Page 1

S’Himi

Bright

Eke

Ugochukwu

Clive van den Berg David Koloane Dawit L Petros

Dineo Seshee Bopape

Donna

Kukama doung Anwar Jahangeer George

DON’T/PANIC

Batoul

Osodi Helen Timm Jacques Coetzer John Roome

Jyoti Mistry

Kim Anno

Liesel

Prins Mlu Zondi Moshekwa Langa Nástio Mosquito Nils Burwitz Nomaduma Masilela Otobong

Nkanga

Penny

Siopis

Ruth

Sacks Sean O’Toole Sean Slemon Thando Mama Thierry Fontaine Zamani Makhanya

DON’T/PANIC

DON’T/PANIC brings together critical approaches engaging and contributing to the dialogue around climate change. Many of the voices gathered here are overt at times; sometimes they

9 781920 196370

are subtle, sometimes humorous, sometimes standing as an indictment. Some works raise awareness, others offer a vision and modest proposals; some are simply poetic statements.

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ISBN 978-1-920196-37-0 www.jacana.co.za

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DON’T/PANIC

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First published by Fanele – an imprint of Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd – in 2011 10 Orange Street Sunnyside Auckland Park 2092 South Africa (+27 11) 628-3200 www.jacana.co.za © Various Contributors, 2011 © Various Artists, 2011

All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-920196-370

WebPDF ISBN 978-1-920196-462

Cover image: Moshekwa Langa, Car Crash series, 1999/2010, image taken by Daniel van Flymen, courtesy of the artist Design and layout by squareart Set in Berthold Imago 9/13 Printed by Ultra Litho, Johannesburg Job no. 001618 See a complete list of Jacana titles at www.jacana.co.za


Contents

Introduction ~ Lien Heidenreich

05

Acknowledgements

06

DON’T/PANIC ~ Gabi Ngcobo

09

Emancipation and the ‘will to power’: the productive ambiguities of set setal ~ Nomaduma Masilela

25

The Kilimanjaro Ice Coffee Expedition ~ Sean O’Toole

46

Pushing the on/off buttons of our consciousness ~ Jyoti Mistry

59

Biographies: Artists

92

Biographies: Contributors

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Batoul S’Himi \ Sans titre/de la série Monde sous pression (The World Under Pressure) \ 2009 objet en aluminium, carte du monde découpé \ 40 x 25cm image courtesy of the artist

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Introduction Lien Heidenreich Head of Cultural Programmes Sub-Sahara Africa \ Goethe-Institut

Climate change, natural disasters and their growing effects on the earth, and therefore humankind, have been known about and studied for many years. Changes in climate often go hand in hand with cultural changes. The African continent has been particularly vulnerable to environmental changes, often not committed on the continent itself. Increasing global warming and possible related consequences such as growing desertification, or changes for agricultural cultivation, have far-reaching consequences in Africa. In addition, limited availability of natural resources such as oil and coltan has resulted in battles fought for the highly valuable reserves on a large scale on the African continent. The world over, it is often the most defenceless groups who, far away from any media attention, see their livelihoods forever changed, and are forced to find other ways to sustain themselves. But what do statistics and diagrams say about the changes in people’s lives? And how have artists reacted to these changes? DON’T/PANIC is an exhibition that brings together many powerful voices as it engages African artists dealing with the current ecological situation. Many of these voices are critical, sometimes overt, sometimes subtle, sometimes humorous, sometimes standing as an indictment. Some of the works may raise awareness, others offer a vision; some may simply be poetic statements. DON’T/PANIC is not focused on scientific analysis, but seeks to draw attention to the interdependence of nature and humanity, allowing a new perspective on the changes of culture and climate. The Goethe-Institut and the Heinrich-Böll Foundation have partnered to commission DON’T/ PANIC on the occasion of COP17. This event is taking place in Durban, South Africa, at the end of 2011, and for the very first time on the African continent. We are certain that DON’T/ PANIC makes an interesting contribution to the dialogue around culture and climate by adding a unique African artistic perspective to the discussion. We would like to thank the curator Gabi Ngcobo for her work in this regard, and hope that this book will be a useful reader for those who saw the exhibition, but also an interesting point of departure for those interested in African artists’ voices around the ecological reality on the continent.

