Seventeenth century poet John Milton’s epic masterpiece, Paradise Regained is a complex tale. There are obvious biblical references to Adam and Eve, the Fall and subsequent attempts to reclaim Eden. Although the language is often convoluted and terse, there are subtle nuances: the beguiling force of the evil tempter; the mythical love shared between the first people; the attempt to recover and return to Paradise, and the travails of this earthly existence between the possibilities of so-called heaven and the fearsome prospect of so-called hell.
What then can Milton’s Paradise Regained teach us within an African and South African context? The significance of basic education that is broad, deep and open as a right to all; the need for heroes and heroines to fight against social injustices; that the more negative side of the self is insidious; that we are the guardians of the earth and Eden can be made out of this earth – that should we open our eyes we may yet see that there are pockets of paradise right here in South Africa. Finally that love and care between partners can indeed change the world so that we should recognise its delight that abounds.
Now, how is this to be achieved? Consider the corruption in our country. Consider that the hell of apartheid that is now over and where racism ought to be a thing of the past has not transpired. Politics in this country is still deeply racial and the fledging democracy has not yielded a responsible, prosperous nation state. Education is in crisis and there is even the threat of violence.
Richard Levin writes in New Agenda (2016:8): “the post-apartheid state has been challenged to skew the provision of state services to the people who need them most, while minimising opportunities for corruption. The colonial unconscious, however casts doubt on affirmative efforts to redress the past, as well as the legitimate use of procurement for socio-economic transformation and empowerment”. Thus, although equality (read: paradise) has been achieved constitutionally, it is unclear whether South Africa has improved or is a mere “lost Eden”.
Reflections by Danny Shorkend
Cape Times Article
Under Constructin: Jaco Sieberhagen
The German artist Stephan Strumble stated that: “The feeling of being home and belonging somewhere is one of the strongest things that occupies people’s minds around the world. I think every human being aspires and searches for a place to call home. We all chase the feeling of security, love, friendship and happiness”. To this list of feelings I would like to add the need for acceptance by others and by one self. Stephan continues by arguing: ”This bundle of feelings is the strongest drug in the world. Especially in our time, our world with its fast moving nature, internet and globalization, it becomes more and more important for people to know where they come from, their home and their family”.
This internal and external space where you can experience security, love, friendship, acceptance and happiness is unfortunately never a completed “home” for us to move into, but rather a space under construction where we are the architects and building contractors. The most important tools in this process of designing and constructing a space of security, love, friendship, acceptance and happiness is the ability of an individual and a community to remember and to forget. In “A meander through Memory and forgetting” Richard Holmes wrote: “There is a Goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne, but none of forgetting. Yet there should be, as they are twin sisters, twin powers and walk on each side of us, disputing for sovereignty over us and who we are, all the way until death”.
We could argue that it is of the utmost importance that we remember everything and preserve every detail of our personal past as well as the diverse heritage of South Africa in order for us to create a personal and collective “home” where everybody could experience security, love, acceptance, friendship and happiness. The question therefore is; do we have to preserve all memories the way we protect our bio-diverse fauna and flora?
Rodney Harrison in his article – “Forgetting to remember, remembering to forget: Late modern heritage practices, sustainability and the ‘crisis’ of accumulation of the past”, went as far as to say that we are in a crisis because of our inability to forget the past. Paul Connerton suggests that “the excessive memorialization of the late modern world can only exacerbate this obsession with social memory, as it ultimately leads to an inability to form collective memories. The French anthropologist, Marc Augĕ, is quite clear on this matter when he noted in his work Oblivion: “Remembering or forgetting is doing gardener’s work, selecting, pruning. Memories are like plants: there are those that need to be quickly eliminated in order to help the others burgeon, transform, flower.” He said that we actually have a duty to forget: “We must forget to remain present, forget in order not to die, forget in order to remain faithful.”
