In 2006, the short essay ‘Doing it for Daddy’ by visual artist Sharlene Khan caused controversy when it expressed the opinion that since 1994, ‘transformation’ in the visual arts field in South Africa seemed to have halted at the point of White women replacing White men in positions of power. It questioned this new position of dominance in institutions that remained colonially and racially untransformed. On the 16 and 17th of September 2016, the School of Fine Art at Rhodes University will host a one-day symposium ‘A luta Continua: Doing it for Daddy - Ten years on…’ which seeks to both commemorate that article and those who ‘speak up’, but also, fundamentally, to continue looking at the ways in which various social oppressions intersect in the fields of art history and visual arts in South Africa. Presenters include Khwezi Gule, Nontobeko Ntombela, Nomusa Makhubu, Same Mdluli, Fouad Asfour, Ruth Simbao, Sharlene Khan, students from Wits School of Arts and Rhodes Art History and Visual Culture, as well as a performance by visual artist Sikhumbuzo Makandula.
Entrance is free…because knowledge should be.
For queries, please contact Dr Sharlene Khan: email@example.com
Friday, 16th September 2016
9.00 – 10.00: Welcome and introductory address: A Luta Continua: Doing it for Daddy – Ten Years On…
Dr Sharlene Khan – Senior Lecturer, Art History and Visual Culture, School of Fine Art, Rhodes
10.00 – 11.00: Black artists, White labels Continued…
Ms Nontobeko Ntombela – Lecturer, Department of Art History and Heritage Studies, Wits School of
the Arts, University of the Witwatersrand
11.00 – 11.15: Tea
11.15 – 12.15: Speaking Truth to Power: reflections of being a black creative scholar
Dr Same Mdluli – Guest Lecturer, Art History and Visual Culture, School of Fine Art, Rhodes University
12.15 – 13.15: Unlearning ‘art writing’
Mr Fouad Asfour – Editor, writer
13.15 – 14.00: Lunch
14.00 – 15.00: Doing Ventriloquism in South African Art Publications
Mr Khwezi Gule – Director, Hector Pietersen Museum
15.00 – 16.30: The Politics of Participation
Panel dialogue with Sharlene Khan, Khwezi Gule, Nontobeko Ntombela, Nomusa Makhubu and Same Mdluli moderated by Fouad Asfour
17.30 – 18.00: Ingqumbo/Wrath
Mr Sikhumbuzo Makandula – Fourth year student, BFA, School of Fine Art, Rhodes University
Saturday, 17th September 2016
9.00 – 10.00: A Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Value of Discomfort
Prof Ruth Simbao – NRF Chair, Art History and Visual Culture, School of Fine Art, Rhodes University
10.00 – 11.00: Colonial Ghost // Articulations of Whiteness in Institutional Spaces
Ms Gemma Hart – Honours in Art History, Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand
11.00 – 11.15: Tea
11.15 – 12.15: Show Me the Flaming Art: Patron-Clientilism and the Convenience of Race
Dr Nomusa Makhubu – Lecturer, Art History and Visual Culture, Michaelis School of Art, University of Cape Town
12.15 – 13.15: The Conundrum of Know-it-all-ledge: A reflective moment
Ms Simnikiwe Buhlungu – Third Year Student, BFA, Wits School of the Arts, University of the Witwatersrand
13.15 – 14.15: Lunch
14.15 – 15.30: Crossroads: Reading between the lines
Ms Aaliyah Tshabalala, Ms Mosa Kaiser, Ms Khwezi Zungu – Third and first year students in Art History, School of Fine Art, Rhodes University
15.30 – 16.30: Doing Race Work and concluding remarks
Dr Sharlene Khan
18.00: Drinks and dinner
Abstracts and Biographies of Participants
A Luta Continua: Doing it for Daddy – Ten Years On…
This presentation considers the implications of ‘speaking out’ and the challenges raised by Michel Foucault in his lectures on parrhesia, Edward Said in his radio lectures on the role of the intellectual, bell hooks in ‘talking back’ and Sara Ahmed on being a feminist killjoy, particularly in relation to the texts ‘Doing it for Daddy’ and ‘What’s all dis here talkin bout?’, which highlighted how gender-race-class colluded to replace White patriarchs with White matriarchs in the South African visual arts field. It also looks at the importance of placing an understanding of intersecting oppressions at the core of creative production and practices in South Africa.
