Following Variety’s announcement of the ambitious feature film written and directed by Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, Byron Eksteen joined him in his garden to speak about life, cinema and everything in between.
Sibs’s second feature film is a co-production project between his own company LAIKA1991, alongside South African stalwarts Sereti Films, Stage 5, and Storyscope, with international blue chip partners SKGlobal and Ivan Hoe. What emerged between the two is a surrealist anti-interview that coincides with Sibs’s reality that is often exhilarating and bizarre, an exploration of understanding the multi-disciplinary artist.
In isiXhosa belief the process of twasa is the journey in which one takes in order to become a sangoma. It is a process that chooses you and you do not choose it; naively put it’s a calling. With reference and insight provided to me by the poet/prophet by the name of DAT, based in Gugulethu, there are three main elements in which the ancestors speak and exist in: the land, the mountains and most importantly, to this story, the water. The manner in which twasa, connected to water, would conduct itself would be that the ancestors take the chosen individual into the ocean. They would forcefully grab and pull the person while blissfully swimming into the ocean showing no consent or remorse. Done so only to serve out the drive to complete the process in an unforgiving manner. According to DAT, and the rest that have insight to this process via the water, it is not an easy one: The process is ruthless, unpredictable, unforeseen, raw and it is beyond one’s wildest expectations. It is a process that many may not survive.
Once the elevator hit the ground floor and opened, it provided an opportunity for them to get their headline. It started off with one word, then another, then a full stop. The reality of going through the ocean of success came very suddenly after the last full stop of Necktie Youth. It became a reality of awakening in an ocean of media frenzy that literally aim to put him on a plinth as a museum piece; as the death of the director will increase sales. Awakening to a world where they cash in on an artists desperation to be “validated by the system”. “No, no, no; I write about the shit that’s gonna burn us alive, the shit that if we don’t fix it and if we don’t solve it we will perish, I have no option”. “I do it for the fans and not for no one else” “Fuck the openings, the red carpet and yacht parties and fuck all of that shit and selling out: While that is going on you can catch me in a downtown tavern in the darkest night of the village and we’ll experience some shit, tell stories, live and go skate after”.
PHOTOGRAPHER : SHARDAY SWANEPOEL
STYLIST & CREATIVE DIRECTION : CATHARINA VAN WYK
ARTIST/FILM DIRECTOR/MUSICIAN : SIBS SHONGWE-LA MER
WRITTEN BY : BYRON EKSTEEN WWW.BYRONEKSTEEN.COM
ORIGINAL CONCEPT : JENNA HISCOCK
COPY EDITOR : JENNA HISCOCK
HEADPEACES : CATHARINA VAN WYK
FASHION : AFROGRUNGE & ARMAND DICKER & HOUSE OF LAIDLAW
In this humorously peculiar sci-fi interpretation of the year of 2020, director Caroline Viitanen explores the parallels between the year’s astrological events, the concept of rebirth and how the pandemic may have activated a mass-awakening, propelling us into The Age of Aquarius and the next 2000 years of “being in the light”.
Our solar system orbits across a photon belt twice in what is considered a cycle of 26,000 years. This photon belt is the galactic plane alignment of hundreds of billions of Milky Way star systems. Depending where we are in the cycle, our solar system sits either partly or fully within the photon belt. It’s said that due to the thickness of the photon belt, we spend 2,000 years “in the light” and 11,000 years “in the darkness”. Every 13,000 years a Great Crossing occurs in which a purification process naturally happens due to reaching the peak of the photon belt’s field. This crossing also coincides with the 13,000 year cycle of the Stellar sun and is cause for a surge of photonic light – the highest form of light that is known.
At December solstice 2012, it is said that our solar system fully entered the photon belt field, which interestingly coincided with the end of the Mayan calendar, also working on an approximate cycle of 26,000 years. Because there’s an increase in photonic light, we experience a higher vibrational frequency inside the photon belt than outside of it. A more tangible suggestion of these elevated frequencies occurring may be the measured spikes in the Schumann Resonance, also know as the “heartbeat” of the earth.