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Acknowledgements The DON’T/PANIC project and book would not have been possible without the generous support of the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, commissioners of the project whose vision continues to inspire critical creative expression in Sub-Sahara Africa. Thank you to the Heinrich Böll Stiftung for believing in the project and providing additional support. My gratitude goes out to all participating artists and contributors whose ideas and projects have inspired the curatorial vision of the DON’T/PANIC project. I would like to thank the Durban Art Gallery and the eThekwini Municipality for providing infrastructural and creative support and The BAT Centre for collaborating through their ongoing Artist in Residency (AIR) programme. Special thanks to the Wits School of Arts (WSOA) for the support they have given to the project. Thank you to WSOA staff and students; WSOA director Georges Pfruender, head of school David Andrew, Jyoti Mistry, Natasha Christopher and the 3rd Year Design and Drawing class (2011) for their participation and inspiration in thinking of various ways of approaching questions around climate change. To Candice Ganesh, my hard-working and patient project assistant, thank you for taking the lead where needed most. Thank you to the Centre for Historical Reenactments for logistical support and to my friends, colleagues and partners Zamani Makhanya, Sifiso Ka-Mkame, Abdellah Karroum, Nomusa Mtshali, Zamaxolo Dunywa, Lehlohonolo ‘Vily’ Moeketsi, Bandile Gumbi, Donna Kukama, Lwazi ‘Zorro’ Xaba, Eddie Dlomo, Lindelani Ngwenya, Nomaduma Masilela, Kim Anno, STEVENSON Gallery, Cape Town and Johannesburg, the Goodman Gallery, Cape Town and Johannesburg, Iziko Museums, Alexander Gray Associates, New York and L’appartement 22, Rabat. Finally, a word of thanks to my editors at Jacana Media; Megan Southey and Russell Clarke, to the book designer Geraldine Hendler and to Lyn Ossome for the love and support.

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Dawit L Petros \ Untitled (Water Barriers: Occupying the Space Between Two Rivers) \ 2009 c-print \ 101.6 x 279.4cm \ image courtesy of the artist

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Thierry Fontaine \ The Long Crossing \ 2005 chromogenic print \ 120 x 120cm image courtesy of the artist

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DON’T/PANIC When the morning gathers the rainbow Want you to know I’m a rainbow too So to the rescue, here I am Want you to know, ya’ll, can you understand? Bob Marley Sun is Shining ~1978

Gabi Ngcobo

DON’T/PANIC is a curatorial project responding to the subject of climate change, with the aim of unsettling both those who snub the subject and those who pay it an overwhelming amount of attention. Climate change is not a subject to be disregarded but perhaps it is one in which, within art, one can find syntaxes that transverse scientific stringency and start to inhabit more enabling spaces – spaces that tend towards the fictional, the fantastical and the spectral. Here I refer to art that has the ability to touch but never with the aim of embracing; art that is disobedient and disruptive; art that refuses to be an overt functional tool and therefore has the power to act against the general drift of the world. It is this ‘artistic revolution’ described by Rancière as one that ‘rearranges the rules of the game by making two things interdependent: the blurring of the borders between the logic of facts and the logic of fictions and the new mode of rationality that characterises the science of history.’1 The projects forming part of DON’T/PANIC offer new spaces for alternative readings of artistic processes. A few iconic works have remained in my mind throughout the process of thinking about the framing of the project. One of them is an image of Bulgarian artist Daniel Bozhkov, a documentation of a performance titled Darth Vader Tries to Clean the Black Sea with Brita Filter (2000) in which the artist, dressed as the Star Wars villain, is seen, as the title suggests, carrying a Brita water filter and a water container performing a futile and mocking gesture of purifying the Black Sea, one of the most polluted bodies of water on earth. Here the impossibilities are amplified in small gestures that function as modest proposals illustrating an unlikely idea that becomes, literally, a drop in the ocean. The act, now frozen in a photograph, occupies the space between that which can be done and that which remains impossible. 1