Doing Race Work
What does it mean to be associated with race work? How does race work become race at work and raced work? What is the cost of engaging both institutional and private racisms? What are lessons we can learn from other race workers’ works and strategies, particularly with regards to the ethos of love and self-care?
Sharlene Khan is a South African visual artist whose work often incorporates a range of media that generate installations and performances that focus on the socio-political realities of a post-apartheid society and the intersectionality of race-gender-class. She uses masquerading as a postcolonial strategy to interrogate her South African heritage as well as the constructedness of identity via rote education, art discourses, historical narratives and popular culture. She holds a PhD (Arts) from Goldsmiths, University of London and is currently senior lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University.
Black artists, White labels Continued…
Too often, public debates such as ‘Black artists, White labels’ (2016) - what some considered a critical moment for the arts of early modern black artists as well as contemporary art - end up being referred to as moments of ‘fleeting anger’. The conclusion is that they yield nothing. The same is said for many such instances, the topic of this symposium being the case in point. Yet, it is also publicly known that the power of such moments is that trouble is caused for those who dare to speak, but not for those whose problematic scholarship continues to produce certain kinds of knowledge and value. Instead only sympathy, if not rewards, are reserved for their bravery to speak for the ‘other’. These workings of institutional power not only demonstrate mechanisms of protection for certain kinds of people, but also demonstrates a blind spot in the scholarship of the arts as a non-reflective, non-transformative and gate keeping practice. This begins with the fact that there is rarely ever any attempt to follow up on these issues, but rather behind closed-door meetings, hope or quick attempts - pretend to give them what they want or a simple, we are not going to be told by ‘them’ - to make the ‘problem to go away’. We rarely ever see measures of reflection being made in order to understand the reasons that these debates have been brought up in the first place and how such moments can be used to propel other ways of dealing with the arts of early modern black artists in order to avoid similar issues from coming up in the future. Instead debate gets personalized, which has crippled the growth of this scholarship, circling over the same issues. The truth is, these issues are far from over and are not going to simply go away.
Reflecting on these ‘fleeting’ moments, in this presentation, I discuss concepts I consider recurring factors and continued traps of this conundrum, which relates to, the politics of participation (implication by association and exhibitions as tools), non-audience participation (on being observed and as continued subject of study), and art value systems (peanuts that can buy gold). I propose a continuous return to these moments as a way of forcing ourselves to confront such issues in order to find solutions that help us tackle these issues differently and in more meaningful ways. I propose, not a ‘blacks only’ response, but a collective response, one that invites those who dare. I propose that it may be important to hold on to these fleeting moments for just a little longer, if not for the sake of transformation, but maybe to take stock of what surrounds us.
Nontobeko Ntombela is curator and scholar who lectures in the History of Art and Heritage Studies department at the University of the Witwatersrand. She holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Wits University and is currently enrolled in the History of Art PhD programme at Rhodes University. Ntombela worked as a curator at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (2010-2012), Durban University of Technology Art Gallery (2006-2010) and the BAT Centre Art Galleries (2002-2006), where she curated a number of exhibitions.
Speaking Truth to Power: reflections of being a black creative scholar
In 2016 I applied for a position as a research associate at the Wits Art Museum at the University of the Witwatersrand. I had just completed my PhD under the funding of the Andrew Mellon Mentorship programme, which I completed while working part-time and adhoc for a well-known photographer and violinist. In this paper I reflect on the trajectory of the PhD programme as an art history scholar in an African university and based on the auspice of this symposium’s title Aluta Continua: Doing it for Daddy. Aluta Continua is a phase that was coined by Samora Machel of the FRELIMO movement, which rallied the consciousness of the people of Mozambique against Portuguese rule. It is also the title of a song by renowned South African musician Mariam Makeba who in the lyrics names African countries that had up till then emancipated themselves from domination yet were still struggling with the remnants of colonialism. Makeba herself had lived and performed in many of these countries, and due to her testimony against the apartheid government was permanently banned from South Africa until the new government came into power. Her Pan Africanist existence, however, enabled her unique insight and a powerful sense of being an African, a Pan Africanist, a black female activist and creative, as well as a singer and mother, but it also isolated her from her home, from her roots - her sense of being. Makeba’s story is, thus, an anecdotal reference to the kinds of austerities black women in the creative landscape experience once they speak truth to power. Her story is not only employed as an inspiration but also because it alludes to the undertones of institutional power and oppression particularly within so-called transformed creative landscapes, seemingly democratic spaces and post-liberal ideological thinking.
