Ernest Cole
With no room inside train,
some ride between cars

Johannesburg, c.1967

Dorris Haron Kasco
Les Fous d'Abidjan
Ivory Coast, 1993

Zwelethu Mthethwa
Untitled 1996

Alf Khumalo

'eye Africa: African Photography 1840-1998'

Reviewed for ArtThrob by Cape Town photographer and journalism lecturer Rob Meintjes

Revue Noire's 'eye Africa', the most comprehensive collection of sub-Saharan photography ever to be exhibited on this continent, is on view in Cape Town until February 27.

The exhibition offers a fascinating cross-section of work spanning the years 1840 to 1998, ranging from the regal portraits of Senegalese master photographers Mama Casset and Meissa Gaye to the experimental work of South Africa's Julia Tiffin.

The South African National Gallery (SANG) near Parliament features the historical component of 'eye Africa', consisting of work from 1840 to 1960.

This component includes portraits of Emperor Haile Selassie and his family taken by Ethiopian portraitist Torkom Boyadjian shortly after the turn of the century. The emperor's youthful complexion is largely attributable to Boyadjian's masterful retouching job.

The contemporary component of 'eye Africa' (1960 to 1998) is on display at the Castle's William Fehr Collection. This includes handcoloured photographs by Chris Ledochowski, work by Ernest Cole (who died destitute in New York in 1990) and the startling pictures of Dorris Haron Kasco from the Ivory Coast, who photographs beggars, outcasts, drug addicts and street kids.

South African photographers represented here include Omar Badsha, Gideon Mendel, Peter Magubane, Santu Mofokeng, Adam Welz, Zwelethu Mthethwa and David Goldblatt.

Another 13 satellite exhibitions are scattered through the city. These include the work of veteran South African photojournalist Alf Kumalo at 155 Loop Street (phone 021 423-5703 first to ensure access) and the permanent photographic collection at the District Six Museum. The latter features George Hallett's study of the debt collector, a real gem.

'eye Africa' is a must for all lovers of the silver image. Revue Noire researchers have gathered the most compelling body of evidence that Africa's early photographers had mastered their craft to a level approaching the best in Europe and America. One need look no further than the tonal range of the enormous print of a delicate woman (at SANG, photographer unknown!) done for Revue Noire from a glass negative by A Sylla.

Further proof is provided by the portraits of Casset, Gaye and Boyadjian. But the portraitists owe a lot to the dignity and beauty of their subjects, dressed to kill, coiffed as in dreams.

Africa is indebted to the Paris-based Revue Noire for salvaging valuable elements of this photographic heritage, which is fast disappearing.

What the "historical" and "contemporary" photographs have in common is a wealth of detail from the early hairstyles, fashions and jewellery faithfully recorded by early northern portraitists in rich black and white tones, to the warm South African interiors carefully composed in colour by the likes of Klerksdorp-born Mark Lewis and Michaelis teacher Zwelethu Mthethwa.

South African photographer Guy Tillim says his profession creates a "language of seeing" which provides inspiration for other visual art forms. 'eye Africa' speaks volumes in this language.

The exhibition is the culmination of seven years of research by Revue Noire, publishers of a quarterly magazine and two series of photographic books featuring work by more than 300 African photographers. The exhibition celebrates more than a century of photography in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.

* Guided tour at the SANG on Wednesday January 27 at 1.05pm.



Lance Slabbert

Bobson Studio portrait c.1970

Lance Slabbert and the Bobson Studio Portraits

Clothes maketh the man, it is said, and pursuing his interest in the way people choose to dress, and what these choices reveal about the wearers, Lance Slabbert presents 'Street Style', a series of large-scale portrait images. The white backgrounds and the studied poses give the images a studio feel, but in fact Slabbert uses a portable backdrop and sets up his "studio" on the pavement of Durban's Warwick Avenue, a busy market thoroughfare, and for 40 years the home of the Bobson Studio.

