representations of otherness and resistance
Cover image: Mary Sibande, I have not, I have (2010), Digital print, 110 x 80 cm, University of the Free State Art Collection. Image courtesy of Gallery MOMO
Johannes Stegmann art gallery â€˘ university of the free state â€˘ 20 may - 19 june 2015
representations of otherness and resistance
Representations of Otherness and Resistance
Guest Curator: Annali Cabano-Dempsey
Visual forms often disclose dichotomous relationships between the Other and the norm. The ambiguous relationship between the perceived norm and the Foucauldian (2004: 95) “abnormal” (strongly linked to taboos, aversion, shame and fear) implies uneven relationships between the two, with the consequence being resistance and activism against the norm in an effort to be accepted into mainstream society. In contrast to modernism, with power structures guiding identity formation within social groupings according to delimitations and marginalization, postmodernism envisages a heterogeneous world with all individuals and cultural groups acknowledged as unique and on equal footing. Power can be transferred from traditional authorities to individuals, groups and communities formerly considered insignificant; identity formation becomes a process of differentiation and description of the groups to which the individual belongs. The Other, states Jean Baudrillard (1993: 124 – 138), is thus “no longer there to be exterminated, hated, rejected or seduced, but instead to be understood, liberated, coddled, recognized.” Drawing on this, the curatorial process, for the exhibition Representations of Otherness and Resistance, became a journey of finding contemporary South African artworks that address the complex world of inequality, intolerance and exclusion. Artworks that reflect on the politics of identity in a world where we are simultaneously global and local citizens and the ways in which acceptance and rejection are shaped by power structures by our present social constructs. Contemporary artworks were drawn from major institution’s collections, focusing broadly on, amongst others, the Barnumiun exploitation of the perceived primitive or exotic; the effect of colonial exploitation of people and resources and the postcolonial backlash; the rejection of strangers and resulting xenophobia; the “incidental” and “inessential” (de Beauvoir 1997) within gender politics; racial, religious and ethnic hierarchies and relations and negotiations within such hierarchies, identity and social belonging. I want to congratulate the Centre for Africa Studies at the University of the Free State, specifically the project leader, Prof. Heidi Hudson, for having recognised the need for the study of the Other within the Pan African context and wish the centre success with their envisaged project. Thank you to the staff and management of the Oliewenhuis Art Museum, the William Humphreys Art Gallery, the University of the Free State and University of Johannesburg Art Collections for their enthusiasm and support of this show. Thank you to the very competent and professional curator of the Stegmann Gallery, Angela de Jesus, for her determination and input in making this exhibition happen. And thank you for allowing me to be part of this enriching experience. Baudrillard, J. 1993. The melodrama of difference (Or, the revenge of the colonized). Coulter (ed). 1993:124-138. De Beauvoir (1997), The second sex. Vintage Classics. Foucault, M. 2004. ‘Je suis un artificier’. Droit (ed). 2004: 89 – 136. Annali Cabano-Dempsey has been the Curator of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Art Gallery, responsible for temporary exhibitions and the UJ Art Collection, for the past 18 years. She holds a MA degree from the North West University, regularly serves as adjudicator for major national art competitions and is a freelance journalist and writer.