With higher vibrational energy surrounding us, we will according to quantum theory become resonant to these higher frequencies, promoting higher states of consciousness and inducing states of peace, joy, love and enlightenment. The significance of this may be that our collective is enabled to be in a state where the divine feminine and masculine can exist together in a non-binary harmony. Some would call this a Kundalini awakening, others the Zero point, and gazing back at the stars there’s yet another explanation – the astrological ages.
The astrological ages are constituted by periods of 2,160 years, in total there are twelve of these ages which, again, interestingly make up about 26,000 years. We recently transitioned from one age to another, moving from the age of Pisces – the age of hierarchies, into the age of Aquarius – ruled by awareness, information and energy. A transition that inaugurated a new cycle moving us from the earth to the air signs and also coinciding with the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter on the 21 December 2020.
With a New Age comes change and with change comes the collapse of outdated structures. With collapse of structures comes uncertainty, with uncertainty comes friction. Friction causes chaos and to say that 2020 was chaotic, I’m sure you would agree, would not be an understatement.
Zooming in on a few events that we experienced astrologically in 2020, we first had the Lunar Eclipse on the 10th of January, a time about authority and showing authority. Then came the first of three Saturn/Pluto conjunctions on the 5th of April, which coincided with a world consciousness meditation day, where millions of people around the globe meditated together at the same time. At the 21 June solstice we experienced a solar eclipse, signifying a time of facing death and shedding our old identities in order to rebirth our new selves.
The last major astrological event we have already mentioned – 211220 – the Great Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction. Sealing the end of this deeply transformative cycle and setting the springboard for a quantum leap into this new age of ”Synarchies”, the age of higher states of consciousness, of freedom and collaboration – the Age of Aquarius.
DIRECTOR & WRITER
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
AFRICA IS NOW MAGAZINE
CHRISNA DE BRUYN
FASHION & ART DIRECTOR : CHRISNA DE BRUYN
FASHION : VIVERS STUDIO
JEWELERY : IDA ELSJE & PHILIPPA GREEN
SET DESIGNER : SVEND RANDS
LIGHT DESIGNER : MATTHEW MEYER
SPECIAL EFFECTS : FREDDIE SHEN & AXEL HOEBEL
MAKE-UP : ALICE COLORITI
HAIR : RICHARD WILKINSON
FILM EDITOR : ETHAN STORM
FILM COPY EDITOR : VINCENT CLERY
VISUAL EFFECTS : MOTIF STUDIOS
ANIMATION & COMPOSITING : CRAIG PARKER & ANDRE JANSE VAN VUUREN
PRODUCER : JACQUES BOCK
COLOR : REFINERY
COLORIST : DAVID GRANT
PRODUCERS : ANCOIS HUMAN & PETA SYNNOT-MARZETTI
SOUND DESIGNER : DAVID HOUSTON
SOUNDTRACK : YOAV – “INITIATE SEQUENCE”
PRODUCTION : FOLLOW THE LINE STUDIOS & AFRICA IS NOW
PRODUCERS: CAROLINE VIITANEN & CHRISNA DE BRUYN
CASTING: CHRISNA DE BRUYN & CAROLINE VIITANEN
CO-ORDINATOR & BTS : CARL VAN DER LINDE
SET MANAGER : MARK MANDA
No Direct Flight: The Dream That Refused Me. An Afrofuturist cipher reframing black cultures through poetry, movement and dance.
Jabu Nadia Newman is a South African photographer and filmmaker whose work is as diverse as her constantly shifting pool of inspirations. Through boldly colorful imagery, she explores alternative narratives with sensitivity and humor.