The other half of this show is dozens of sharply lit portraits taken over the years in the Bobson Studio, each photographed against velvet curtains in a square format which allows us to see the studio props of lighting stands and other paraphernalia on the outer edges. Recently reprinted from the original negatives, the long time span over which the photos were taken, the variety of people who came to be photographed in clothing both traditional and western, the small studio details, combine to make this collection an invaluable visual record.

On at The Area until January 22. Radio House, 92 Loop Street. Phone: (021) 22-1321.



Mark Lewis
Maria and Matthew Loock
Mamre, 1998

'Pictures in a Room'

Long before software allowed for the digital softening of wrinkles, the change of dress, or the bringing together of two separately photographed people into one harmonious couples portrait, the studio photographer performed these functions. Instructed by the family and armed with his airbrush, he would doctor images in this way to be framed and hung on the wall. Added to the other portraits, it would become an integral part of the history of that family. It is these collections of portraits, each situated in a domestic setting and brought full circle by the presence of the current generation, which are the subject of Cape Town photographer Mark Lewis's fine show, 'Pictures in a Room'.

At Espace Picto-Ifas until January 24. 11-13 Bree Street. Phone: (021) 419 6290.



Adam Welz
4 December 1997

Adam Welz
23 November 1997

Adam Welz at the Pan African Market

"The important thing about this series is not to regard this work as documentary. It's more about being in Madagascar as an outsider - the people were unbelievably kind and gentle, but it's an almost impenetrable society. People don't explain things, and the longer I stayed there, the less I understood. It just got weirder and weirder." Adam Welz spent three months journeying through Madagascar in late 1997. His way of processing his experiences was to look through the lens of his camera, open the shutter, and wait to see what had been caught on film. He quotes American photographer Garry Winogrand: "I photograph to see what things look like photographed." Welz operates from the same position, and his unforced, atmospherically rich shots of daily life in Madagascar are the result. Long, handheld exposure times sometimes produce a dreamlike quality, a softness and movement to the shots.

At the Pan African Market Gallery until January 30. 76 Long Street. Phone (021) 24-2957.



Dave Southwood

Dave Southwood at the João Ferreira

"It is the space between the images that is crucial, for this is where the viewer can play", says Dave Southwood of 'In Between', his aptly named exhibition. This is a small show, 11 pairs of finely considered photographic images. The relationship between the paired images is purely visual - the bodies of penguins cavorting in a mosaic bottomed pool are mirrored in their black and white randomness by sliding type on a wall in the image below. The curves and colours of a little girl in a balloon-filled room find an echo in a garish sign. Some pairings work better than others and thus elicit a stronger response, but overall the show is well worth a visit.

Until January 6 at João Ferreira Fine Art. 80 Hout Street. Phone (021) 423-5403; e-mail:



Julia Tiffin
Unfocused, staring out
(detail) Photograph

Julia Tiffin
Beyond the Veil: Portrait
of Jo-ann, wife, mother

(detail) Photograph

Julia Tiffin at João Ferreira Fine Art

Another of the 'eye Africa' satellite exhibitions of photography opened this week with Julia Tiffin's 'Blindfold 1' at the Joåo Ferreira Gallery. Tiffin attempts to take her portraits past the actual to the psychic by manipulating her images in the darkroom to create a sense of movement, splitting the portraits, or pasting strips of paper over sections so the subject appears to us as partially screened. In Beyond the Veil: Portrait of Jo-ann, wife, mother the eyes of the subject seem at first glance to be cast down, but on closer examination one sees that the eyes are covered by a second, milkily negative pair. Thus the gaze is rendered ambivalent, half hidden, a bit like those pictures of Christ in which the eyes open and close when you move your head. The mouth is tense. One imagines from the title that Jo-ann does not find being a wife and mother easy. Tiffin's investigations are interesting.

On until January 22 at João Ferreira Fine Art, 80 Hout Street.