Selective remembering and motivated forgetting is therefore not such a bad “tool” in constructing a space of security, love, friendship, acceptance and happiness. When asking people to tell you about their past you will never get a “snapshot” picture of what happened but rather a created reality made bearable through the process of remembering and forgetting. This is also true for our efforts to create “home” for everyone in South Africa; we have to accept that we cannot successfully form new memories and attach value to them without also selecting to forget some things. We are by all means not busy creating a “nature reserve” where memory needs to be protected, but rather a “home”.
With this exhibition I am giving form to some of the “homes” we are busy designing and constructing in our longing for security, love, friendship, acceptance and happiness.
No(n) Place Like Home Series: Hide and Seek (Edition 1/7)
Mild Steel and Paint
46.5 x 86.2 cm
No(n) place like home
Destiny allocates spaces/places for us to be born, live and love, and die. History has the ability to alter these spaces/places and to transform what should be the ideal place into, what Marc Augẽ termed, a Non-Place.
The title of the series is a play on the two words “place” and “home”. “Place” refers to the writings of the French anthropologist, Augẽ, who, in an essay and book of the same title, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995) coined the phrase “non-place” in reference to places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as “places”. Anthropological places are contrasted to spaces; places in turn to nonplaces: ‘If a place can be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational or historical, or concerned with identity will be a nonplace’. For Augẽ examples of non-places are motorways, hotel rooms, airports or supermarkets.
Jaco Sieberhagen answers Augẽ and relates the nonplaces to South Africa today. In his sculptures he interprets the relational as being specific to South Africa where spaces and places are transformed from the familiar to often-hostile environments. Historically his places are situated in a Post Apartheid South Africa in which identity is coupled with realities beyond our control. Sieberhagen thus puts the non-place in the context of the political and economic change, which affects the lives of each South African.
By its very nature the word ‘home’ conjures up emotions related to the personal quest for protection, security and belonging- a sanctuary. “No place like home” could be a quote from L. Frank Baum’s fantasy The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; or from the audio-drama Doctor Who. No Place Like Home is the title of an award-winning novel by Barbara Samuel or a song associated with Perry Como and the Christmas season. Most likely, however it refers to the last line of the 1822 song “Home! Sweet Home!” with words by John Howard Payne and the music by Sir Henry Bishop:
“ Mid pleasures and palaces though I may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home”
IJaco Sieberhagen, the father of two young girls uses his intimate knowledge of and cares for his daughters as a reference in these works. Life becomes art and art reflex the relationship between a father and a daughter and places them in a wider context. He creates situations within specific places, which interpret an Alice in Wonderland scenario where the young girl is confronted with reality and history.
In these works the artist confirms the fact that experiencing spaces and places is part of our everyday life. Places are not privately defined areas with borders but are determined as much by what is the reality of the inside as by the connections to the outside. Time and space is connected and so places become sites of memory. Places reveal the struggle between the realities of history and individual memories. The American anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, describes place as a dimension of everyone’s existence. It is this existence which is explored in the world of Jaco Sieberhagen.
Lucia Burger – April, 2009
Judgement day 1 & 2
Mixed media on perspex
118 x 145 cm
Born in 1977, Nigerian painter Vincent Osemwegie’s continuous creative journey led him to South Africa in 2009.
Integral to his expressive technique, Vincent combines active movement through the dripping of paint to not only render subject matter, but to trace its construction.
He explores ideas of physicality through motion and juxtaposes it with the notion of remnants and an acute sense of what is left behind.
Paradise is constructed and/or reconstructed as a process or manifestation. It is revealed as an evocative visual form that pushes the boundaries of representation and human experience.
“We are / Are we / Are we not – looking and searching for Eden? Lost in knowledge; blind to see, in pockets of Paradise. There are books, some open some closed, eyes without sight, though the answers are there.The past we cannot reclaim, but only, maybe tirelessly, grasp the moment and hopefully the future. What was done cannot be undone; must not be forgotten, but remembered, and so inform our future.“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” We are all travellers, travelling in search of self and each other. On the way we encounter challenges and violence and love, and knowledge.
