Jane Alexander
Street Cadets with Harbinger:
Wish, Walk/Loop Long
Installation detail
Mixed media

Msizi Kuhlane, Doris Nkosi, Mfeli Nkosi
'Ghetto Diaries'
Across the Divide
Episode 5 1997
Video (24 mins)

Antoinette Murdoch
Regenerasie (Regenerate) 1998
Installation detail
Mixed media

Clive van den Berg
Knowing, or Just About 1998
10 watercolours on paper
28 x 22cm each

Penny Siopis
Breasts 1998
Video (8 mins)

Veronique Malherbe
Preserving Purity 1998
Photo booth shots used in
mixed-media installation


'Bringing up Baby: Artists Survey the Reproductive Body'

It has become OK, commendable even, for artists to deal with AIDS in their work. To use motherhood and all the implications thereof still seems to be another matter, however: too emotional, mawkish, personal in the wrong sort of way, as if women should deal with that sort of issue in the home, and not allow it to intrude into their professional life as artists.

"When it comes to the public realm, mothers and maternal subjectivity are completely invisible," writes Terry Kurgan in her excellent curatorial essay. "They seem to fall off the social map of the world. While idealised versions of motherhood and childbirth have served as strong metaphors for political and ideological shifts in South Africa, these representations seem to have very little to do with the raw, commonplace and everyday stuff of the experience. There are very few images of maternity in our society outside of the religious, the idealised and the sentimental."

It is against this background that Kurgan, assistant Robyn Alexander and consultant Ruth Rosengarten have put together this show, which opens in the awkward spaces of the Albany Museum and promises to be a highlight of the festival.

So here we have the new work of Jane Alexander, some of it shown first on the Dakar Biennale - oddly stunted figures, half-child half-adult, a distillation of Alexander's experience of living in a part of Cape Town shared by a large population of street children. Musician and sound artist Warrick Sony, father of two, uses the cacophony of childhood - fighting, laughing, battery-driven toys, Disney tunes - and synthesises these elements into a new soundscape which ultimately "soars and soothes".

Much appreciated is the opportunity for a second viewing of a video by Msizi Kuhlane, Doris Nkosi and Mfeli Nkosi, from the Mail & Guardian TV 'Ghetto Diaries' series: this episode is about a mother who leaves her village and family and gets a job as a domestic worker in the city, looking after a white family. The film is a communication between the separated son and mother.

And then there is the admirable Veronique Malherbe's ode to the first year of motherhood - 300 bi-weekly photo-booth portraits of herself and son Ariel in baby food jars are the pendants of a celebratory chandelier.

Space restricts descriptions of the fine work by the other participants: Hema Galal-Chunilal, Kurgan herself, Mandla Mabila, Davina Mabunda and Bronwen Findlay, Fatima Mendonca, Antoinette Murdoch, Colin Richards, Ruth Rosengarten, Claudette Schreuders, Penny Siopis and Clive van den Berg. The good news is that the show will move to the Cape Town Castle on August 15. And get the catalogue. It's well-designed and a great read.



Kendell Geers and Bili Bidjocka
Heart of Darkness 1998
Detail of installation

'Heart of Darkness'

Contentious and thought-provoking local artist Kendell Geers and famous Cameroonian-now-living-in-Paris installation artist Bili Bidjocka should provide a powerful and stimulating experience for visitors to their show, a multi-media installation entitled Heart of Darkness in the Gallery in the Round at the Monument. The show is curated by gallerist Linda Givon, who plans to re-present the show at the prestigious New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

Materials include videos and other technical equipment, posters, and other literature. "Taking the script for Apocalypse Now and the Joseph Conrad novella that triggered it as their starting point, they present a spectacular exploration of the Congo River and its links - real and figurative - between the Cameroons, Africa at large, and Grahamstown in particular," says the press release. Well, as much spectacular exploration as can go on in the limited space of the gallery, no doubt.



Wilma Cruise

Richman Buthelezi

Wilma Cruise and Richman Buthelezi in residence

One of the most popular stop-offs on the Grahamstown art tour has always been the spot where the artist-in-residence temporarily situates his or her studio. It's all about demystifying the peculiar processes of art-making, to say nothing of the even more peculiar processes of the artist's mind. Past invitees have included portraitist Reshada Crouse and painter/collagist Penny Siopis. This year, art lovers can engage with not one but two artists - Wilma Cruise and Richman Buthelezi.

Cruise is both poet and sculptor, best known for her expressive life-size clay figures, though in the past year she has been exploring alternative media such as card, paper and wood. In Grahamstown, Cruise will move further into the contemporary mode of working with the ready-made by constructing a set of monumental figures built out of stock items bought at the local hardware.

Buthelezi's chosen materials are plastics, melted and moulded to create complex and colourful collages. He is known for his renditions of township life, though has recently attacked more abstract themes, extending his use of materials to wire mesh, which he uses as a base to explore form, colour and more complex compositions.