Representations of Otherness and Resistance is an exhibition which explores contemporary modes in the visual arts in depicting and contesting otherness. The difficulty in representing (or curating) the Other is the unintentional reinforcement of misconceptions and engagement in new forms of exploitation. The contemporary representation and interpretation of the Other are rooted in past connotations, but are more complex and nuanced as the Other is saturated with several (often ambiguous) meanings. Modes of looking, the gaze in all its forms, colonial thinking, “apartheid” (Richards 1999: 348 -374), postcolonial discourse and gendered ideology, have all interrogated representation. Okwui Enwezor (1999: 367 - 399) questions, “who has the ‘right’ to represent whom” and claims that archival modes of representing and viewing, in particular, ‘the black subject’ have re-surfaced in contemporary art. He argues that racial (cultural, sexual and religious) misappropriations have taken place in various forms and that several ‘subjects’ have been misrepresented by their Other. It is therefore significant to find new ways of presenting subject matter, to scrutinize established modes of representation and to draw attention to the way in which we look and understand. It is less about “who has the ‘right’ to represent whom”, than it is about the manner in which we choose to represent ourselves and that which is Other to ourselves as interpretation is embedded in practices beyond visibility. Contemporary artists often use representational strategies to either maintain or deny (with the aim of deliberately destabilizing) ideologies associated with otherness. This exhibition considers four broad aspects associated with the representation of otherness and resistance namely:
Appropriation - the appropriation (and re-appropriation), the hybridity or adopted form/s and the sharing, cohesion and exchange of culture as evident in the works of Andrew Putter, Peter Engblom and the Keiskamma Art Project; Power Struggles - the shifting of power and exploitation as seen in the works of Mikhael Subotzky, Frikkie Potgieter, Berni Searle, Cobus van Bosch, Hasan and Husain Essop; and Gender Politics - notions of individuality, desire and violence in the works of Zanele Muholi, Paul Emmanuel, Paul Molete and Diane Victor. Thank you to our guest curator, Annali Cabano-Dempsey, for her contribution to the project. Enwezor, O. 1999. Reframing the black subject: Ideology and fantasy in contemporary South African representation. Oguibe & Enwezor (eds). 1999: 376 – 399. Richards, C. 1999. About face: Aspects of art history and identity in South African visual culture. Oguibe & Enwezor (eds). 1999: 348 – 373. Angela de Jesus is as the Curator at the Johannes Stegmann and Centenary art galleries at University of the Free State (UFS). She manages the permanent art collection, has established the Lotto Sculpture-on-Campus Project at the UFS and assisted in initiating and co-ordinating the Programme for Innovation in Artform Development (PIAD).
Curator: Angela de Jesus
Complex identities - referencing the depiction of established ideologies and the reclaiming/redressing of identity as seen in the work of Anton Kannemeyer, Senzeni Marasela, Nomusa Makhubu, Rae Goosen and Mary Sibande;
Senzeni Marasela, Sarah Baartman remembered (2008), Linocuts, 11 x 30 cm (x4), University of Johannesburg Art Collection. Photographs by Jan Potgieter
Senzeni Marasela, Sarah Baartman remembered (2008), Linocuts, 11 x 30 cm (x3), University of Johannesburg Art Collection. Photographs by Jan Potgieter
Nomusa Makhubu, Self Portrait Project: Omama Bencelisa (The one who breastfeeds) (2007), Digital print on fabriano, 100 x 66.5 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Image courtesy of ErdmannContemporary
Nomusa Makhubu, Self Portrait Project: Ntombi (Girl) (2007), Digital print on fabriano, 100 x 66.5 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Image courtesy of ErdmannContemporary
Rae Goosen, Sw.e.et 16 installation (2010), Raku, 21 x 84 x 174 cm, William Humphreys Art Gallery Collection. Photographs by William Humphreys Art Gallery
Representations of Otherness and Resistance in africa
Othering has become a way of life in post-apartheid South Africa, ready to erupt at any time. In 2008 the Academy of Science of South Africa issued a statement condemning xenophobic violence. In 2015, almost seven years later, they reissued the statement. Apart from finding new and more violent ways of expressing difference, attitudes on the ground appear to have shifted very little. As with Diane Victor’s disturbing depictions of truth and peace in contemporary South Africa, some of which form part of this exhibition (Truth Dance), themes of identity and representation remain as important as ever. It is, therefore, quite apt that the interdisciplinary project of the Centre for Africa Studies on Contemporary Modes of Othering: Its Perpetuation and Resistance culminates in a two-day colloquium with multidisciplinary exhibits, performances and lectures in the build-up to this year’s Africa Day on 25 May. This project seeks to capture the multi-layered nuances of spatial, temporal and sonic dynamics within the context of Africa, especially South Africa, as these relate to the core pillars of various artistic forms of representation of otherness and resistance. Depictions of otherness, power and resistance in text, dance, protest music, visual arts and performative arts are explored by a team of researchers from relevant departments from the Faculty of Humanities, the University of the Free State. The aim of this research is not only to critically examine the (violent) nature of representation through discourse and practice, but also to reflect on the implications of these multi-media representations for the study of Africa. In other words, what does a synthesis of these interdisciplinary insights tell us about alterity and the African Knowledge Project? What happens when the Other is studied through a variety of media? Are the disciplines transformed by such engagement? This exhibition (hosted by the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery at the University of the Free State, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery; Oliewenhuis Art Museum and the William Humphreys Art Gallery) contributes to just such a multi-layered and nuanced understanding of othering through the medium of visual representation. It sensitises us to the ways in which imaging can be used as a cultural technique to intervene in the dynamics of knowledge acquisition about Africa and its people. Moreover, this catalogue adds to the goal of establishing a physical and digital archive on the theme of othering in order to gather and synthese visual art works that form part of non-verbal forms of cultural resistance. This thought-provoking collection of paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculptures and video work draws on the interconnectedness of our colonial past and postcolonial present, forcing us to acknowledge that Sarah Baartman’s journey across Europe (as seen in Senzeni Marasela’s
