Disturbing the Stereotypes – KWAAI Exhibition 2020
Art goes beyond mere entertainment – it is an ancient way of expressing who we are and what we stand for that goes back to the first time that humans left their marks on the walls of caves or fashioned forms out of the earth. Art captures and expresses different ways of living and being, both challenging and negating attempts to fix certain stereotypes.
That people labelled ‘coloured’ through apartheid social engineering have been excelling in art, sports, music, academics (in fact, in every arena possible) throughout our history, is nothing new. What is of note is that almost three decades after the first democratic elections, we have yet to rid ourselves of the negative stereotypes associated with this labelling.
Apartheid policy has its roots in racial slavery, the violent process of othering, that ultimately led to the dehumanisation of people based on the colour of their skin. During apartheid the oppressive regime attempted to silence people, and art became a weapon for political expression, reflecting the injustices and repressive nature of the times. In spite of museums and galleries actively preventing participation by people of colour, they were able to communicate and express the injustices of the day, telling the stories that the world needed to hear. Their work so disrupted and threatened the apartheid hegemony that many were arrested, banned, or forced into exile.
British-Jamaican sociologist and cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, urged ordinary people to regain control of an image-dominated world and to challenge the stereotypes that are propagated by introducing new ideas, new knowledge and new dimensions of meaning, thus exposing and destroying stereotypes.
This is exactly what the artists involved with the KWAAI exhibition are doing – reshaping and reimagining an identity, and reconnecting with a culture in ways that aren’t necessarily the same as their parents experienced. Perhaps most indicative of the times we now find ourselves in, I met some of the artists via an online meeting platform. It was inevitable that the discussion would touch on how their creative processes were being affected by the national lockdown as a result of COVID-19. The enforced social distancing has encouraged deep self-reflection and the limited access to materials has led them to discover different ways of expressing themselves. It seems serendipitous, this process of examining, reshaping and reimagining, not only their output, but the very essence of what they want to portray to the outside world.
While some of the artists have lived through apartheid, others grew up in a post-apartheid society. However, all of them have been shaped socially, personally and culturally by the experiences of their own generation and the one that came before them. They bear the collective trauma through stories, images and the behaviour of the people they grew up with and those who raised them. They carry the responsibility, the sense of loss and the desire to make sure that their own narratives may be heard to prevent the past from continuing to make an indelible mark on the present and the future.
All these artists are taking charge of the narrative, each in their own unique way, of how they want to be viewed, drawing on the experiences of the generation that came before them.
Jabu Newman, explores the issues of coloured identity through her photographs, drawing on a personal family history, that speaks to the apartheid legacy of forced removals, racial classification and group areas, that continues to inform the present.
Jared Leite uses printmaking and sculpture to deconstruct issues of representation and belonging, and the ambiguity that surrounds a community that continues to dwell on the periphery of a post-apartheid space.
Urban Khoi engages with ancient practices such as cave drawings coupled with contemporary dance and graffiti to examine human consciousness and collective wisdom.
The KWAAI exhibition provides the platform to support the re-presentation of their individual stories. It invites conversation and engagement with these new narratives while challenging us to make up our own minds. These artists very clearly assert who they are and where they come from. They defy and resist the memories of apartheid and speak to what it means to be human.
Al Luke is a Cape Town based artist, designer and collaborator, whose journey into the arts began at home, with a free-spirited mother and a father who flourished in order and structure with a background in traditional carpentry. He learned early on that structure and knowing your tools would allow for the freedom to create with confidence and a willingness to keep searching. His artwork incorporates an expressive abstract style, visually translating the links and intersections of personal and societal behaviours and connections.
He creates work that is considered, detailed and encompasses variety rather than a single focal point. Through his work, he aims to create and expose a new African style which challenges the definitive global views and opinions of the continent. He has explored this style through a variety of media with a current focus of spray paint, acrylic paint and liners.
verb; to develop gradually
“This series of works was directly inspired by and during the period of lockdown in South Africa. This time has been really difficult for everyone in a variety of ways and we all have our own challenges to face in terms of what comes next, what leave behind and what we choose to move forward with after this period has ended. In challenging times we truly learn what is and what isn’t important and with this we begin to change and find new ways of doing and being. The artist with minimal tools and resources available has methodically used his signature style creating raw, textured line work combined with flat bold colour to express these sentiments. Each work celebrates the details within every line and within each work something new and again begs the question – what comes next?”