Tracy Gander
Salt series
Colour photographs

Tracy Gander at Bang the Gallery

The play between sky and sea, between water and land is the focus of Tracy Gander's 'Salt', which opens at Bang the Gallery on January 11. In these soft focus, poetic images, photographed at different times of the day, the horizon disappears, and it is the liquid moulding of the surface of the water, the movement of the waves, the reflection of the sky, which hold the attention.

The website of Bang the Gallery was recently named best art site in the country by Janet Paterson in the Sunday Times, who cited its ultra cool design. The designer of that site was none other than Gander. Check it out at

'Salt' runs at Bang the Gallery from January 11 to January 31. 92 Bree Street. Phone: (021) 422 1477.



Darryl Evans
The Heart of the

'EyeSite' at the Lipschitz

The 'eye Africa' satellite show at the Lipschitz which opened on January 12 features the work of Darryl Evans, Michael Chambers and Herzl Marks. Pictured is a photograph by Darryl Evans, from his 'The Heart of the Country' series, which is "a photographic portrait of the people and their environment in rural regions and small towns. The interior of the country, with its own character and moods, living in its own time at its own pace, is often ignored."

Until February 13. Lipschitz Gallery, 138-140 Buitengragt Street, Cape Town. Phone: (021) 422-0280.



Stanley Hermans
Detail from the invitation to 'Now'

Stanley Hermans at the Lipschitz Gallery

After a charming and upbeat invitation with an image of what looked like the artist in a teacup, disappointingly this turns out be more of the facile, illustrative, spatially inept, boringly coloured domestic scenes we got tired of some years ago. Time to move on.

At the Lipschitz Gallery until January 20. 138-40 Buitengracht St. Phone (021) 422-0280.



Zwelethu Mthethwa, Willie Bester
and Louis Jansen van Vuuren
Phillipi No 3
Mixed media

Willie Bester, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Louis Jansen van Vuuren at the AVA

Collaborative work is difficult. What one is presumably trying to achieve is a fusion of the best qualities of each participant into a new and dynamic whole which could not have been realised in any other way. What is more often achieved is a self conscious pastiche in which the cobbling together shows only too clearly. There is some of both on the current show at the AVA where well-known Cape Town artists Willie Bester, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Louis Jansen van Vuuren are showing separately and together. But more of the latter.

At the AVA until January 16. 35 Church Street. Phone (021) 24-4348.



Karl Gietl
Street/Car 1998
Oil on canvas
16 x 16cm

Karl Gietl
Performance 1998
Oil on canvas
16 x 16cm

Karl Gietl at João Ferreira Fine Art

Karl Gietl's show 'It's a small world, after all' opened in mid-December - a show of uniformly 16cm square oil painted canvases. Conceptually, there is a link to the many photography shows up around town at the moment in that they are Gietl's way of recording the incidents and personalities of his daily life. Here we have the instantly recognisable Wayne Barker, imaged in Performance, playing piano naked except for a patchy covering of chocolate sauce (some must have already been licked off by his female assistant). Apparently Barker had gone to France, for an art project, and was surprised to find people had expected him to be black. Performance was his response. Other Gietl paintings show street scenes, newspaper pix, etc. Gietl is in Cape Town for the month, and will be replacing "sold" paintings with new images from his personal epic.

Until January 21. João Ferreira Fine Art. 80 Hout Street. Phone (021) 423-5403.



Matthew Haresnape
Installation view of

Matthew Haresnape at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet

The show's called 'Dwelling', and in a country where a "home" is still such an unreachable dream for many, the issue is certainly relevant. In the smaller space at the Mark Coetzee, the pieces, including triptychs, often incorporate actual items of domestic hardware - a lock, a doorknob, icons for the object of desire. Formally these work quite well. In the large space, flat geometric pieces constructed from building materials such as corrugated roofing or wallpaper in such a way as to give an impression of three-dimensionality seem a little static.

Until January 16 at the Mark Coetzee Fine Art Cabinet, Bree Street.