series Sarah Baartman remembered) is, in fact, also our journey, whether as the voyeuristic Self or the objectified Other. The seemingly benign white linocut images on a black background in Marasela’s series of prints pull us into Baartman’s underworld of pain. The trope of the Colonial Woman, in Omama Bencelisa (the one who breastfeeds) by Nomusa Makhubu, is therefore not just an abstraction ‘out there’. Rather, she represents us, our mothers, grandmothers, and daughters, all woven into a complex rhizome-like entanglement of power, institution and practice. Contrasted with the beautiful, but ‘primitive’, Africa in the background, the superimposed front and back images of the female shape subvert cultural images of mothers/womanhood. This subversion disruptions ideas of identity to open up possibilities for re-imagining the colonial archive beyond the feminisation (i.e. marginalisation) of Africa towards a narrative of agency and hope. One such agentic narrative is the story of Sophie (I have not, I have), the protagonist in the work of Mary Sibande, a former Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year recipient. The digital print playfully, but dramatically, satirises the many layers of Sophie’s being, simultaneously a domestic worker, a woman, a wife and a mother. Sophie is dressed to shock her viewers. Her dark skin is offset by the deep blue Victorian dress reminiscent of the ZCC church colours. Her almost warrior-like pose, an act of defiance, communicates her protest at being a maid. However, there is also mystery and ambivalence – is it a feather duster or a weapon that she clasps? Is the dress a suit of armour or a fantasy ball gown? We might also theorise that the dress may refer to the layers of women’s agency and victimhood, viewed in a rather cynical way, and that the dress could be similar to a straightjacket, restraining Sophie in her predetermined ‘place’ in society. Any assessment of identity, its reproductions and resistance, is never very far from the mundaneness of daily life. Therefore, local spaces and places remain a fundamental source from which ordinary people draw their identity. Additionally, since place plays a key role in the shaping of ordinary people’s collective experiences of identity, it often leads to contestation and rejection of others’ claims of belonging to that same space. In this regard, the documentarylike photography of Pieter Hugo concerns itself (through an intimate relationship between photographer and subject) with the marginalised in society. The place photographed by Hugo is Musina (formerly Messina), located in the Limpopo Province. This town is in transition, embodied by the shifting identities of its inhabitants as they go about their daily lives. One such inhabitant is Happiness Nguluvhe (Happiness Nguluvhe in her school hostel bedroom). We are told Happiness is a girl, but her school uniform gives nothing away; pictures on the wall of the hostel bedroom are gender-mixed, reinforcing the ambivalence of gender identity; instead, identity is fluid. At
the same time, it does raise a serious question as to whether such intimate documentation, with Happiness being photographed in her bedroom, ‘normally’ deemed an intimate space, entrenches the very same objectification that the camera lens seeks to challenge. Claiming one’s space/place, whilst keeping others out, often manifests violently through xenophobia, homophobia, genocide, apartheid, religious intolerance or intervention, rape or violent nationalism. However, it is the seemingly non-violent forms of exclusion of minorities and socalled deviants that can be more salient and harmful. Zanele Muholi’s intimate everyday depiction of two young lesbians (from the “Being” Series) washing themselves shatters expectations of deviance and forces us to engage in introspection of our blinkered attitude towards LGBT Others. The hard zink bath and the bareness of the room are subtle reminders of the violence that lurks outside for black lesbians in democratic South Africa. Similarly, Three Marys: Purple Mary by Justin Dingwall subverts negative cultural perceptions and practices, in this case, about albinism. Linking an albino girl to the Virgin Mary creates a powerful image of innocence and vulnerability combined with confidence and beauty. For some, this shifting of the norms of beauty may be a troubling act. The interdisciplinary project of the Centre of Africa Studies as a whole, including this exhibition, is informed by an understanding of the need to resist ‘the imperial power of Same’ (Mudimbe 1988:20). Such universalising tendencies have ‘invented’ Africa in Europe’s image through metaphor and ideology captured in colonial and postcolonial text. However, it may also be time to resist the urge to provincialise African knowledge, thereby narrowing its reach and voice. Reinventing postcolonial Africa through visual art may be one critical way of changing the narrative. Mudimbe, V.Y. 1988. The Invention of Africa. Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Oxford: James Currey. Heidi Hudson is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Centre for Africa Studies at the University of the Free State. Her current research interests concentrate on discursive and material gender deficits of liberal peacebuilding in the postcolony. She is a Global Fellow of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in Norway and a member of the executive committee of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies section of the International Studies Association (ISA). She is also co-editor of the International Feminist Journal of Politics and serves on the editorial board of International Peacekeeping, Politikon, Africa Insight and the Journal of African Union Studies.