Danielle Alexander is a young Cape Town based artist and graduate of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. She majored in Painting and Visual and Art History which is notable in some of the art historical references and characteristics seen in her oil paintings.
She specifically finds inspiration in Neoclassism and Baroque imagery. She uses images of linen found in her personal domestic spaces as her subject matter. Using the creases and folds of the drapery in place of body to communicate emotions of tension, passivity or drama. A metaphor to reveal and conceal broader concerns and questions around institutional critique within a Fine Arts context and its canons of established or recognisable symbolism – as well as more personal concerns, like vulnerability and agency with regards to her own personal identity and its complexity.
Danielle’s compositions always have a façade of composure but there is always an underlying current of tension, questioning and hopefulness. In addition to using oil paint, she often works with alternative media such as Crete stone, polyfilla and plaster to create textured paintings commenting on notions of the seen and unseen through the use of materials usually associated with hiding or fixing cracks or faults.Drawing on images of imagined landscapes and drapery her work further looks at ideas of memory being ingrained or attached to place but also acts as a way of trying to map out internal thoughts and notions of positionality.
Dion Cupido was born in 1973 and prides himself on creating stunning artworks as a largely self-trained artist. His paintings work within a language that speaks both to classical portraiture and street art, blending symbols and mixing dialects to create emotive works that appeal to many. In 1998 he started exhibiting at the Pea-Nut Gallery. In 2003 he joined the Arts & Media Access Centre’s (AMAC) professional development program, where he won the Truworths AMAC Academy of the Visual Arts award.
In recent years, he has produced a consistent body of abstract work. Initially it consisted of urban escapes through the front window of his car and most recently he discovered African-Pop portraiture using industrial ink as painting medium. Dion discovered his ability to paint, by accident, when he helped a friend with a school project. Dion has a studio space at Good Hope Art Studios in Cape Town, South Africa.
Faatimah Mohamed-Luke is a visual artist and designer based in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2003 she graduated from Cape Technikon with ND: Fashion and also did a year of design encompassing Graphic, Interior, Industrial, Textile and Jewellery design disciplines. Faatimah is a founding partner of SA designer brand adam&eve. She has honed her entrepreneurial and artistic skills, having participated in fashion weeks and exhibitions for over a decade. Three years ago, she resigned from the fashion industry to focus on art and interior design.
Having discovered the art of tessellation in Morocco while on holiday a few years ago, her aim is to reintroduce the art form of tessellation in a thouroughly modern way, utilising plastic building blocks to create large scale artworks. She enjoys challenging the views of materiality and what constitutes an artistic medium, while elevating the humble children’s toy into a nostalgic visual feast. Faatimah’s chosen medium allows for a playfulness and accessibility within the artwork and a democratisation within the art world. Faatimah’s need to foster accessibility has led to numerous public installations, one of which won a Loerie award. She hopes to constantly blur the line between art and design as she evolves and grows on her journey through various creative avenues.
For this exhibition, Faatimah focused on her experience while being in isolation during this Covid-19 Lockdown in South Africa. She was initially hesitant to create while in
this tense and unexpected situation, because her work has always been nostalgic about the past or hopeful about the future. For this exhibition, Faatimah has created bold, graphic artworks that are the quintessential representation of hugs and kisses, the X and O. Created in pairs, reflecting how we experience hugs and kisses in reality. The background for each is cold and stark with X and O being in a relief that is warm, inviting and complex.