The Dream That Refused Me is split across four aesthetically distinct chapters that ties together myths, attitudes, and rituals from across Africa. Powerful and emotionally stirring, a Xhosa poem narrated by Siyabonga Jim creates draws a narrative line between the ancestral specters and incandescent landscapes created by collage artist Zas Ieluhee.
The story of Africa’s rich cultures and traditions is constantly being retold, remade, and reimagined. The Ethnicify App segment of Newman’s film, which is a satirical take on influencer culture, highlights how cultural nuances can become lost in translation among the diaspora. The question remains: If we, as a new generation of global Africans, are meant to embody the hopes and dreams of our forefathers, would they even recognise that us today?
The Dream That Refused Me does not aim to carry a singular message but to exist as a creative expression; a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and prints that for those who have inherited the key through birth, culture or education can unlock the film’s abundance of coded connotations.
Read on for an interview with the director…
Can you describe some of the themes of your film?
The themes of this film are collaboration, translation, and interpretation. Through the internet, ideas are constantly being shared and representations of blackness are constantly evolving as well as being appropriated. I wanted to take something as ancient and intrinsically African as storytelling and create a modern and contemporary film exploring old ideas. By focusing on an orator who is performing a poem in Xhosa, we wanted to steer clear of a direct translation.
Guided by Siyabonga, everyone working on the film had their interpretation of the poem; every color, shot and makeup look is a representation of the poem. There are moments of magical realism, Afrofuturism, mysticism, and reality; so many worlds are present with an effortless flow through time and space.
Can you talk us through the decision to have an untranslated Xhosa poem as the project’s driving narrative force?
This came intuitively as I had worked with Siyabonga Jim before and we didn’t feel the need for translation. When the idea for this film came about we worked together to find moments in his poem called “Ubizo” that he could recite. That’s how Siyabonga expresses himself, through poetry, movement and dance.
You gave a lot of freedom to the visual artist that you collaborated with. How did their input alter your appreciation of the final project?
I think Zas Ieluhee adds so much to the film. It was fun figuring out how to bring their artwork to life. Every layer of collage had a story and connected to different scenes and dancers. Being Cameroonian, they incorporated ideas and traditions from their culture that were related to Siyabonga’s poem. Their collage and artwork brought characters to life in ways I had never imagined. This whole process truly inspired me and my future filmmaking.
In your utopia, what does the future of cinema look like?
The future of cinema is African filmmaking; using traditional forms of storytelling and going back to the simplest, truest form of filmmaking. It’s also a world where there’s more access, where film schools are more affordable, where equipment and mentorship (even film festivals) are more available and more stories are being told.
DIRECTOR : JABU NADIA NEWMAN @ROMANCEFILMS
MANAGING EDITOR : GAVIN HUMPHRIES @NOWNESS
VIDEO COMMISIONER : KATIE METCALFE @NOWNESS
THE BRITISH COUNCIL
POST : SIYABONGA JIM
COLLAGE ARTIST : ZAS IELUHEE
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY : DEON VAN ZYL
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER : ROZANNE ROCHA-GRAY
PRODUCER : DIDI EXELBY
PRODUCTION DESIGN : WENDY FREDRIKKSON
STYLING & COSTUME DESIGN : UNATHI MKONTO
EDIT : PAUL SPEIRS AND THABO NHLAPO
DANCERS : LOLWETHY SDUMO, MTHETHELI DLAKAVU, AMANDA GUMA, CHUMANDE NGQAKOTEY, YOLANDA NTANYANA
HELLO NICE : NATALIE PANENG
CGI MODEL : KIM ZULU
PROPS MASTER : GERALD ABRAHAM
ART ASSISTANT : EDDIE KWONGA
MAKE UP ARTIST : MARCHAY LINDEROTH
HAIR : KELVIN TAKUDZWA
WARDROBE ASSISTANT : SARAH HUGO HAMMAN
CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER : ELMAREE BOHM, KYLE HYDE, JOHNATHAN BAJU
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.