Pieter Hugo, Happiness Nguluvhe in her school hostel bedroom (2006), C-print mounted on aluminium, 75 x 94.5 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Image courtesy of the artist
Anton Kannemeyer, Say! If you speak English â€Ś (2008), Five colour lithograph, 41.5 x 58 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Image courtesy of the artist and the Stevenson Gallery
Lynnley Watson, Nanny Adelaide Myeke, Stoneware, 30 x 95 x 25 cm, William Humphreys Art Gallery Collection. Photograph by William Humphreys Art Gallery
Keith Dietrich, Mamojuta, Sonto and Olga (1984), Watercolour on paper, 70 x 95 cm, University of the Free State Art Collection. Photograph by Mandi Bezuidenhout
Mary Sibande, I have not, I have (2010), Digital print, 110 x 80 cm, University of the Free State Art Collection. Image courtesy of Gallery MOMO
Kim Lieberman, “Royal geographic society illustrated a chef in Samoa pg 242” “National Geographic photographs the Milestones 1942 Britain page 80” (2003), Painting and embroidery on stamp paper, 39.5 x 35.5 cm, University of Johannesburg Art Collection. Photograph by Jan Potgieter
Kim Lieberman, “Bridgette Barnett 2002 Johannesburg, South Africa” “The Geographical magazine Feb. 1983 VOL IV Nigeria” (2003), Painting and embroidery on stamp paper, 39.5 x 35.5 cm, University of Johannesburg Art Collection. Photograph by Jan Potgieter
Justin Dingwall, Three Marys: Purple Mary (2013), Giclee print on Hahnemuhle museum etching paper, 84 x 61 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Image courtesy of the artist
Anton Kannemeyer, B is for black, From the series Alphabet of Democracy (2008), Lithographic print, 57 x 44.5 cm, University of the Free State Collection. Image courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery
Anton Kannemeyer, W is for white, From the series Alphabet of Democracy (2008), Lithographic print, 57 x 44.5 cm, University of the Free State Collection. Image courtesy of the artist and Stevenson Gallery
the “face of the other”
This brief response to the artworks in the exhibition, Representation of Otherness and Resistance, considers two issues about representation; firstly, how black people and their culture are depicted, and how these depictions communicate their otherness. Notions of Self/Other are deeply rooted in South Africa’s political and racialised past (and some might say present). This notion of racial othering also applies to other countries where race is a central feature of social life. When it comes to this history of the past, black people have always been the Other in relation to the mainstream white culture in South African life. Subjected to this racial othering, black people were not simply the Other, but were “other” in relation to whiteness. For me, this idea is crystallised in the following Fanonian quote in his Black Skin, White Mask: “for not only must the black man [sic] be black; he must be black in relation to the white man [sic].” Thus, as the very embodiment of difference within a racial politics of exclusion, marginalisation, discrimination, prejudice and all that is negative, “the real Other,” according to Fanon, “is and will continue to be the black man [sic].” But the context of Frantz Fanon’s reflections was a turbulent, violent struggle and transition in his country from the grip of colonialism – the colonial era that produced some of the most demeaning depictions of black people, one small example of which appears in Anton Kannemeyer’s Alphabet of democracy collection in this exhibition as depicted in the image B is for black. Is it possible then, that in the post-apartheid South Africa, artists are engaging a different discourse that offers new perspectives on race relations, one that disrupts the notions of otherness that Fanon describes with such urgency and poignant emphasis? This is the question that concerns me in the second part of my inquiry into some of the works in this exhibition. The second point of inquiry in this discussion considers the question of whether the South African artists presented in this exhibition use their works to seek some form of “redress”. That is to say, whether their artworks convey a commitment to addressing the (mis)representation of Blackness in visual art that is associated with stereotyped and demeaning images of Black people and, by so doing, offer new perspectives in racial discourse.