Gary Frier (b. 1972, Cape Town) and grew up in the then segregated northern suburb of Kuilsriver in the Western Cape. In 2004 he qualified as a Graphic Designer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. After working in various design industries, Gary moved to create art of a more personal nature. Moving towards activist art making, Frier thinks of art as a space of constant self-reflection on positionality. Gary has exhibited extensively: from the Design Indaba in Cape Town, to the UK, Germany, France, Kenya and the Netherlands. Through his exhibitions he aims to make a difference as much as he can, such as 2006 P O S I + I V E “HOPE” Art Exhibition from which proceeds were donated to the Tapologo Aids Hospice, which performs an invaluable service in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Gary’s work has a strong graphic quality. He is interested in imbuing the two-dimensional image of his chosen subject with an expressive mood and personality. Gary combines contemporary and historical African elements and juxtaposes masks, photography, fabric detail and colour with urban figures. His themes and subjects are inspired by socio-political themes as well as the art and craft of cultures that live or have lived close to the nature. For this exhibition, the artwork is a commentary on the impact of culture and environment that shape lives in our communities. Some of the iconography, derived from gangster tattoos, references the unseen influences that characterize communities before they become body art. These cultural “Emojis” speak a language of a lived experience of traumatized communities.
As well as working on his art, Gary also teaches/facilitates at The Observatory Neighbourhood Afterschool Programme, an NGO which provides educational and cultural programmes for youth at risk, in addition to working in the occupational therapy department at Valkenburg Psychiatric hospital. Gary Frier lives and works the Western Cape, predominately from his studio at his home in Kuilsriver, Cape Town.
Jabu Nadia Newman
Jabu Nadia Newman (b.1994) is an artist who works through the mediums of photography and film. Using an agenda of pushing intersectional feminism her work is largely based on the different and complex identities of South African womxn. Her first solo exhibition titled Mokwena, Macquena, Mac Quene, after being awarded the recipient of the Orms Cape Town School of Photography Artist in Residency program, looked at issues of Coloured identity in Retreat, Cape Town, the history of forced removals and the result of her family having to change their surname. Newman has recently won the 2nd edition Video Art Award by the Arp Art Residency program Centro Luigi Di Sarro for her video piece untitled:friends (2018).
Jabu’s first museum solo show was presented by Museo Meà and the Associazione ‘Asilo dei Creativi di Meano’. It Takes A Village’ was on view in the Museum’s main exhibition space from September 7, 2019, through October 10, 2019.
Jabu Nadia Newman deftly explores a range of subject matter with a focus on intersectional feminism in South Africa’s post-apartheid landscape. For this exhibition, her photograph The Matriarch (2018) is reprised from her first solo exhibition titled Mokwena, Macquena, Mac Quene, which looked at questions of coloured identity, and the African identities that were given up by coloured individuals in order to survive or live in certain areas. Told through the image and voice of her grandmother Edith MacQuene, Jabu shares with us a deeper engagement of her family’s history; one that results in a surname change, coloured assimilation and shifting identities.
Jared Leite explores cultural identity through printmaking and sculpture. As a recent graduate of the BAFA programme at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, he is currently completing his Master of Arts in Fine Art at the same institution.
Working with a variety of methods he relies on the layering of images, symbols and metaphors as a way of visualizing cultural multiplicity. The works included stem from his graduate exhibition titled Amalgam (2019) and rely on the construction of complex viewpoints through which identity can be reframed and questioned. Jared, through his work, is mostly concerned with the value of culture, notions of authenticity and validity are points of discussion in his work. The combination of modern and traditional processes [engraving, lithograph, digital collage] in producing layers of text and image speak towards the complexity of his perspective but also to the ambiguity that surrounds ‘colouredness’- as something which is performed/held differently throughout South African history.
“The work is an attempt to visualize a convergence of representational issues I felt entangled within; animosity in the shadow of separatism, cultural constructedness, appropriation, feelings of displacement and so forth.”
Kelly Johnson studied at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town and graduated in 2015. Majoring in photography and continuing to focus in the medium since, her work is inspired by the natural environment and places that she grew up in, in Cape Town. Focusing on maps, aerial photographs and city views has provided a core base for her artmaking process. The work consists of collage and photographic digital manipulation, but occasionally includes an exploration of other mediums such as painting and printmaking.