Selinah Makwana
Goodbye hands and knees.
Hello Electrolux
Embroidered cloth

Lynnley Watson
Ceramic vessel

FNB Vita Crafts at The Castle

Pulling in crowds at The Castle is this wide-ranging show with one of everything you ever thought of when you hear the word "craft". Inevitably, the range veers from the horrifically kitsch at one of the scale to the well-designed and flawlessly executed at the other, with plenty of stops in between. Overall, though, the general impression is bright, cheerful and pleasing. Well-known names from the art world include Margaret Vorster with a clock surrounded by paint brush, tube and small paintings set in mosaics, and fibre artist Fiona Kirkwood, whose large woven hangings have to compete visually with some brilliant coloured embroidered cloths around the corner.

Until January 23 at the Cape Town Castle.



Bonnie Ntshalintshali
Eve (detail) 1992

Ardmore ceramics at the Labia

An exhibition of the distinctive Ardmore ceramics from the studio in the central Drakensberg mountains, KwaZulu-Natal, opens at the Labia on January 16. Started by Fee Halsted-Berning in 1985, Ardmore now represents over 45 Zulu and Sotho artists, mainly women. In 1993, a piece by the first pupil, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, was chosen for the avant-garde 'Aperto' section of the Venice Biennale.

The studio is known for the richness and fecundity of its imagery. On the teapots, plates and vessels, raised birds and animals and luxuriant foliage swarm over every inch of surface, while the constructed sculptures are elaborate tableaux on African and cultural themes. A fine book on the subject, Ardmore - An African Discovery by Gillian Berning (see review), has just been published by Fernwood Press.

Natale Labia Museum, Main Road, Muizenberg. Phone 788-4106.



Lisa Brice's beanbag people

Lisa Brice at the Hänel

The gang wars which are leading to Cape Town being called "Siege City" are the subject of Lisa Brice's latest exhibition, 'In the Eyes', which opened at the Hänel Gallery on January 17. Goggle-eyed beanbag figures - the bystanders - stacked on one side of the gallery stare at four cracked windscreens on the other side of the space. Behind the broken glass, concertinaed sunscreens carry images of photos from the police forensic files of stabbed, shot, tattoed bodies. Strong meat, as they say. Then there are gang handsigns on the wall, embroidered onto camouflage cloth, and the installation pegging violence into a domestic setting first shown on last year's Vita Art Prize show.

Also launched at the opening was Lisa Brice's catalogue - over 200 pages in full colour, documenting series after series of this hardworking young artist's powerful work. The publication of such a weighty and handsome catalogue by the Hänel Gallery demonstrates the depth of the gallery's faith in her future. Would that there were more of such catalogues. Brice is the artist featured in this month's Artbio.

Full review of the show by Paul Edmunds in February ArtThrob.

Hänel Gallery, 84 Shortmarket Street. Phone: (021) 423-1406. Fax: (021) 423-5277.



Velile Soha

Trappler and Soha at the AVA

Jill Trappler, who has always worked firmly in abstract expressionist mode, shows new work at the AVA from Monday January 18. Some of the work was completed at a workshop held in Uganda. Sharing the space is Cape Town artist Velile Soha, known for his careful renditions of township life and culture.

Metropolitan Gallery, 35 Church Street. (021) 424-7436; e-mail:



Veronique Malherbe
Trying to Fix Things
That Can't Be Fixed
is a Waste of Time

Electronic collage

Veronique Malherbe at the Nico

Words, scraps of phrases harvested from the text of Ashraf Jamal's new play Severance, are the kick-off points for a parallel exhibition of electronic collages by Veronique Malherbe. The laser prints are hung in the bar area of the Arena at the Nico Malan, providing another entry point into the play, a powerful story of the effect of AIDS on the lives of four players.

The emotional tensions and stresses of Severance are reflected in Malherbe's choice of images, and her provocative, sometimes jarring, sometimes dreamlike juxtapositions. Jamal is the author of Love Themes for the Wilderness, shortly to be filmed, and co-author of Art in South Africa: The Future Present. Malherbe's work was last on view in the 'Bringing Up Baby' exhibition. Severance - and Malherbe's exhibition - are on at the Nico Malan until February 6.