The backdrop of the reflections I wish to share in this contribution are based on the following artworks drawn from the exhibition: Andrew Putter’s African hospitality; Mary Sibande’s I have not, I have; Paul Albert’s Louw Weppener se graf, Bethulie 1993 and David Goldblatt’s Child with a replica of a Zulu Hut at the Voortrekker Monument, on the Day of the Covenant. Disrupting the Positioning of Blacks as Objects of Anthropological Gaze Before discussing the relevant artworks in this section, I would like to share a somewhat personal story: my mother’s attempt to reclaim my father’s right to recognition when she found out that authors of an anthropological study conducted in the 1960s had failed to identify my father by name. Five years ago, browsing through the library at the University of Cape Town (UCT), I came across the book by Monica Wilson and Archie Mafeje, Langa: A Study of Social Groups in an African Township, which was published in 1963. I was surprised to see my father’s picture on the jacket cover of the book. There was a second photograph of him in one of the chapters in the book; yet in neither of these photos was my father identified by name. When I told my mother about the book, and about the authors’ failure to identify my father by name, she was incredulous. She recalled hosting Professor Monica Wilson and Dr. Archie Mafeje with their anthropology students in our home in order to facilitate meetings with prospective participants for their study. “How can they be silent about his name,” she said, “it’s like making him invisible!” She asked me to send her the book – “so I can see for myself.” When I collected the book during a visit, I saw that below the photograph of my father inside of the book my mother had written “Mr. W. T. Gobodo.” I was deeply moved by my mother’s act of naming my father in a UCT library book. It seemed to me that by writing my father’s name in this library copy of the book, she was restoring my father’s dignity. I could not help but wonder what the silence that she said had made him invisible evoked for her; what past memories this act of exclusion of his name brought back for her. It struck me that the simple act of writing her husband’s name in the book went beyond the act itself. Perhaps inserting her imprint and my
father’s name in the space that was silent about his identity was an inscription, a demand for recognition – Mr. W. T. Gobodo. I think that in his work, Andrew Putter engages with this act of restoration of a dignity that has been denied through (mis)representation, the depiction of a proud culture made invisible by unflattering, demeaning images. Putter seems to be challenging the perspective that black cultural artifacts are backwards and primitive. Not only does he make the culture visible to white eyes, but he also makes it appealing to white tastes. Some may say Putter’s works gestures towards an appeal to the “exotic”, but I think his concern goes much deeper than this analysis suggests. One finds evidence for this point of view in another of his collection that is not represented in this exhibition, Native works, which presents black women and men, young and old, in a way that is clearly intended to “make amends”, if one might use this term. In other words, as redress for the previous presentations of black people’s cultural identity in unflattering and humiliating ways in the arts. Black artists have not been satisfied with white artists positioning themselves as the ones to bestow recognition upon black life and black culture. They have asserted their agency and the dignity of their own experience in a way that confronts whiteness with its own discrimination, subjugation and marginalization of black life. Mary Sibande’s I have not, I have, demonstrates this sense of agency and stands as a powerful statement in response to the dehumanisation of racial othering. By appropriating the “master’s” (or perhaps “madam’s”) own language of representations of blackness, yet subverting the intentions of this language in order to wrest away from the dominant culture the fiat power to dehumanise, she transforms this othering into an elegant and striking image. She does so effectively in I have not, I have. It is an act of visual restoration of the dignity of blackness. Other blacks may participate in this defiant act of ridding one’s memory and the collective memory of one’s community of the subject position of the dehumanised Other.
I would like to end with some remarks about the artworks that invite us to embark on a journey that might lead to shared community with one another. Andrew Putter’s African hospitality seems to suggest this movement towards connection and bridge building that might bring us closer to one another. I have been struck by the image of young children and what they are doing in two of the works in the exhibition, Paul Albert’s Louw Weppener se Graf, Bethulie 1993 and David Goldblatt’s Child with a replica of a Zulu Hut at the Voortrekker Monument, on the Day of the Covenant. Could one perhaps interpret these scenes as a kind of promise, a sign that it is the next generation that is going to lead us to that hopeful place, that will undo the damage of centuries of colonial destruction to the human soul? After all, Bessie, the English girl (evoked by Putter in this exhibition) and castaway of one of the eighteenth century shipwrecks off the coast of Pondoland, lived among the Xhosas/amaMpondo; the little white girl in Goldblatt’s photograph “chooses” to enter into the Zulu hut while the mother maintains her distance. The two boys’ apparent fascination with Louw Weppener’s beard/face – daring, as it were, to touch this white man’s face – symbolise, too, the possibility of crossing the boundaries that divide. These symbolic acts by the little ones invite us to consider seriously the possibility that we might respond to the Other, and to the suffering of the Other, as if the Other were our own flesh and blood. This vision of shared humanity with others calls to mind a morality that is Other-directed, concerned with promoting the ethical vision of compassion and care for others. With this in mind, we should respond to this exhibition as if it were an invitation to gather around a site for ethical engagement, a site for forging human links across time and space with the Other. Fanon, F. (2008) . Black Skins, White Masks. Grove Press. Wilson, M., & Mafeje, A. (1963). Langa: A study of social groups in an African township. Oxford University Press. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies at the University of the Free State. Since her work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), her research has focused on the reparative elements of victims-perpetrator dialogue in the aftermath of mass trauma and violence.