Kelly lives and works in Cape Town. She has exhibited on various group exhibitions around the city and was shortlisted for her work in the Barclays L’Atelier Competition Top 100 in 2016.
“I use the language of mapping as a means to travel through real and imagined worlds. My intention is to create internal landscapes, reflecting on thoughts, memories and identity with references to several sites in Cape Town, to reflect upon personal and historical understandings inscribed by the landscape of our country. I then visit these sites and take close-up photographs with a macro lens of a roots, cracks and texture on a walls or rocks. Translating these photographs into maps; converting these insignificant moments into enlarged environments to engage with an intimate view of the landscape. The idea is to make the ‘invisible’, ‘visible’ and to draw attention to the details of places that people do not usually recognize. Thus the works are a poetic, subtle, individualized method in understanding specific areas that have significance to me.”
Robyn Pretorius started her art journey from a young age but only after a career shift committed herself to become a full-time artist and invested more time in art research. This encouraged her to create a significant body of work which would introduce her into the local art industry. She has landed her first solo exhibition in 2016 at Youngblood Gallery and extended her reach in the local art industry.
In 2017, she was commissioned by the South African Mint to create a portrait of Muhammad Ali, in celebration of the Krugerrand 50th Aniversary and this piece was then exhibited at the FNB Joburg Art Fair. The work remains part of the South African Mint Private collection. Also in 2017, she was awarded the Artist of the Month for September by Radisson Red Cape Town and was selected for the top 100 portraits in the Sanlam Portait Awards for her work which was dedicated to the Rastafarian ‘Sackman’ community living in Cape Town.
Robyn has participated in numerous group exhibitions associated with First Thursdays Cape Town and has collaborated with local brands such as MAAKBoards, HOPE GIN, Dreamer Education and fashion brand, Unknown Union. A creative partnership with Unknown Union introduced her artwork to a new audience as part of an opening act for their collection launch at the AFI: African Fashion International 2018. Her list of exhibitions include shows in New York, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Stellenbosch.
Her art practice has shown commitment to the local art scene but has also reached the international audience with exhibitions in New York and Europe. She attended her first art residency at Glo’art, Global Art Centre in Belgium in 2018. This experience allowed her to experiment, explore and refine her practice. Today, Robyn Pretorius has grown tremendously as a local emerging artist and uses her art to uplift and convey a narrative which is greatly inspired by her community and personal experiences.
Sara Jardine told her mom that she would be an artist one day, after school, when she was in Grade 2. She grew up in Garlendale, Cape Town and works from her studio at home since graduating from Michaelis in 2019. Working in sculpture, zine-making and mixed-media, much of her work stems from a place of self-reflecting but also mirroring the community and worlds she interacts with.
“My entire life I lived in one place, but when I say Garlendale and I explain where that is, then people say that’s Rondebosch East. When I say Rondebosch East, people say that’s Athlone. So who knows hey, politics made that decision for us. All I know is it’s my place. It’s where I live. I’m almost an adult. I almost act like an adult. I wouldn’t be alive without my sister. I don’t like cheese. And I smaak falafel.
The title of my work, “DALA WAT YOU MUST”, is a way to unapologetically claim who you are and what you strive for. There is no official definition of the word “Dala”. The best way I can describe it is “do” or “to act”. In the Cape Flats to make it in the world you need to dala wat you must, do what you need to do everyday to get to the place in life you want to be.”
Scott Eric Williams
Scott Eric Williams is a self-taught artist from Cape Town. Scott uses diverse media, which range from sculpture with recycled materials and weaving to illustration and Wheatpaste street art. Having experienced a nomadic existence for most of his life Williams is moved to create deep empathtic work, with an intention to pro-actively contribute to a multifaceted image of African identity. Scott’s work reflects on urban migrations, and contemplates experiences of loss, depression, land, hope and trade within inner-city contexts. Through his use of urban detritus, he strives to make sense of the city by engaging with its leftovers. Scott’s work embeds a sense of site-specificity due to the nature of materials coming from particular stores and locations.