Jo Ractliffe
A photograph from the
exhibition website

Jo Ractliffe


Jo Ractliffe's new project 'End of Time'

Driving through the Karoo one day in January 1996, photographer Jo Ractliffe came across the bodies of three shot donkeys lying beside the road. Months later, she was still haunted by the sight, and began a larger investigation into what might have happened and of the "karretjie mense" - families of itinerant workers who carry their lives' possessions on their donkey carts. First, there was a video, shown on the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. Now, opening on January 4 through the Ibis Gallery in Nieu Bethesda, is "an exhibition project" - site specific works in the landscape of Nieu Bethesda, an exhibition of photo-based installations, a limited edition book in collaboration with writer Mike Nicol, and pinhole photography workshops with local residents. Visit the website at

Ibis Art Centre, Nieu Bethesda 6286. Phone/fax: (04923) 642; e-mail



Walter Meyer
Oil on canvas


Guy du Toit and Walter Meyer

Trent Read, ex of Read Contemporary in Johannesburg, is beginning to hold regular exhibitions at his new venue, Knysna Fine Art. The gallery's first offering for the year is a show by sculptor Guy du Toit and painter Walter Meyer which opens on January 20 at 6pm. Du Toit works with such imagery as bells, saddles, anvils and farmyard animals like cockerels, horses and goats, sculpting these into vigorous bronzes. Meyer's limpid eye falls on the corners and backroads of the platteland, taking pleasure in finding beauty in the commonplace.

Knysna Fine Art, 8 Grey Street, cnr Gordon Street, Knysna. Phone: (044) 382-5846; fax (044) 382-6530; e-mail:



Mimmo Paladino
'Carte Siciliana' series
Etching on handmade
paper, with additions


Opening show at the Goodman

The Goodman Gallery opens its doors for the New Year on Wednesday January 20 with a show of 12 prints by Italian artist Mimmo Paladino from his 'Carte Siciliane' series. The prints are etchings on handmade paper, with other additions. Also on show are prints from British artist Gillian Ayres and Encyclopaedic Drawings from William Kentridge.

163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg. Phone: (011) 788-1113.



An Outskirts art project

Outskirts at the Market

First show at the Market Theatre Galleries this year is a group exhibition of their outreach programme participants, Outskirts, which aims to bring young artists from the periphery into the Gauteng sphere of influence. Work of this show will be from young artists at the Moretele College of Education, the Free State Technikon, the visual Art and Craft Academy and children from Rini township in Grahamstown. The show opens on Sunday, January 24 at 6pm.

1st floor, Market Theatre Complex, cnr Bree and Wolhuter streets, Newtown. Phone: (011) 832-1641; e-mail:



Jakes Pharmacy
A venue for 'Apotek'

Doris Bloom and 'Apotek'

South African-born, Danish-based artist Doris Bloom, best remembered in this country for her drawing, video and installation partnership with William Kentridge on the 1st Johannesburg Biennale, opens a new project in two venues on January 27.

Bloom's interventions take place in two places to which people go to find solutions to problems physical and emotional; two unpretentious non-art spaces, Jakes Plarmacy, at 434A Louis Botha Avenue, Rouxville (12.30pm), and Thuthukani Herbalist, 52 Gus Street, Jeppe (5pm).

"Viagra, Valium and Prozac - just to mention three of the 'pop-a-pill' products that are changing the way we live and think - find their way from this global medico-pharmaceutical village to the shelves of Louis Botha Avenue. Meanwhile the herbalist's time-tried mutis and treatments refuse to give way." Bloom attempts to investigate this dualism in her work.

The exhibition closes on February 6 1999. For more information contact 082-972-2750.


'Exchange' at the Sandton Civic

'Exchange', a show of recent works by the staff and tutors of the Wits Fine Art Department, opens at the Sandton Civic Gallery, corner Rivonia Road and West Street, on Tuesday, January 26 at 6pm. Phone: 881-6431.

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