Andrew Putter, Joao the Portuguese, From the series African hospitality (2009), Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper, 74 x 52.6 cm, Photography and compositing by Tony Meintjes, Private collection. Image courtesy of the artist
Andrew Putter, Lydia Logie, From the series African hospitality (2009), Archival pigment ink on cotton rag paper, 74 x 52.6 cm, Photography and compositing by Tony Meintjes, Private collection. Image courtesy of the artist
Keiskammahoek Project (Designed by Nombuyiselo Malumbezo), African Guernica I, II, III, Embroidered textiles, 40 x 39 cm (x3), William Humphreys Art Gallery Collection
Peter Engblom, Zulusushi (2000), Digital print (2000), 53 x 74.5 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection
Pippa Skotness, For Ruyter (1993), Etching, 40.5 x 54 cm, William Humphreys Art Gallery Collection
Wayne Barker, Land and Desire (Pierneef Series 1986 - 2004) (2007), Digital print and oil on canvas, 37 x 37 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection
Paul Alberts, Louw Weppener se graf, Bethulie 1993 (2006), Archivally processed print, 42.5 x 28.5 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection
Photograph by David Goldblatt, Child with a replica of a Zulu Hut at the Voortrekker Monument, on the Day of the Covenant, 16 December 1963, Silver gelatin print, 40 x 50 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Image courtesy of the Goodman Gallery
Mikhael Subotzky, Jack shines Swanepoelâ€™s shoes, Beaufort West (2006), Lightjet C-print on Fuji Crystal archive paper, 148.5 x 128.5 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Image courtesy of the artist
Frikkie Potgieter, High class bankie, Yellow wood, 73.5 x 48 x 33 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection.
Cobus van Bosch, Lonmin mine (2014), Oil on canvas, 46 x 61.2 cm, William Humphreys Art Gallery Collection.
Berni Searle, In wake of, From the series Into the dark (2014), Archival digital print, 100 x 210 cm, University of the Free State Collection. Image courtesy of the artist
Hasan & Husain Essop, Athlone Superette (2014), Lightjet C-print on archival paper, 115 x 193.5 cm, University of the Free State Art Collection. Image courtesy of the Goodman Gallery
The Other: (An)other View
Wilhelm van Rensburg
‘’Say! If you speak ENGLISH we must be getting near CIVILIZATION!’’ These are the words out of the mouth of a White baby in a perambulator, pushed by a Black nanny. They are indicative of the wry, sardonic humour that often characterizes the work of satirical artist, Anton Kannemeyer. At face value, his work seems to be exemplifying colonial discourse, rather than a facile racist one. This discourse, however, elucidates many tenets of Critical Theory and, more specifically, post-colonialism that the exhibition seems to foreground. One such tenet involves the belief in the civil sophistication of a Western, Anglo-European culture which constitutes the centre, or the metropole. By implication, those who lived outside the centre, on the periphery or the margins, were considered to be backward, undeveloped, even ‘savage’, and all too ready to be colonised. Technological advancement, purportedly, provided the colonisers with the raison d’être to sweep aside the customs, behaviour patterns and religions of the people they colonised. Such a presumptuous position led to the notion of what they themselves were, a proper ‘’self’’; the implication being that those not part of themselves were considered to be different, inferior, subhuman and therefore entirely the “Other’’. Judging other people as necessarily lesser than oneself is termed ‘’othering’’. It splits humanity between a civilised ‘’us’’ and a savage ‘’other’.’ The latter is usually viewed as inferior and evil, sometimes branded as “the demonic other’’. At other times, this ‘’creature’’ is considered as “primitively’’ beautiful or very close to nature which, in turn, is called “the exotic other’’. (Tyson, 2006: 419 – 420). Breathtaking in its scope, Critical Theory enables this exhibition to challenge, question, contradict and expand on such audacious notions. It questions notions of a Eurocentric language that conveniently slices the world into categories such as the First World (the USA, Britain, and Europe), the Second World (referring specifically to the White population of southern Africa, Australia New Zealand and Canada, and even the old USSR); the Third World (India, Africa, South America and Southeast Asia); and the Fourth World (the colonised Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans). In addition, a Eurocentric language coined such derogatory terms as ‘’Orientalism’’ and, as Edward Said (2003) pointed out, stereotyped peoples such as Arabs, Asians and Chinese as “cruel, sneaky, evil, cunning, dishonest, given to sexual promiscuity and perversion’’, and the like. This type of discourse focuses on what could be considered as the weaknesses of a particular group of people and, by implication, strengthens the power and might of those in control. This process of othering, then, can be