Nhlanhla Xaba
Standard Bank Young
Artist of the Year

Nhlanhla Xaba - Young Artist of the Year

Assistant director of the Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg, Nhlanhla Xaba is this year's winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art, and consequently gets to show in the main exhibition hall of the Monument Theatre, after which his work will be toured around the country.

Xaba is primarily a painter, using impasto techniques to work up rich, textured surfaces in oils and acrylics, but he also makes drawings, sculptures and prints. His visual language emanates from his experience of living in South Africa. "The kind of art that interests me explores ethnic-looking objects," says Xaba. "I find rural scenes, objects and people more fascinating in terms of inspiration than the zigzag life of the urban setting."

Xaba's training as an artist began with a three-year informal stint with artist and designer Madi Phaala in the late 1970s. Xaba was working as a labourer for a milling company at the time. In 1986 he moved to Soweto and joined the Funda Art Centre in Diepkloof where he received his first formal instruction in art. He has also studied through Unisa and in 1990 spent time in Paris and Switzerland with surrealist painter Theo Gerber. His work is intuitive and spontaneous.



A Bronwen Findlay print

Images from Note and Song

This show of prints and artists' books is a combined project of The Caversham Press and Educational Trust, taking as a starting point images evoked from sources with strong oral roots such as verse, song and music. Established artists were encouraged to work with younger talents, developing a creative dialogue which is intended to extend beyond the framework of the exhibition. Among the best known of the participants are Andrew Verster, Robert Hodgins and Sam Nhlengethwa.



A Vuminkosi Zulu print

Vuminkosi Zulu

This commemorative exhibition - KwaZulu-Natal artist Vuminkosi Zulu died in his prime in 1996 - reflects on Zulu's portrayal of life and the people who populated his world. Known primarily for his woodcarving, Zulu had also worked as a printmaker, studying first at Rorke's Drift in the early Seventies, and later in Sweden.

Presented by The Caversham Press and Educational Trust, this show pays tribute to Zulu's greatness, and the proceeds will be used to establish a trust fund to assist his family.



Xolela Sajini
Rock of Electricity detail, 1998

'Land, History and Self' at the Dakawa Art Centre

The Dakawa Art and Craft Community Centre is up and running again, providing an essential resource in a community almost totally lacking in such facilities. 'Land, History and Self', a curated exhibition of emergent Cape artists, marks this new beginning. Visit the centre at 6-11 Froude Street in Grahamstown, or phone 046 622-9303 for more details about the fabric printing and print-making workshops or the performances by the Youth Access Programme. 'Land, History and Self' runs until September 26.



Bonita Alice
Illusions of Permanence 1998
Site-specific painting
and performance

Jennifer Ord
Breaking the Hoop 1998
Installation detail

Jacobus Kloppers, Richard Kilpert,
Giselle Baillie and Niel Jonker
Beth Cheseda
Collaborative video project


!Xoe site-specific project

Initially famous as the small Karoo town which houses the Owl House, Nieu Bethesda is taking on a more contemporary artistic character with the expanding activities emanating from the Ibis Art Centre under the direction of Mark Wilby.

Planned to coincide with the Grahamstown Festival, the !Xoe site-specific project is by far the most ambitious project so far. The theme is "bringing art to ground", and the participating artists have been given the prerequisite that whatever medium they choose to execute their concept, the finished piece must relate specifically to the site selected by that artist, whether it be in the village, the township, or the surrounding countryside.

Thus we have Illusions of Permanence by Bonita Alice. Drawing on the trompe l'oeil techniques which make a sponsor's logo painted on a football pitch seem to stand up vertically when viewed by a television audience, Alice paints an image of a green corrugated sheet on the local football pitch. Viewed from a single point, an intriguing illusion of three-dimensionality will be created. The artist has chosen the sheet, a basic building material for those who must erect their own shelters, as a reference to such issues such as resettlement, squatting and ownership.

On the opening day of the exhibition, footballers will participate in a match/performance in shirts sporting emblems of corrugated iron.

Strijdom van der Merwe plans to sink a series of copper plaques into the main street, and Jennifer Ord explores the theme of colonisation with a piece entitled Breaking the Hoop, a pyramid of 770 waxed braai-wood bundles in a site which is a garage that was once a barn.

The full list of participating artists is Bonita Alice, Marco Cianfanelli, Maanda Daswa, Christine Dixie, Randolph Hartzenberg, Mark Haywood, Mustafa Maluka, Elaine Matthews, Jennifer Ord, Clive van den Berg, Strijdom van der Merwe, and a collaboration between Jacobus Kloppers, Giselle Baillie, Richard Kilpert and Niel Jonker with community participation.

The Ibis Art Centre will function as an information centre for visitors, where background material and instructions on how to locate the works will be found. The project will run from June 30 to July 30, with a symposium in Grahamstown on July 3. For further details contact Mark Wilby or Noelle Obers at the Centre on 04923-642, or see the !Xoe website.

Listings continued: Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and Paarl

... ZA@PLAY   MWeb

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