke about his passion, his love of sneakers and the uniqueness of his art.
In 2 Sentences, how would you describe yourself?
Awe, wat se julle an? My name is Richard Average. I enjoy street culture, music (especially hip hop but not exclusively) haha and I enjoy skateboarding, socialising, fashion and just being myself all the time and oh, I’m gorgeous.
When did you start on your journey as an illustrator and designer, and what motivated it?
So, I started drawing at the age of 6-7, when I saw my older brother (Chester Horne, who is also a brilliant artist) drawing and I just wanted to try it out and ever since then I fell in love with creating. I found that I really have a passion for creating and I think it was during my college years when I realised what illustration is and since then I have been engulfed in it. I think my motivation behind it was that I could be myself and earn a living doing it for other people. I studied design and understood the fundamentals but I always felt like I loved drawing and when I realised that as an illustrator I can draw and incorporate my design knowledge into it I just felt motivated to pursue it. A lot of my favorite artists at the time while studying illustration were also illustrators and that just motivated me even more.
Tell us about your collaboration with Puma, how did it come about?
The PUMA collab was quite random and cool at the same time. I literally have been drawing sneakers all year and posting it to my social media, and after that, I got followed by Puma South Africa on Instagram and shortly thereafter boom! They slid in my DM’s and wanted to work. They sent me the Puma Cell Venom sneaker and asked me to do a drawing of it. I, of course, decided to do way more than just draw it. I used my creative direction to do a photo-shoot of myself in the sneaker. I shot a video with the help my friend Joshua, of myself creating the artwork and I came up with a dope final piece. It was really fun and Puma is a great client because they allow for creative expression. Puma then shared it on their Instagram and socials and the artwork has been seen by so many people which is a blessing, as the video has about 34 000 views on Instagram which I think is amazing.
A lot of your sketches are of sneakers; do you consider yourself a sneaker-head and what do you usually look for in a sneaker?
I love drawing sneakers and I consider myself a sneaker-head but not really the biggest one, if that makes sense. I honestly draw sneakers because it appeals to me and ever since I was a kid I have wanted to have cool sneakers because to me personally I feel that your whole outfit could be wack but if your sneakers are clean then the outfit just looks better, haha. I also just draw them because I love street culture and a lot of the time I can’t afford the sneakers I want so I draw them because I feel that by me drawing them one day I’ll be able to afford them haha. Coming from a household where we couldn’t really get everything we wanted I think that’s also the reason I just draw these things is because I feel inspired by them and I am compelled to give my artistic opinion on them, through drawing them. I’m a skateboarder (even though I don’t skate as much as I would love to anymore) and to me usually, the most important thing is comfortability. I want my sneakers to look good and feel good on me. However, nowadays I’ve been going out of my comfort zone and trying new sneakers and new looks and just adding it to my wardrobe.
What’s the hardest thing about being an artist, and an artist of colour more so?
The hardest thing to me personally as an artist is understanding the job. When it comes to what I do, there aren’t a lot of guidelines and it’s a bit of a “learn as you go” thing. The industry is very tricky and you really have to stand out, so for me personally, it goes back to just being happy with what you create. I think there is a lot of insecurity as a creative as you tend to look around at what everyone else is doing and forget to focus on you and what you want to do. Even more so as a person of colour. I think to me it was really just having more challenges in my circumstances, like not having a laptop or anything like that to work on and just learning to make the most of what I have and still trying to get that vision across. It’s also a mental thing such as taking care of yourself mentally and physically in order to create work you’re happy with. A lot of self-doubt happens during the creation process and I think it’s about trusting your gut and believing in what you do and NOT comparing yourself too much, especially in today’s day and age. Being a coloured person is tricky because I feel the illustration industry is pretty much white dominated so it does take a little more from you to be even more resilient and make sure that you and what you are is at the forefront of what you are creating.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by music, skateboarding, people and just this culture we are surrounded by. I tend to take inspiration from whatever and wherever and put that into my work. That’s why my work can sometimes seem all over the place, it’s really just because I enjoy it and everything I am around inspires me. I’m inspired by a lot of different artists and illustrators within the beautiful city known as Cape Town. Other than that, I am inspired by fashion culture and sneaker culture. A random fact is that I really can’t create without music, I need music somewhere in the background when I’m creating because I feel like it hypes me up to create what I want to create and how I create it. My mother is also my biggest source of inspiration, she’s helped me with so much and just inspires me every day with her spirit (shouts out to moms).
What do you think differentiates your style of illustration from others?
Hmm good one! I honestly feel like my linework is one of the best in the game right now. Like a lot of people tell me they recognise the work by my style and that’s kinda funny but dope and also I think the way my personal style intertwines with my illustration makes my work even more unique so that in itself will differentiate me and my work from everyone else because I have found comfort and happiness in how different I am as a person and it’s reflecting in my work! Also no one is doing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, so I’m hella hyped on that and I’m just gonna keep doing my ting (slight flex) and keep building on what Richard Average is and where I am about to go with this vision as a person of colour in illustration.