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Jacques Rancière, ‘The Distribution of the Sensible’ in The Politics of Aesthetics, New York (2004), p36

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Another example is Janine Antoni’s 2002 video titled Touch in which Antoni walks a thin rope tightly stretched along the horizon (between the sky and the ocean). Antoni appears to be walking ‘on the horizon’, that intangible place that never fulfils its promise and one in which writer Zora Neale Hurston’s statement; ‘no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you’ underlines the impossibilities of arriving at any destination even if that destination holds a visible promise. The illusory aesthetics in the works discussed above are technical strategies aimed at manipulating a space described by Jacques Rancière as the ‘territory of the visible, the thinkable and the possible’. Artist Paul Chen suggests that ‘in art, the only ideas worth realising are the truly untenable ones’.2 What, then, we may ask, is the use of the ‘untenable’ when faced with as topical a subject as climate change? There is no use; the usefulness of art is not something that can be measured and easily packaged. Art is not the answer; it is the question. DON’T/PANIC, therefore, is not a platform to provide answers but rather one in which a series of questions, speculations, proposals and processes are assembled to create a space to sharpen reflection and encourage resistance. The two examples above (Antoni and Bozhkov) demonstrate how certain artistic gestures can respond to spaces (be they mental, (bio)political, intellectual, economic or environmental) by creating images, objects, ideas and experiences that help sharpen sensibilities with regard to the impact and the various relationships we have with the worlds we inhabit. These experiences are not only found within the space of art as we have come to know it, but also in seemingly insignificant rituals of self-preservation and belief systems. As an example, most women my age might recall the warning that eating from a cooking pot will cause rain to fall on one’s wedding day. Any young girl with dreams of her own ‘perfect’ wedding day would reach for a plate and never again attempt to interfere with her own destiny by eating from the pot. The power of this allegory lies in the unconscious belief that we cannot be separated from ‘nature’ outside of ourselves. Bob Marley’s lyrics, quoted at the beginning of this essay, poetically proclaim ‘I’m a rainbow too’. This illustrates the way we speak of nature as something outside of ourselves. This perception hinders the very spaces we need to intervene – ‘to the rescue’ – in issues pertaining to the relationships we have with the spaces we inhabit. Marley’s lyrics from the 1978 song are therefore helpful in articulating my curatorial approach to the topical subject of climate change. The selection process, with a few exceptions, relied on existing projects I have encountered in my travels and on existing relationships with artists. My primary approach was to read

2

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Paul Chen, ‘What art is and Where it Belongs’ in e-flux Journal #10, 11/2009. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/95

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into images, experiences and processes in which artists are not necessarily making direct comments on issues of climate change. What I was most interested in were moments where the artwork slips through certain barriers and where artistic practices reflect the inability to separate creative pursuits with how we relate to the spaces we inhabit – the environment in its broadest sense. I wanted to think site-specifically about Durban. I considered recent political changes that have taken place, especially the highly contested street name changes that are more visible here than, I will stand corrected, any place in the country. I was also drawn to the ‘human capital struggle’ that has shaped discourses about Durban as a post-apartheid city, the seeming ability to groom and the inability to sustain its ‘products’. Why do people leave the city and what draws those who come through it at certain points in their lives? Sean Slemon’s performance, ‘moving’ his sculptural piece, Joburg 1-11 first to Cape Town in 2008 and this time to Durban (see page 42) becomes pertinent in thinking about local (domestic) migrations. The image taken of a 2004 performance by Mlu Zondi would not leave my mind. I became interested in a reading of this image that speaks of political changes through a work set in a ‘natural environment’. In this performance, titled ‘IDENTIKIT ’, Zondi appears dressed in a costume made from green plastic garbage bags and larger-than-life pink sunglasses with blue lenses. He is captured emerging out of the Indian Ocean, at South Beach, Durban. His head is tilted upwards, his arms seem to be flapping dramatically and he is exhaling in animated relief. He appears as if he has been spit upon the shore in a similar way, I imagine, to the biblical character Jonah who was swallowed and spat out by the ‘great fish’, emerging at the Godcommanded city of Nineveh after straying in the opposite direction towards Tarshish. Zondi’s is the pose of one who has finally reached the designated ground. Visible in the photograph are other people who happened to be in the background when the image was taken. They are casually engaged in water activities typical of Durban beach scenes. Swimming, surfing and collecting sea water for ritualistic self-preservation use. This beach scenario takes place in Durban fourteen years after the repeal of the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act No. 49 of 1953 which, with its termination, saw the disappearance of the Act’s accompanying billboards with mocking signs reading: BATHING AREA FOR WHITES ONLY. It indicates that this is a post-apartheid setting. The political climate has or is changing. This is also very much a post-colonial scene, albeit a late one as far as post-colonialism goes. In this case it is useful to consider Rasheed Araeen’s observation that ‘there are historical conditions which apply to all the so-called post-colonial countries, including South Africa, but what makes South Africa different are its racial and ethnic components and the cultural