“usefully’’ engaged to subjugate people of other races, religions, sexual and ethnic groups. Hasan and Husain Essop’s Athlone Superette flouts this facile stereotype of the Oriental; it points to a contested politico-economic site of struggle, the economic survival of immigrants with its concomitant xenophobic attacks, and the gangster dominance in the drug trade. An interesting aspect of this exhibition is the way in which the colonial subject is depicted in a contemporary idiom. In Critical Theory, this ”subject’’ is often referred to as “those colonized persons who did not resist colonial subjugation because they were taught to believe in British superiority and, therefore, in their own inferiority. Many of these individual tried to imitate their colonizers, as much as possible, in dress, speech, behavior, and lifestyle’’ (Tyson, 2006: 421). Postcolonial critics refer to this phenomenon as mimicry. This phenomenon is a doubleedged sword, so to speak; on the one hand, it could suggest a desire to be like the colonisers themselves and, on the other, it could suggest a sense of inferiority and shame of their own culture. Those labeled as the Other were often indoctrinated into such fallacious beliefs. Some theorists label the colonialised as inadvertently developing a ‘’double consciousness’’ or perceiving the world with a ‘’double vision’’: one trained on the culture of the coloniser and the other on the culture of the colonised. Many colonised peoples ”escape’’ such an invidious positioning by moving, ironically, to the major cities of the powerful, to the main metropolitan centres, wanting to escape ‘’the margins’’, the ”periphery’’ of what can be termed as their ”colonized homeland’’. They join an increasingly growing trend of the contemporary African diaspora, an ‘un-homeless’ group of people. This exhibition pays careful attention to context and, by implication, to what people, the Self and the Other consider to be home, or where people feel at home. Others become ”hybrids’’: a combination of colonised and coloniser cultures, forging a new, postcolonial identity. In the worst cases, this may lead to ”mutual zombification’’, an inert state of unconsciousness and/or unawareness of the implications of their colonised state and their power as colonisers. This is the reason why this exhibition should not only be viewed as a critique of cultural stereotypes, but also as an alternative way of exhibiting culture. In this regard, one has to be aware of the ceremonial and performative role that a museum always fulfills in terms of its architectural spaces, its spatial organisation, its various, often offensive, displays, and the way in which the viewers are supposed to experience the Self
and the Other. An exhibition about the Other, however, runs the risk of sustaining dominant social ideologies and thus can be considered as much a fabrication and representation of the Other as that which it seeks to undermine. In other words, one has to come to terms with the fact that exhibitions like this may inadvertently reproduce the dominant notion of the Other, without questioning or resisting stereotypical notions of the Other. One way out of this seemingly endless cycle of reproduction of power relations is to always keep in mind that the artwork, any artwork, is invested with spiritual, emotional and ultimately transformative power. Each artwork on display subscribes to that type of language, not to a colonial discourse. Each implies a new, rational method of representing truth and order in the world, a longing for the ability to discover another reality behind the seemingly endless parade of stereotypical representations. They look at strangers as sufficiently similar to us all to venerate and respect. In this regard, the Other, in psycho-analytical terms, is essentially a form of self-awareness, in the Hegelian sense. Jacques Lacan, drawing on Hegel philosophy, concurs that the Other is nothing else but a confirmation, a ratification, of the Self. He calls this the Symbolic order. This order is juxtaposed by two others: the Imaginary order and the order of the Real. What is most real, however, is the attainment of language, a new language of the Self and the Other. This exhibition compels us to learn to speak another language. Lacan, J. 1966 (2002) Ä–crits. Norton. Said, E. 1978 (2003) Orientalism. Penguin Modern Classics. Tyson, L. 2006 Critical Theory: A User-friendly Guide. Routledge. Wilhelm van Rensburg is a Research Fellow at the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD) research centre, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), University of Johannesburg (UJ).