Which creatives do you draw inspiration from?
Russell Abrahams, Seth Pimental, photographer homie of mine Ethan Beukes (my best friend and one of the best photographers I know HIGH KEY!), photographer homie of mine Joshua (homie shot the whole Puma ting!), Karabo Poppy, Ian Jepson, Photographer homie of mine Jason, Shakoer and all the ouens at BRAhSSE, photographer homie of mine Cheslyn, Keya Tama, Rob Erispe, Nicolas Van Graan and so much more. All these homies aren’t illustrators but they inspire me like crazy with what they do in their own fields and they definitely deserve all the love!
Is there anything you’re working on that we should look out for?
Yeah I recently did another little job for Puma South Africa, which was super fun so go peep my gram on that. Also got some work I’m doing for my favourite local brand @artclubandfriends. We’re gonna cook up a fun little project that involves clothing and sneakers and alles so awe! That’s gonna be pretty awesome. Other than that I got some really cool personal projects dropping so keep an eye on my Instagram. Got some ASICS GEL ARTWORK I’m doing and other than that I’m just gonna take over the world step by step so keep an eye out for everything I’m doing 🙂 Oh and one more thing, Is a lieflikke daggie and its glowboy szn (season) so keep growing and glowing to all my mense out there.
The Stellenbosch Triennale, brainchild of the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust, takes place from 11 February to 30 April 2020 in a location renowned for its halls of academia and historical vineyards. The upcoming international showcase, extraordinary in terms of international reach and extent of art on show, will place creativity in critical dialogue with the society that fosters and exhibits it. The theme Tomorrow There Will Be More of Us provides the meeting points for engagement with the divided past, the collective present and imagined futures.
AFRICA IS NOW had a discussion with Khanyisile Mbongwa, Chief curator and renowned artist, on the event, the theme and what we can look forward to.
What is your vision for this event?
My vision for the Stellenboch Triennale is to foster a critical space for an eco-system of transformation and transition using art as a lens, a course correction, a stimulus for curiosity and imagination where creatives confront us with what is possible for a renewal to happen.
Working towards intersectional accessibility where we not only acknowledge our diverse ways of existing through race, gender, class, sexuality, differently-abled bodies but constantly finding ways of how to practice and therefore normalize intersectional existence as a lived experience.
Recognizing some of the socio-economic and socio-cultural gaps that exist in learning facilitation, education and mentorship are integral part of our programming on a skills sharing and development level.
How does one encourage community involvement in an event like this, especially from communities who have been previously disenfranchised and who may be ambivalent about art?
It is important that we introduce ourselves to communities surrounding the Triennale and that they are notified about the event driving vision and how it aims to function – so that they are aware of its existence and that there’s an open invitation to attend. This is part of working towards an eco-system, that we recognize each stakeholder as an integral part of the mechanism and that each endorsement makes us more accessible in varying degrees.
It is also of thinking of the programming permeating beyond the recognized center, and curating works within the different locales.
What is your art selection process like?
For the upcoming Stellenbosch Triennale, we used various selection processes that are invitation-based. For instance, for The Curators’ Exhibition, we listed over 150 artists all over the continent and our researcher Rashieda Witter created an information document on each artist. Myself with two other curators of the Triennale Nontobeko Ntombela and Bernard Akoi-Jackson went through the list, met for over three days to make the first draft from the list using sub-themes that emerged the main theme as a guideline. The second draft was using the sub-themes to have a closer look at the artist practices and how their work would sit in the broader theme and in conversation with other works. The third draft was to create the final list of the 20 artists.
With South Africa’s history in mind and perhaps even post-apartheid, can Art be used to heal a broken people, if so how?
I think art can be used as a moment to contemplate and negotiate healing, it can be a tool and medium over which we work through the complexities and nuances in how healing can be imagined from an individual to a collective perspective. Art does transport and suspend the artist and the viewer into a space where visual language translates lived experiences for the purpose of critical introspection and imagination. What we do witness in art is the moment of imagination (ideas/concepts) and manifestation (making of the work) and the process in between is the negotiation of finding ways actualization – and it is this moment when we view the work we experience the potential and possibility of healing. But we must always remember, for healing to happen – there must first be recognition of violence.
There are certain questions regarding social issues that the Triennale attempts to solve through art, one of them being “What relations to nature do we cherish?”, I’ll pose this question to you personally. What relations to nature do you cherish?
I experience being here from a perspective of an Aboriginal saying: We Don’t Own The Earth, The Earth Owns Us… and thus I am always at the mercy and grace of the earth’s giving. Nature is home, and until we all fully understand that we will continue to see ourselves as its masters rather than part of its eco-system.
When discussing the theme “Tomorrow there will be more of us”, you mention that “The theme asks us to think about tomorrow in intersectional ways through remembering, the ancestral, the imaginative and becoming”. Care to elaborate more on this?
