Compositionz -Undoing The Other-ring

After viewing Sphephelo Mnguni’s exhibition for the first time, I wanted to remark that his work, although probing into uncomfortable racial and gendered narratives, appears to NOT BE ANGRY. Yes, there is a lot of red and a lot of aspects that provoke one to reflect with concern over the un-transformed state of our Urban settings, but the Artist appears to have measured his message quite evenly, making his testimony in what seems to be a more reflective/ mirroring and objective way. Speaking during the launch of the exhibition, Mnguni mentioned that though he has a story to tell, he is eager to emphasize that his is “Not the only story.”  He urged us all to find in his work, a way to tell our own stories and face our own fears and prejudices. To question the spaces we exist in and often take for-granted as merely given. It is possible that I may be misreading his messages but as a person who also grew up in the Township before moving to the Suburbs, I saw so much of myself in this depictions of taxis moving along the ‘white area” along the walls, the  White routes in and out of the Ghetto. It is a story of Separate Development and deliberate race based underdevelopment, it is also a story of violence against the black body and as Mnguni also mentioned, the “Shameful violence against the Black woman.” The image of the primus stove, conjured up images of nights in the Township of KwaMashu where my Grandmothers would vigorously pump this hazardous ‘poor peoples stove’ in order to cook for us and keep us warm. But let me begin this way.

It was a serendipitous to walk into TheOtherRoom, an arts, books and music space situated next to Khaya Records at the corner of Lilian Ngoyi and Florida Road in Durban’s Morningside suburb. Being one of Durban’s burgeoning vinyl record companies which is just one  area where history is brought alive so vividly by the kind of music that issues from within these walls. This particular afternoon was even more special as I walked into the space while a song called Ma-Afrika by Sister Cool was blasting from the record player. Sister Cool happens to be a Afro-Pop group which released this record through Cool Spot Productions way back in 1989. Before I proceeded towards my mission of viewing Sphephelo Mnguni’s installation titled Compositionz* in the OtherRoom and displayed all over the passage walls, i read these interesting words on the back of the Sister Cool album sleeve: “Afrika, Everything About You Appeals To All Nations.

Entering The OtherRoom I sat down on a stack of magazine cuttings, to view a film titled Ubuqhophololo/Staircase, Created and Directed by Sphephelo Mnguni. I was not too surprised to hear the distinctive guitar refrain aka Madala-Line of KZN legend Madala Kunene forming the first part of the film. The all too familiar Township scene that is shown against this musical background is both disturbing and intriguing in its ordinariness. Mnguni’s rendering of  black and white light, space and the textures of the shacks is a cinematographic masterstroke. After we see a Black boy running through the precarious pathways in the shack-lands carrying a 2 liter Coca Cola bottle half-filled with a clear liquid which we later discover to be paraffin, the scene shifts to a depiction of an older Black youth going to fetch water from the communal tap. While everything around him is rendered in Black and White, the 10 liter containers he uses exude a golden glow.  Once he returns into his one room shack he proceeds to have a bath, but while he is doing so, the screen is halved so that we also see a white woman in an advert for Palmolive soap, which appears to be a skin-lightening ingredient. The youth is applying soap and water on his face while the white lady also wipes her own face with this Palmolive, the image immediately reminds me of Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin-White Masks*. Mnguni’s work as evidenced by many juxtapositions and scenes in this short-film and shot-through the whole gallery space presents us with the unmistakable nuances of the Black Consciousness tradition. So the Fanonian imagery is obviously not a mistake. Infact, although the young Mnguni does not come across as a deliberately political or ideologically motivated Artist, it is clear from viewing his work that there is no fence sitting here and that everything is political whether we want it that way or not.

I am not sure which aspect of this expansive and thought-provoking work to begin with as all of it is composed in such a way that one can see the politically fraught transitions from Township to the Suburb that part of this work explicitly focuses on. I am also careful not to give away to much information, as it is best to view the work for oneself. I will revisit this work and write a little more and perhaps add some images.