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diversities they represent.’3 In other words, as argued by Zine Magubane, the ‘post’ in postapartheid is not the same as the ‘post’ in post-colonial. The dress code of the people swimming in the background, for example, is classic of the conservatism that is synonymous with Victorian morality, making apt the description of Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal province as the last British outpost. Zondi’s performance was ultimately about his own identity, therefore the title ‘IDENTIKIT ’. It was, according to the artist, a response to growing up being unusually light in complexion and thus constantly teased and deemed different. His first name Mlu, short for Mlungisi (the one who makes things right), has often provided his peers with a space to abstract its meaning so that Mlu would stand for ‘Mlungu’ (white person). This abstraction of identity suggests that a certain line could have been crossed, the immorality line – the line that Zondi, in the beach scene, now occupies and uses as a space to come out, to reemerge. With his elaborate costume, Zondi stands out from the people in the background who now swim inside these once-contested waters. It is useful here to recall perhaps one of the most remarkable and intense sex scenes in African English literature, a scene from Lewis Nkosi’s novel, Mating Birds (1983). The two main characters – Ndi Sibiya, the South African blackeducated native and ‘the English girl’ Veronica Slater – engage in an ‘imaginary’ sexual encounter – an encounter without physical contact. They defy apartheid without touching it. The two characters are at distinct ends of the rainbow where the holy grail of sexuality without colour lines could be imagined. What is at stake in Nkosi’s narrative, as well as in the reality of the times, is the need to preserve a purely white environment, a space that can be tampered with if there was mating between the white race and other (deemed inferior) races. Apartheid was, as Jacqueline Rose has asserted, ‘sexual apartheid as much as, if not before, anything else’.4 Nkosi’s Mating Birds could very easily have been set right on this spot where Zondi reemerges, where lines separating black and white were clearly demarcated by the signs and crossing them would mean punishment by law.

3 4

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See Rasheed Araeen, ‘What is Post-Apartheid South Africa and its Place in the World?’ in Africus: Johannesburg Biennale (Johannesburg Transitional Metropolitan Council, 1995), p17 Jacqueline Rose, States of Fantasy (Clarendon, 1995) p107 quoted from Graham, Ls ‘Prohibitive Signs and “Black Peril” in Mating Birds’ in Still Beating the Drum: Critical Perspectives on Lewis Nkosi, eds Stiebel, L and Gunner, L (Wits University Press, 2006) p149

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Mlu Zondi \ IDENTIKIT (documentation of performance) \ 2004 video still \ image courtesy of Nkosinathi Gumede