We are made up of time, but time is told through particular historical narratives that don’t hold the intersectionality of our experiences. So, in thinking of how we can harness sustainable common futures, we propose an intersectional engagement with time as past, present, future. We are not one complete product, but we are in a state of becoming – and maybe if we see ourselves in this way, we allow ourselves to imagine an Us that can truly share space and resources.
Do you think your immense success as an artist yourself has provided you with either a unique perspective or certain skillsets for the role of Chief curator?
Any words of advice for young women out there who may deal with the anxiety that comes with being black?
The anxiety you carry now comes from your lived experience of navigating systems that are rigged to make you invisible. But also know that how you see yourself is more valid than any projections onto you. Though I know resilience and transcending your experience of being black and woman is tiring, I also know that radical black self love is not you being brave but you being honest that you are worthy and deserving – so love yourself radically and deliberately because self love will always compel you to choose yourself over and over again… and in choosing yourself, you can no longer conspire in ways of being killed but will instead find ways of being alive, deliberately.
Adilson De Oliveira and Mzoxolo X Mayongo (X- formerly Christopher), the pioneering duo from the Magolide Collective, are working with digital technology like virtual reality and augmented reality in ways that will your blow your mind. Immerse yourself and critically engage with their truly cutting-edge exhibition titled The Counter-Space of Pop Culture in Zaire at TMRW in Johannesburg. Pay a visit and become part of the art.
Could you tell us about your background and what led you to working together?
Adilson: I was born in Bez Valley, and have been based in Joburg my whole life. Before this collaboration, I was a solo artist heavily focused on the notions of over-turning the master narrative that existed, and still does exist, in Western art history. I am a conceptual satirist who functions only to make art with a punchline.
Mzoxolo: I’m a Cape Town-born, Joburg-based conceptual artist and scholar. My practice as an individual artist works with the conceptual ideas of the human condition, interrogating nuanced complexities and the dispositions herein. More so, exploring and articulating the African identity, representations, histories and landscapes in the broader sense, which are part of a larger public discourse. I do so through the means of performativity as I use my body as a tool through which my concepts speak. Essentially, I would say I am a cultural and visual activist.
How did the Magolide Collective come about?
Mzoxolo: I was selected through my solo body of work (a series titled: Ubukho Be Ndoda – demystifying the phallus of man) as one of the artists for the Design Indaba: Emerging Creatives 2019. I wanted to transpose my photographic performance residue onto silkscreens. By virtue of the universe, Adilson and I had a chance encounter in the printing studio at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Adilson: At the time I was working as a technician on an edition of 12 colour silk-screens for Giggs Kgole. Mzo happened to walk in when I was pulling the final layers of the edition and asked if I would be able to work with his images from Ubukho Be Ndoda. We then spent the next week working together on three different images – and through the course of the week, decided to pull the prints onto sheets of gold-leaf.
Mzoxolo: That’s how the name Magolide (a Xhosa term for one who possesses or personifies gold) came about. That week of collaboration had so much artistic chemistry and work involved that we kind of organically kept on working together.
Adilson: [Laughing] We realised that what he had as a duo collective was special, and we haven’t looked back.
For audiences who’ve never engaged with a multisensory digital artwork like this, how would you describe the experience?
Mzoxolo: It’s difficult to articulate as this exhibition exists in a form and function that is new, even to us. Not to sound redundant, it is one that is ‘experiential’; that requires a person to physically put themselves into the work in order to grasp what it is.
Adilson: Because it is such a new medium people need to understand that they aren’t coming to look at a traditional oil-on-canvas, in which the intent of the image is delivered within a glance. This experience takes you out of the gallery/white cube and transports you into a new world.
Mzoxolo: The exhibition recontextualises the function of the gallery, or the said ‘white-cube’, into the recreated space of an African imagination. We’d say it is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ translated into ‘Alizwa in Gondwana Land’ effect.
Adilson: From interventions (in collaboration with Vincent Baloyi) and mixed-media silkscreens to wheat-paste interactive digital murals, and VR/augmented reality and video performance, it truly is a multi-sensory experience.
Do you hang out at the TMRW gallery during a performance to gauge the reactions and interact with audiences?
Mzoxolo: We find ourselves in the space nearly on a daily basis. Zaire, our shorthand for the exhibition, has become like our baby.
Adilson: [Laughing] We tend to our baby nearly every day, because certain elements are continuously developing and changing. As the show progresses, we add new sculptures, video performances and elements. Therefore, staying around to get people’s reactions to our work helps us to understand where we are heading next. A new body of work can be conceived and sparked through a short conversation with somebody just coming in and engaging with our work.
Mzoxolo: And being in this space gives us the opportunity to engage with the audience as they experience the exhibition. It is so humbling to have direct line of communication with people as they exist in the work and because this is such a new medium, we are open to everybody’s feedback. This is essential with regards to pushing the notions of our conceptual and artistic practice – blurring the conventions of the artwork existing separately to the artist.