Leaving the gallery, these are the rough notes I jotted on my journal:

Draft Review: “Compositions, Collages, Co-existence, Confluence, Conditioning, Art as a conduit…

All these terms and more, come together in Mnguni’s installation work, visual arts, music and a psychological exploration of what it means to commute daily from a place of blackness to a place of whiteness while knowing that you are part of the majority population – yet the way the city is planned still makes you feel like The Other, the alien in your own native land. The work somehow reflects the character, personality and current conditions of the artist himself. Whether his work may be categorized as social-commentary, protest-art is speculative and would probably only box the Artist into some concept coined by both liberal and conservative viewers from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

What strikes me about this massive and expansive work is how it is devoid of any condemnation, bitterness or confusion. It is as the title suggests, Composed. It is the Artists work acting as a mirror to a society that is still grappling with the legacies of colonialism, apartheid and a convoluted nationalism. Mnguni’s voice reminds me of how Hip Hop mentions everything that is happening around us yet does not claim to hold solutions or any antidotes. The writing is literally on the wall. Sphephelo Mnguni is really a promising and intelligently articulate young Artist to watch closely. His sense of compassion and revolutionary consciousness is original, distinct and quite refreshing to see.” –

The Exhibition, titled Compositionz is up for the whole Heritage Month of September. Check it out and lets tell our own stories.

Menzi Maseko (c)

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Language of Dance

It has been a long time since I have witnessed a contemporary dance piece that moved me so much. Just a few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to witness the collective multi-disciplinary installation of the Iqhiya Artists, a collective of women who met as students in Cape Town and subsequently formed a movement of themselves for various noble purposes. Although I did not spend a lot of time at the KZNSA viewing their installations, I really was captivated by some of the work they displayed and how they articulated themselves both individually and as a collective. Their work had an implicit and also explicit feminist tone. When they showed one of their films at Ikomkhulu Art Gallery, run by Amasosha Arts Movement, it generated a very healthy debate around questions of women’s invisibility both socially and as artists. A robust debate was had surrounding matters of patriarchal dominance of every conceivable social space and how women were challenging that and taking charge of their own narratives – moving away from the predominant colonial and male gazes and conditioning.

Tonight at the KZNSA Gallery I and I witnessed two elaborate and well executed dance movements. Part of the Jomba festivals, programs called Jomba! @ The KZNSA Gallery presents; Jomba!’s KZN ON THE EDGE…

The first piece, called “Otherwise” a sort of freestyle and interactive experience where almost all the members of the audience were included in the piece. . . It actually began with some of the dancers writhing and contorting  on the floor of the courtyard while some were seated among the audience. There was a lot of running to and fro, and despite the few clear communicative and Unitarian pieces of choreography, the work was rather long and had me lost after a while. But this does not take away from the dancers erudite and dedicated moves, whose language clearly depicted the struggles of an otherwise co-existential humanity.

What moved I and I mostly was the second piece, called ISIFUNGO. An English translation would be, The Oath or The Vow. Choreographed by celebrated dance educator and choreographer, Sifiso Khumalo from the well heeled FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY, featuring a fluid team of  Durban’s “young veterans” of contemporary dance; Gcina Shange, Zinhle Nzama, Njabulo Zungu, Jabu Sphika, Kirsty Ndawa and Thobile Maphanga. This was a truly remarkable work, as intense as it was gentle and nuanced with the themes of an Urban-Afrikan wedding, the inner turmoils of the bride and the groom as well as the family and community. The live musical accompaniment by Mdu and Siya was very evocative, I could not help but move…

This sight responsive work was so engaging visually and the choreography was so intense and evocative, it made me look into the oaths I have made myself and the circumstances and consequences thereof.

 

Sembene Across Africa

 

Green Ankh Works in collaboration with the BAT Centre and a Community of people all over the Continent and the Diaspora will Screen the Documentary : Sembene! Across Africa.