Being a founding member of the collective Burning Museum (2012-2015) Scott’s work is also strongly characterized by themes of the archive, remembrance and marginalized histories. Burning Museum have exhibited at The Centre for African Studies – UCT, Brundyn+ , Kunsthaus Dresden and on the streets of Cape Town. His work includes also Youth Facilitation at The District Six Museum, Research & Archiving at Africa South Art Initiative and web, print design at Thupelo, Cape Town.
Soft Sculpture, woven shoelace
49 x 54 x 7 cm
Ulriche Jantjes was born in 1997 in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2019, she completed her BAFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Art (UCT), where her practice incorporated both sculpture and painting. Conceptually, Ulriche is interested in the various elements which inspire us to celebrate, question and sustain the significance of one’s heritage
Her work is inspired by memories and heritage and is especially interested in how memories of the past inform the way we respond to the present. Ulriche predominantly uses oil paint but often experiments with mixed media as a way to explore the tactility of a painting’s surface and the textures upon it. Ulriche currently lives and works in the Western Cape, where she is focusing on painting and expanding her research on her heritage as a woman of colour.
“I draw inspiration from familial homes to guide and build consciousness of my community. I explore terms such as authenticity, faith, and awareness when contemplating the underpinnings of a “coloured”, Christian community. The variety of household contents associated with family traditions and oral history informs my process. I am interested in the intimacy of familiarising myself with the fragmented history embedded in the household. My work is a reflection of the developing relationship I have with my community: the domestic interior, the church, my family, and our heritage.”
Urban Khoi Soldier
Urban Khoi Soldier is a Graffiti artist, hailing from the northern Suburbs of Cape Town. An artist that maintains salutation to all other creators, especially the pioneers that laid down the foundation to the wide spectrum of art forms. His art is originally inspired by all acts of documentation on wall surface. This dates back to Ancient Egypt, as well as civilization as old as Sumeria and Mesopotamia. However, the artist Identifies with a people even older, the indigenous peoples of Southern Africa. KhoeKhoe people documented their worlds through pigmented cave drawings, Sumeria had sanskrit engraving on stone, Egypt is recorded in the Hyroglyphics and 1970s Graff writers had the emerging styles like Bubble lettering, Wildstyle, Block, 3D.
Other than the very informative nature of each of these historical periods of expression, in it exists a narrative of a transcendental moment in human consciousness and collective wisdom. This is a consciousness becoming aware of itself through the ritual of 3rd and 4th Generation Graffiti. Therefore the Name UrbanKhoeSoldier, Is not HIS name. It is the narrative of a Concious Hip Hop Generation. A previous Generation were called Generation X, and a more recent generation, the Millenials or Trapnation.
Through Knowledge of self, UrbanKhoi creates art, inspired by the People. The Creative expression that springs forth from the artist Urban Khoi Is a portrayal of what the artist considers another episode in the future story of his style’s evolution. He is interested in creating art that reflects the authenticity only found in Cape Town, South Africa, Africa. He feels that we have seen what the worlds interpretation of graffiti looks like, which is why he explores the Idea of a Cape Town Style.
The works presented in this exhibtion, are episodes (Frames) from a graphic novel UrbanKhoi is Currently working on. The story is about an Indigenious teenager, who is summoned into a modern reality. He harnesses the Elements of Hip Hop and discovers tales of an ancient royal people and stumbles upon many life changing realizations on his adventures in the city landscapes. He Explores abstract Geometry through the shapes he observes in the stars and planets which fills the night sky.
“‘We’ve seen what they can do, now Let’s Show them us, not them’.
This is the Nature of Hip Hop.
Avocado peere maakie hare meere! A jilly jolly to make you lekker jolly! A KWAAI zine will get you out of quarantine. We know you are bored at home, so we took the liberty of creating a KWAAI zine. During a time where social interaction is scarce, connecting with people virtually has been a solution. This publication gives you some insight into the process behind the art and the artist. Join us on the virtual journey of connecting with the person behind the work and the magic within their process. You will have to purchase the zine for the full experience. This zine is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get, but it will most probably be lekker. You can expect some of the artists to be included in the zine: Al Luke, Faatimah Mohamed Luke, Jabu Nadia Newman, Scott Eric Williams, Gary Frier, Garth Erasmus.