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Now, what does all of this have to do with climate change? Everything, and nothing at all. Let’s look at it this way: as far as change goes, things change and things stay the same. The dividing lines may have gone, on paper, but change is not that clear cut, it is something that has not infiltrated people’s relationships with one another, across the colour lines. Change is something we may choose to work towards, work against or do nothing about. Indeed, there are many who believe that change, if and when it comes, is bound to be for the worst. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign slogan ‘Change we can believe in’ created a space in which change in American politics, indeed the world, could be imagined, good or bad, depending on people’s political affiliations and levels of tolerance. Obama’s slogan was never a guarantee for change but the bottom line was that change is not to be doubted. The works of art and thoughts gathered in this exhibition and publication give expression to how we can start welcoming, ignoring, resisting, or trying to change the forces that push realities we face through our environment into sensibilities that facilitate alternative ways of looking at the world. The works gathered here shun the exigencies of the moment; by steering clear from discourses adept at looking at things from a singular way of becoming they start to be part of something more fluid and thus more enabling.

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Nils Burwitz \ Mirage VI \ 1974 silkscreen \ image courtesy of the artist

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Dineo Seshee Bopape \ f for flowers installation shot \ 2010 mixed-media installation \ image courtesy of STEVENSON, Cape Town and Johannesburg Š Dineo Seshee Bopape

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Biographies: Contributors

Kim Anno Kim Anno was born in Los Angeles, California, and currently lives in Berkeley, where she is a professor of Art at California College of the Arts. Much of Anno’s work is influenced by the shifting ecological environment and is expressed through paintings, photographs and video work, which are often marked by a sense of visceral and sensual color. Anno is also passionately devoted to expanding the function of art in society. In 2011, she will show the video: Men and Women in Water Cities in Flux projects, Atlanta. In 2009 she had two solo exhibitions, one a retrospective at King’s Art Center in Hanford, California, and the other at Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco. Her work has been shown at the 2010 Site Santa Fe Biennale; The Berkeley Art Center; the Bedford Gallery and Launch Pad Brooklyn, New York; the Varnosi Museum in Hungary; Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts, New York; the Zaloren Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City; Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Peter Miller Gallery in Chicago; Sue Scott Gallery, New York; Patricia Correia Gallery in Los Angeles; Gallery 128 New York, New York; The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California; The Hyde Collection, New York; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; and Obudai Galeria, Budapest, Hungary, as well as the Embassador’s Estate in Kuala Lumpar, and Qatar (Artists in Embassies Program; the Mead Museum, the Bennington Museum among others). In 2003 she published The Mirror of Simple Souls, an artists’ book in collaboration with Anne Carson at One Crow Press at St Benedict’s/St John’s University in Minnesota. Currently, she is a professor and chair of painting at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

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Jacques Coetzer Jacques Coetzer was born in Kimberley, South Africa. He lives and works in Riebeeck-Kasteel, South Africa. He studied at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Coetzer’s ‘Alt Pop’ practice splices new and traditional media in order to reach an audience wider than the art world. He has interacted with communities in Scotland, Tanzania and South Africa and his art is represented in public and private collections locally and internationally. Coetzer’s solo exhibitions include: New Adventures, Blank Projects, Cape Town and GoetheInstitut, Johannesburg, South Africa (2010/11); Alt Pop, Bell-Roberts Contemporary, Cape Town; Tydsgees, Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK), Oudtshoorn; MINE – A selection of films by South African artists – Afrikazentrum der Universitat Bayreuth, Germany; DADA South? at Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Embedded Art, Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, (2009); 2007: Spier Contemporary, Stellenbosch (2007); and the Brett Kebble Art Awards, (2004) among many others.

Zamani Makhanya Zamani Makhanya was born in Durban where he works and lives. He studied at the University of Fort Hare where he graduated with an Honours Degree in Fine Art and a Higher Diploma in Education in 1979 and 1985 respectively. As a student Makhanya won several awards and his work found its way into public and private collections. He went on to teach art at Ntuzuma College of Education from 1986 to 1999. In 2000 Makhanya was instrumental in forming the Durban artists’ collective ‘3rd Eye Vision’. His work has been shown in South Africa and internationally. He is a full-time artist and educator; he teaches art at Ningizimu School for the Severely Mentally Handicapped in Montclaire, Durban, and regularly facilitates workshops with young emerging artists.