Ousmane Sembene is known as The Father of African Cinema, the film will reveal to the viewers that he was indeed so much more. The Screening is Free of Charge. It will be followed by a Discussion/Conversation regarding the subject.

The BAT Centre Screening Time is :

10 June 2017

5:pm

In The Mission Control Room/ BAT Centre 45 Maritime Place, Small Craft Harbour, Durban.

Semb

The Invention of the African

An in depth study of how many conceptions of African studies have been invented and formulated by the powers that be, to disenfranchise us and keep us in perpetual bondage. We must know how we are trapped in order to formulate Ways of being free. This is essentially about the power of definition and also the decolonization of Knowledge production. The author states:

“The book attempts, therefore, a sort of archaeology of African gnosis as a system of knowledge in which major philosophical questions recently have arisen: first,concerning the form, the content, and the style of “Africanizing” knowledge; second, concerning the status of traditional systems of thought and their possible relation to the normative genre of knowledge.
From the first chapters, which interrogate Western images of Africa, through the chapters analyzing the power of anthropologists, missionaries, and ideologists, to the last, on philosophy, I am directly concerned with the processes of transformation of types of knowledge.

This orientation has two consequences: on the one hand, an apparent attenuation
of the originality of African contributions and, on the other, an overemphasis upon external procedures, such as anthropological or religious influences.
The fact of the matter is that, until now, Western interpreters as well as African analysts have been using categories and conceptual systems which depend on a Western epistemological order.
Even in the most explicitly “Afrocentric” descriptions, models of analysis
explicitly or implicitly, knowingly or unknowingly, refer to the same order.
Does this mean that African Weltanschauungen and African traditional systems of thought are unthinkable and cannot be made explicit within the framework of their own rationality?
My own claim is that thus far the ways in which they have been evaluated and the means used to explain them relate to theories and methods whose constraints, rules, and systems of operation suppose a non-African epistemological locus. From this viewpoint the claim of some African philosophers such as O. Bimwenyi (1981a) and E Eboussi-Boulaga (1981) that they represent an epistemological hiatus should be taken seriously. What does this mean for the field of African studies? To what extent can their perspectives modify the fact of a silent dependence on a Western episteme?
Would it then be possible to renew the notion of tradition from, let us say, a radical dispersion of African cultures?
These are the most important issues in the debate on African philosophy.
They oblige me to clarify immediately my position about representatives of African gnosis.
Who is speaking about it? Who has the right and the credentials to produce it,
describe it, comment upon it, or at least present opinions about it? No one takes offense if an anthropologist is questioned.
But strangely enough, Africanists-and among them anthropologists-have decided to separate the “real” African from the westernized African and to rely strictly upon the first.

Rejecting this myth of the “man in the bush,” J. Jahn chose to “turn to those Africans who have their own opinion and who will determine the future of Africa: those, in other words, of whom it is said that they are trying to revive the African tradition” (Jahn, (1961:16).
Yet, Jahn’s decision seems exaggerated.”

18775102-V-Y-Mudimbe-The-Invention-of-Afr

Are We AbeNguni or AbaNgoni?

potsA really brief history of who we really are and what our traditions and culture entailed before we were scattered …Because in out attempts to become Free to be who We truly are, we must first know what and who we were before colonial conquest. This is an unfinished story, but reveals a lot about aspects of Afrikan Being which has been suppressed by both foreign religions and capitalism:

ngoni

They call It jazz

alice-3

They call it jazz but this music is much bigger and broader than any definitions.

Miles Davis called it Social Music, Nicholas Payton calls it BAM (black american music) but the closest description has to be Wayne Shorter’s “I Dare You” music.

Call It what we may, this phenomenon known as jazz is fun, intricate, witty and full of whimsical freedom and wisdom; It is music at its most sincere, although often highly enigmatic.

As Amiri Baraka poetically stated “jazz listen to it at your own risk”.

It can literally either heal your soul or blow your freakin’ mind .

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RJbGQ2wWSR8&sns=fb