Notes on KWAAI Vol. 3
I began dabbling in the complications and confusion that surrounded my race in my final year of Michaelis School of Fine Art. It was something that always followed me and so I eventually gave in and attempted to understand, through my artistic practice, why I felt so confronted by it. It was never to provide clear answers. I don’t have any answers. It was more a method of exploration and self learning for myself. My race was something that was constantly questioned growing up, yet as a white passing female, I felt I never had the right to speak about.
As Capetonians we are obsessed with identity and the sense of belonging that comes with it. And as Coloured people we have every right to be, considering throughout history we’ve been branded as this betwixt and between race with a “borrowed culture”. Using the term coloured is an effort to not only reclaim a term that was intended for oppression and control, but also to redefine the stereotypes associated with it.
I’d say a large portion of my identity is built around the fact that I am Mixed race. KWAAI has definitely played a roll in that because I get to delve deeper into the intricacies of identity construction alongside the creative processes of others, which I find very rewarding. Through collaboration, discussion and working with like-minded people, it only makes sense to spread the movement beyond an exhibition alone.
Of course, being self aware on my positionality is imperative when dealing with a subject so sensitive and I aim to always continue learning. Three years down the line and KWAAI has grown into something I couldn’t have imagined it being. It could not have existed without the combined efforts of its collaborators. It was important for me to keep it collaborative focused and without a brief because the “Coloured experience” is one that is so varied and intricate, it didn’t feel right to restrict it in any way. The goal was to create something to aid fellow POC creatives , to explore and express themselves through the lens of identity on their own terms, which they are usually forced to navigate within the confine of others’ perspectives and stereotypes. This is especially true in Cape Town, a place that is rich in Coloured culture and heritage yet its generational history is often blurry and unknown.
I am very grateful to the connections made, for Eclectica who provided a space for the groundwork of KWAAI to be built on and develop into something that has immense, untapped potential. Working alongside Kirstin Warries and seeing the group of artists grow and evolve with each instalment is an exciting symbol of what KWAAI is to become.
My Personal Journey with KWAAI,
I had the privilege of seeing KWAAI being born. I helped Christina Fortune set up the first KWAAI exhibition. As an artist I had and still have this fascination with identity and culture. There has always been this question mark after these terms. KWAAI to me is an exploration of identity, whether it’s defining the term or loosening the hold of stereotypes. It’s a safe space for narratives to be heard that have been suppressed for so many years, but it is also a celebration thereof. The uplifting tone that KWAAI has adopted, is what I admire the most about this movement.
I was lucky enough to participate in KWAAI Vol. 2 as the artist, K-Juizy. The opening night will always be memorable, so many wonderful artists and insightful narratives which I could relate to. There was this sense of belonging. Not only were artists displaying artwork in the same space, we were also supporting each other, something I’ve seen little of from people who look like me.
Access, support and freedom of expression has drawn me to KWAAI. I am grateful for this opportunity to be a part of KWAAI Vol. 3 with Christina. Together we get to open space for other artists. Although we are in Lockdown, like the women and men that came before us, we are making something out of nothing. There is no solid definition of ‘coloured’ or ‘coloured culture’, we get to choose how we define that for ourselves. I believe this is aligned in true spirit of making something out of nothing. I hope that the bravery these artists use to tackle this conundrum, will inspire and bring hope during this time.
Eclectica Contemporary is proud to be home to the annual KWAAI exhibition, which is the result of a collaborative process between the gallery and incredible individuals. Now in its 3rd year, we are excited by how it has grown and developed and look forward to seeing it continue forward.
The aim of this exhibition is to open up a dialogue. Speaking about the impact of prejudice and racism in our country must be an ongoing and continuous process. Understanding our past – how it is linked to the present, and the resulting lived experiences – should create deeper insight into the community and identity of ‘coloureds’ and deeper insight into their fears, hopes and dreams. With our annual KWAAI exhibitions, we are grateful to have the opportunity to do this and encourage further discussion.