Norman Catherine, Dreamcloth, Hand separated off-set lithography, 50 x 71 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection
Diane Victor, Truth Dance (1998/9), Charcoal and pastel on paper, 165 x 70 cm, 160 x 65 cm, 165 x 64 cm, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection
Zanele Muholi, Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, From the series Being (2007), Lambda print, 86.5 x 86.5 cm, University of the Free State Collection. Image courtesy of the Stevenson Gallery
Diane McLean, White enamel skottel with rust marks (2010), Oil on board, 85 x 99 cm, William Humphreys Art Gallery Collection
Paul Molete, Control the spirit of lust (2005), Linocut, 69.5 x 99 cm, University of Johannesburg Art Collection. Photograph by Jan Potgieter
Paul Emmanuel, High definition digital video stills from 3 SAI: A rite of passage (2008), 14 minutes, no narration, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Courtesy Format Digital Production and Art Source South Africa. ÂŠ Paul Emmanuel
Paul Emmanuel, High definition digital video still from 3 SAI: A rite of passage (2008), 14 minutes, no narration, Oliewenhuis Art Museum Collection. Courtesy Format Digital Production and Art Source South Africa. ÂŠ Paul Emmanuel
University of the Free State Art Collection | Angela de Jesus | Curator The University of the Free State Art Collection enables scholars, students and visitors to view and engage with South African art. The collection is significant in archiving South African cultural heritage and provides an irreplaceable educational reserve for understanding our unique cultural and historical identity. The arts play a meaningful role in the foundation values of the University of the Free State, which is to develop intellectually rich and culturally accepting communities. University of Johannesburg Art Collection | Annali Cabano-Dempsey | Curator In support of the Universityâ€™s vision of being an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future, the University of Johannesburg art collection promotes the importance of visual art as a vehicle for reflecting social constructs and debates. It aims to promote dialogue and debate on social and cultural matters, both historical and contemporary, and is reflective of the social, cultural and political diversity of Johannesburg and South Africa. As such, it engages directly with the core values of the University, namely imagination, regeneration, conversation and an ethical foundation.
Oliewenhuis Art Museum | Ester le Roux | Curator
Oliewenhuis Art Museum is an Art Museum which holds in trust a historical and contemporary art collection of South African art on behalf of the people of South Africa. We aim to enrich peopleâ€™s knowledge, understanding and appreciation of our cultural heritage, to reflect its full diversity, to provide a cultural and educational resource, to encourage involvement in the visual arts and to nurture a culturally diverse, but shared, national identity.
William Humphreys Art Gallery | Ann Pretorius | Director I would like to echo the sentiments expressed by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Nthethwa MP, enunciated during a live SABC broadcast on 7 May 2015, that arts, culture and heritage are the most powerful tools that any nation has with which to effect change. Concurrently with change and transformation are the rise of a unified national identity and the advancement of social cohesion. With May being Africa Month, it is entirely appropriate that four major public collections have partnered to curate this exhibition entitled Representations of Otherness and Resistance. This is even more significant given the current climate of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals that have shamed our nation.
Published by Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery, University of the Free State © Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery, University of the Free State 2015 Published to accompany the exhibition by the same title Representations of Otherness and Resistance, Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery, University of the Free State, 20 May – 19 June 2015. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, or transmitted in any form of by any means, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1978 (as amended). Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable for criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. Whilst every effort have been made to secure permission to reproduce works of art in this publication, it has not been possible to trace all holders of copyright. Please direct any queries to the publisher. First published 2015 Text © individual authors Images © individual artists Editor: Angela de Jesus Curators: Annali Cabano-Dempsey and Angela de Jesus Contributors:
Prof Heidi Hudson, Landi Raubenheimer, Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and Dr Wilhelm van Rensburg
Collections: University of the Free State, University of Johannesburg, Oliewenhuis Art Museum, William Humphreys Art Gallery, Andrew Putter private collection Language editing:
Liza van Soelen
Layout and graphic design: Silverrocket Creative ISBN 978-0-86886-830-1
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Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery, University of the Free State, 20 May - 19 June 2015