– Vincent Osemwegie
Now and Then
Hotpress inkjet prints on cotton based pape
Approx. 220 x 330 cm
KyuSang Lee’s photographic artistic practice draws on his experience within distinct regions and cultures of the world. Born in Seoul, Korea in 1993 and having moved to Cape Town in 2005, his artistic practice exhibits strong influences of Eastern, Western and African cultures.
KyuSang, working in predominantly black and white photography, presents an interesting juxtaposition to ideas of the “lost”.
From Now to Then captures a method of systematic collection that documents moments and experiences short-lived in the present. The result is a photographic archive that visually preserves these instances and renders them concrete.
His concept lies in the notion of irreversibility of time and its undeniable link to photography which literally functions as the “representation and preservation of memory”(KuySang Lee)
Primal Forms, series
Archival pigment inks on 100% cotton paper, 16 portraits, 4 of which are apart of this exhibition in an Edition of 6
64 x 49 cm
Leonard Shapiro has developed a meticulous artistic practice, which manifests in drawings and digital prints. Attaining degrees in both Social Science and Fine Art has afforded Leonard the ability to examine and visually transcribe, allowing him to teach observational drawing to others – more recently the 2nd year Medical students of the Department of Human Biology at UCT.
The artist engages in a process of artistic excavation to reveal hidden structures of and beneath the surface of the human form. His choice in subject matter, a skull, no longer protected by layers of flesh introduces an interesting paradox of what is lost and what remains. Yet, by studying the human skull and the various landscapes of the human head, he opens up an interesting dialogue alluding to how multiple paradises can exist, either in thought and interpretation or as an aesthetic object of observation.
Walnut Powder on sculpted canvas
Approx. 40 x 51 cm each
Thonton Kabeya was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1983. In 2014, Thonton moved to Johannesberg where he now lives and works. His body of work is activated by the aspect of time and the persistence of memory.
Thonton recreates visual paradises, through rich colour palettes that trace intimate landscapes intrinsic to the artist’s childhood experiences. No longer rich in tangibility, yet still evocative, Thonton divulges the transience of paradise eminent in sensation but no longer concrete in form.
“Despite the passage of almost 25 years since my childhood, the memories of coming together with my friends in the evening to share the joy and energy of our youth is still powerfully evocative, and I am easily captivated by my reminiscence into my younger years. Our lives were playgrounds, filled with possibilities, and dreams of our youth. These works were created in celebration of these memories.
Just as children play, I have used the rich colour palette to mimic a musical stave, where upon children dance and play, like musical notes, in the creation of rhythm and mobility in the song of youth and carefree childhood.”
– Thonton Kabeya
Michael Selekane was born in Uitvlag, Mpumalanga. After moving to Mopbane with his mother in 1991, Michael’s artistic journey began to take shape. In 2007, he became part of the Ifa Lethu Foundation, allowing him to continue his artistic growth before graduating from the Tshwane University of Technology (Faculty of Arts).
Michael Selekane’s artistic practice explores an interesting passage of time through gestural mark-making where arguably past and present overlap. He explores the terrain of the destruction and construction of paradise, by negotiating a time of severe unrest in Africa’s history
He directly examines and documents a time of change in Bophuthatswana, offering us a new perspective of a historical moment not instantly recognised in South Africa’s history books.
In 1994, just prior to South Africa’s first democratic elections, Lucas Mangope, ruler of the of Bophuthatswana, was forcebly removed from office. Mangope refused to participate in the elections and had rangled the support of 2000-odd armed white right-wingers to aid his defence. The South African Defence Force was forced to intervene. The removal of Mangope, regarded by most of his Tswana subjects as corrupt, followed days of street fighting and looting in which at least 25 people were killed. Most victims were black civilians.