CAPE TOWN – A visual artist in Cape Town has come under fire for trying to get white South Africans to reflect. But despite a violent backlash to their work, the artist is determined to continue promoting anti-racism. Watch here.
**Really enjoyed my chat with Dean, so many parts of our conversation I didn’t get to use, but that’s the business.
NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 12, 2014.
A South African non-profit organisation is helping to fight crime in the United Kingdom through specialised programmes.
Gugulethu Shezi, marketing and communications manager at Khulisa Social Solutions, said inner-city London and semi-rural townships in KwaZulu-Natal had much in common. They were both “communities where the youth frequently see drugs, crime and gangsterism as their only redemption”, said Shezi.
The NGO uses the commonalities between the two to implement programmes that help, “youngsters transform their lives”.
In South Africa, Khulisa focuses on marginalised youngsters in some of “the poorest, riskiest townships”, and the same formula is being used in the UK.
Some of the life skills interventions used by Khulisa include art and drama-therapy workshops, said Lisa Rowles from Khulisa’s UK branch.
“Each programme is tailored to the needs of the client group,” said Rowles, meaning that some programmes are day-long “taster sessions” while others are year-long intervention programmes.
Established in 1998 in KwaZulu-Natal with financial assistance from British donors, the NGO only opened its second branch as a charity in the UK in 2007.
A lot of fundraising and responding to government bids is done to keep it afloat, said Rowles.
In the UK, the “holistic” programmes the NGO uses include crime reduction programmes at schools and juvenile and adult correctional facilities which have been tracked by several academic institutions for possible successes and failures.
A report by Dr Tim Pascoe, criminologist and researcher, found that of all participants in Khulisa’s programmes, 98% progressed positively.
Some of the participants cited “anger management and conflict resolutions” as some of the benefits they had received from the programmes said Shezi.
This year and in 2015 the NGO plans to host programmes that focus on domestic violence, parents and children and looking at “the streets we walk with new eyes”, according to Rowles.
Walking onto the eerily silent ramp that leads to the new exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, one is met by death. Small mounds of sand stand,holding up colourful wooden crosses that have dates of birth and death written on them.These graves that lie in glass containers are in the Zanele Muholi’s Mo(u)rning section of the exhibition.
The next piece of the collection, Faces and Faces catches the eye immediately as a wall of black and white portraits look one in the eye. There are some gaps between some of the photographs by Muholi which speak to the nameless but dated graves.
“The spaces were left there to show that they could have been a part of this section of the exhibition if they weren’t killed for being gay and lesbian,” explained facilitator Ace Kekana, whose face appears in one of Muholi’s portraits.Queer and Trans Art-iculations: Collaborative Art for Social Change is a collaborative exhibition by visual artists, Muholi and Gabrielle le Roux.
“…men who gang rape women, who murder lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.”
Muholi’s work is on the ground floor of the museum with a focus on the LGBTI community in South Africa – their beauty, their struggle, their murders and more. Muholi is not only a photographer, so her work varies and in this exhibit includes some of her bead work and a documentary film.
The most elaborate display in Muholi’s section are rosaries that hang from the ceiling. The beads in the rosaries are tennis balls and kitchen utensils. The vertical end of the cross at the end of the rosary is made from a knife which represents the violent killings of members of the LGBTI community experience, and the horizontal end from braai forks to represent the supposed hell killers think they’ve sent their victims to, or perhaps the lived hell victims endure.
“When people kill based on gender they like to say it’s for religious reasons, these crosses represent how dangerous that kind of thinking can be,” said Kekana.
The most moving part of Muholi’s exhibited work is a wall with a number of written messages from victims and their family members about their experiences. One of the messages read: “Here in South Africa you have judges sending women to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her baby, but men who gang rape women, who murder lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.”
In contrast to the quiet reception on entering Muholi’s floor of the exhibition, walking down the ramp into the basement area, sounds from the television screens set up with short documentaries by Le Roux lure attendees with their mixed up buzz.
Le Roux’s collection, Proudly African & Transgender and Proudly Trans in Turkey looks at the experiences “trans and intersex people in Turkey and Africa,” said Kekana. Another facilitator, Thekwane Mpisholo is in one of the portraits put on display by Le Roux.
The painted portraits are inclusive of their “subjects” and this can be seen in the quotes the artist let them scribble on their actual portraits.
The newly launched Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, helped to find the funding for this project. “They’re the ones who helped us with the planning and funding because they (Diversity Studies) study things that aren’t ordinarily studied by other faculties – that’s how they came on board,” said Mpisholo.
There is a lot to read, watch and see at this exhibition and people can do so until March 30 2014 at the Wits Art Museum.
Taken at the Martienssen Prize Exhibition, hosted at the Wits Arts Museum. Witsie, Antonia Brown won herself ten thousand rand with her entry. Her work titled ‘I Will Tell Him When He Comes’ looked at an extinct Khoisan language. Pictured below are reactions after the announcement. All photos by me.
This year the Wits Arts and Literature Experience (WALE) had a number of interesting events on offer. Of all the events I managed to attend, one in particular stood out. I wouldn’t call this piece a review but rather an abstruse comment on the play.It was a fairly warm and pleasant afternoon, the 10th of May 2012. This changed completely when we were ushered into the Nunnery. A Wits theatre space which has quite an eerie feel to it. It felt like we had just walked into a dungeon. This was cemented when the huge black doors where bolted shut for the performance to begin. The lights were dimmed, all whispers faded and The Line began.
It was an amazing play to watch. Even though it only ran for 50 minutes, one was not left wanting. The storyline was robust, intricate and full of devastating truths. Truths about who we are as so called South African citizens. Citizens who are so caught up in the ideas of their superior nationality that they burn, torture and destroy the lives of their fellow brothers and sisters. The play was primarily about the heinous acts committed during the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008.
The script and most of the dialogue in the play was made up by a number of interviews conducted by the director, Gina Shumulker. This made for a far more transparent and sincere opportunity to identify with the characters. There were only two actors (Khutso Green and Gabi Harris) on stage but they managed to tell the stories of several interviewees. Ms Green played five vastly different characters. Just by changing her voice and mannerisms, she managed to play each character with spellbinding conviction. Her physical appearance was but a mirage on that stage. We ‘saw’ a different character every time she opened her mouth.
We got an insight into the kinds of people who propelled the violence, in this case an ANC councillor, a young thug and a woman who was a victim of the hype incited by mob mentality. We got to see people who just stood by and watched, stopping only to take photographs (people like us). But most importantly we got to see the victims of the xenophobic violence. The innocent people we all let down.
There was a discussion after the play. Most of the audience members were moved by the performance. Moved in that they had never taken the xenophobic attitudes and actions seriously up until this point. There was a common feel around the room that the time of shifting the responsibility of dealing with such issues to government is over. The onus is on us as individuals to say to one another that ‘this is wrong and we will not tolerate it’. We can’t stand back anymore and watch such atrocities take place right under our noses. There are a lot of things that we put up with and ‘let slide’. The killing of innocent people should not be one of them.
The Line left me feeling guilty and ashamed. Ashamed of being a South African citizen and guilty in my complicity of inaction. However, there was a trickle of hope in all of this. There was a character who was involved in the violence who was rather remorseful after the fact. Her guilt is a sign that our people haven’t completely lost their humanity. That we still have the ability to feel for others, that all is not lost.