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Nomaduma Masilela Nomaduma Masilela is an independent curator and PhD candidate in Art History at Columbia University, New York. She is currently a Columbia Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow, a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellow, and a Mellon Mays Fellow. Her research focuses on contemporary art from Africa, with a focus on art and artists from South Africa and Senegal. She was awarded a year-long Mortimer Hays Brandeis Travelling Fellowship from Brandeis University to research set setal in Senegal. She has interned with Dak’Art in Dakar and the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, worked at The Kitchen in New York, and with Susan Vogel at Columbia University.

Jyoti Mistry Jyoti Mistry is a filmmaker and associate professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Arts. She earned her BA at Wits and holds MA and PhD degrees in Cinema Studies from New York University. Mistry’s filmography includes short films and documentaries that are made in the explorative experimental approach that characterises her films. Her films include, most recently, Kgafela oa Magogodi’s I mike what I like and We Remember Differently, an experimental narrative short that draws on 8mm archival footage to recontextualise memory and testimony.

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Gabi Ngcobo Gabi Ngcobo is a Durban-born Johannesburg-based independent curator and faculty member at the Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Her curatorial projects include collaborative and individual projects: Second to None at the Iziko South African National Gallery; Olvida quen soy/ Erase me from who I am at CAAM, Canary Islands (2006); CAPE 07 in different venues in Cape Town (2007); Titled/Untitled, a curatorial collaboration with Gugulective collective; and Scratching the Surface Vol.1 at the AVA Gallery, Cape Town. In 2010 Ngcobo co-curated Rope-a-dope: to win a losing war at Cabinet, New York; Second Coming, a curatorial collaboration at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, and Just How Cold Was It? at ‘6–8 Months’ project space, New York City. In 2010 she co-founded the ‘Center for Historical Reenactments’ (CHR) an independent platform based in Johannesburg. At CHR she curated PASS-AGES: references & footnotes at the old Pass Office and an ongoing project titled Xenoglossia, a research project. Ngcobo is the curator of DON’T/PANIC.

Sean O’Toole Sean O’Toole is an author, critic, journalist and editor based in Cape Town. He is currently a feature writer for the Sunday Times and Mail & Guardian newspapers, and writes a bi-monthly art column for frieze magazine. He is co-editor (with Tau Tavengwa) of CityScapes, a new biannual magazine on cities and urban issues in the global south produced by the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. He is a past editor of the quarterly print journal Art South Africa (2004–2010) and former editor of the online art magazine www.artthrob.co.za (2002–2004).

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Batoul S’Himi \ Sans titre/de la série Monde sous pression (The World Under Pressure) \ 2009 objet en aluminium, carte du monde découpé \ 40 x 25cm image courtesy of the artist

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S’Himi

Bright

Eke

Ugochukwu

Clive van den Berg David Koloane Dawit L Petros

Dineo Seshee Bopape

Donna

Kukama doung Anwar Jahangeer George

DON’T/PANIC

Batoul

Osodi Helen Timm Jacques Coetzer John Roome

Jyoti Mistry

Kim Anno

Liesel

Prins Mlu Zondi Moshekwa Langa Nástio Mosquito Nils Burwitz Nomaduma Masilela Otobong

Nkanga

Penny

Siopis

Ruth

Sacks Sean O’Toole Sean Slemon Thando Mama Thierry Fontaine Zamani Makhanya

DON’T/PANIC

DON’T/PANIC brings together critical approaches engaging and contributing to the dialogue around climate change. Many of the voices gathered here are overt at times; sometimes they

9 781920 196370

are subtle, sometimes humorous, sometimes standing as an indictment. Some works raise awareness, others offer a vision and modest proposals; some are simply poetic statements.

Don't Panic_Cover_AW.indd 2

ISBN 978-1-920196-37-0 www.jacana.co.za

2011/10/25 3:18 PM

DON'T/PANIC  

DON'T/PANIC together many powerful voices as it engages African artists dealing with the current ecological situation. Many of these voices...

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