Same Mdluli is a South African artist, curator, arts administrator and writer. She holds a PhD in Art
History and a MA in Arts and Culture Management from the University of the Witwatersrand and a
B-Tech in Fine Arts from the University of Johannesburg. She has worked as an administrator at
Goodman Gallery. In 2012 she was a recipient of the Mentorship Award from the South African Arts
Writers & Critics Association. In 2012 and 2013 she was selected as a Junior Research Scholar at the
Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and as a participant at the Diversitas Summer School in
Oldenburg, Germany. She was invited as guest researcher at the Institut National d’histoire de l’art
(INHA) in Paris for the ‘Culture Profession’ programme. In 2015 she was selected as one of the Mail
and Guardian’s top 200 young influential people and sits as an advisory panel member for the
National Arts Council.
Unlearning art writing
Art writing moves between the space of magazines and journals, academic discourse, art catalogues, monographs and unacknowledged experimental writing in a shifting tension between the art market, contemporary art discourse and and the urgency to decolonise art history. This paper interrogates the conditions of art writing by critically reflecting on the colonial matrix of power in art education and argues for the disobedient body of the writer to become visible through a change in voice, through linguistic guerrilla (Moroccan writer Mohamed Khair-Eddine) and linguistic terrorism (Gloria Anzaldua).
Fouad Asfour, writer, editor and linguist, works in collaborative frameworks on publications, exhibitions and art exchange projects. He has worked for various art institutions and research projects, was part of the documenta 12 magazines team and is member of the Dead Revolutinaries Club. In 2011 he initiated the independent publishing project Pole Pole Press and is co-founder of Thekgo Bursary, now in collaboration with Canon Collins Trust. He holds an MA in Linguistics from Vienna University and is currently completing an MA in Creative Writing at Rhodes University. In 2008 he was a grant recipient of the first Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory.
Doing Ventriloquism in South African Art Publications
The performance of something is not the thing itself. While there have been attempts to co-opt Black voices into the machinery of White supremacy in art publications we have also seen how these same voices are muted and diluted by the editors and commissioners of the publications and in some cases straightforward censorship. Through my own experiences with editors as gatekeepers and commissioners of texts I have participated in I hope to illustrate how the political agency of the Black contributors is curbed and muted through choice of topics, language, framing of discourses. I will further illustrate how these actions by editors effectively buttress a colonial revisionist project. In the course of my presentation I will discuss the following publications: 10 Years 100 Artists edited by Sophie Perryer (2004); Dungamanzi (Stirring the Waters) Exhibition Catalogue edited by Nessa Leibhammer (2007); The Johannesburg Art Gallery Centenary Catalogue edited by Jillian Carman (2011); The Visual Century edited by Mario Pissara (2011) and the second Johannesburg art Gallery Centenary Catalogue commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Edward Lutyens building edited by Tracy Murinik (2016).
Khwezi Gule is a curator and writer based in Johannesburg. He is currently Chief Curator at the Soweto Museums which includes, the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum and the Kliptown Open Air Museum. Prior to that Gule held the position of curator: contemporary collections at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Gule has curated a number of projects locally and internationally. He has contributed essays to various publications including exhibition catalogues, journals and newspapers and has delivered numerous conference and seminar papers straddling his areas of interest namely: the art field and heritage studies.
A performance which will be realized as a prayer/protest/peace connecting the architectural façade of St. Michael and St. George Cathedral and the Drostdy Arch, marking out the Rhodes University entrance. The performance will be realized collaboratively with the violinist Christopher Jardine, interrogating how the wall explores the twin role as the oppressor and potential liberator. The performance is inspired by the album We Insist! Max Roach’s: Freedom Now Suite.
Duration: 25 minutes
Sikhumbuzo Makandula was born in De Aar, and currently lives and works between Johannesburg and Grahamstown, South Africa. He works with photography, video and performance art. As the 2011 Sasol New Signatures runner-up winner, he exhibited at the Pretoria art Museum. In 2016 he exhibited at Njelele Art Station, Zimbabwe and also at AVA Gallery, Cape Town. In 2015 he exhibited at the Wiener Festwochen in Vienna, !Kauru 2015: Towards Intersections at UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria, Joburg Art Fair, That Art Fair, Cape Town and participated in Infecting The City Festival, Cape Town. He was part of the group exhibition at Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais,Sierre, Switzerland in 2014. During National Arts Festival 2014 Makandula participated in Blind Spot site specific performances, as well as Analogue Eye Video Art of Africa. In 2013 he participated in a group exhibition at Nirox Projects, Arts on Main, Johannesburg, as well as First Floor Gallery Harare, Zimbabwe during Harare International Festival of Arts. In 2012 he exhibited at the Joburg Fringe Art Fair and participated in the Art-Connect program facilitated by Visual Arts Network of South Africa, Johannesburg, and did a residency at the Nelson Mandela Museum, Mthatha in 2010.
A Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Value of Discomfort
Scholars and curators in the ‘north’ often view artists in the ‘south’ as “reservoirs of raw fact…from which Euromodernity might fashion its…axioms and certitudes, its premises, postulates, and principles” (Comaroff and Comaroff, 2011). In this hierarchical consumption of knowledge the “Western academy…claims theory as thoroughly Western” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999) creating what Ng?g? wa Thiong'o refers to as an “aesthetic feudalism”. Similarly, mapping a “geography of reason”, Lewis Gordon argues that such epistemological hierarchy creates the false assumption that “theory is white as experience is black”.
In this paper, I analyse a geopolitics of knowledge in relation to the discourse of ‘contemporary African art’ – a discourse that is largely driven and arguably misshaped by privileged art platforms and academic institutions in the ‘north’. In what ways does the popularity of this capitalist-driven discourse skew perceptions of ‘Africa’ and ‘African art’? How can strategic southernness be employed to analyse, deconstruct and reconstitute intersectional geographies so that knowledge is produced from the ‘south’ (rather than just about the south) as a strategy of “rewriting and rerighting our position in [art] history” (Tuhiwai Smith, 1999)? Moving beyond simplistic hemispheric, continentalist or racialised articulations of knowledge in relation to space, I argue for a meaningful shift in gravity that situates knowledge without reverting to one-dimensional forms of territorialism or essentialism. Challenging the self-congratulatory tone of what Belting refers to as ‘global art’ and the rise of ‘new art worlds’ (which includes the rise of ‘contemporary African art’) I propose that the recognition of the value of discomfort is a key step towards an extraverted, non-defensive geopolitics of knowledge.
Ruth Simbao is a professor in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University and the NRF Research Chair in ‘Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa’. Her research interests include contemporary art with a particular focus on Africa, the geopolitics of art and society, globalisation and biennialisation, ‘strategic southernness’ and the global south, theories of ‘place’, contra-flow diasporas, cosmopolitanism and cosmolocalism, the power of small spaces and modest gestures, migration and xenophobia, China-Africa relations, performance theory and site-situational art. Recent curatorial projects include Consuming Us with Azu Nwagbogu (2016), SLIP: Mbali Khoza and Igshaan Adams (2014), BLIND SPOT (2014), and Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China (2012 and 2013).
Colonial Ghost // Articulations of Whiteness in Institutional Spaces
in its formation.
A position that
secures and normalizes
[for] the Western Subject
The Johannesburg Art Gallery was born out of a complex set of desires, one of which was to moderate the social lives of the resident settlers and to aid the British imperialist project. In drawing on Eurocentric traditions it aimed to fortify cultural infrastructure through the establishment of its stone and mortar façade, one that bore down on the emerging civil society. The colonial legacy of its inception, imbued with whiteness, continues to haunt the space one hundred years on. Museum spaces remain entangled with remnants of this sordid history. Attempts to reformulate the way art institutions operate have been made. In 1997, James Clifford articulated the notion of ‘the contact zone’ – based on the writing of Mary Louise Pratt and ‘transculturation’. It stemmed from a rather optimistic response to what he termed ‘stodgy’ Eurocentric institutions. Within his theoretical framework, ‘culture contact’ is not perceived as one entity violently replacing another. The focus is shifted to ‘relational ensembles’ adapted through processes of cultural ‘borrowing’, appropriation, and translation – formulated in a multidirectional process.
The contact zone was enthusiastically adopted and soon became synonymous for ‘inclusionist’ and collaborative programmes within museum discourse. Instead of merely collecting and exhibiting works, institutions now aim to ‘educate’ its publics. However, this reformulation of museum space continues to be persistently neocolonial in its manifestation. The asymmetrical power dynamic that museum spaces emerged from, only maintain dominant culture whilst claiming to provide a so called ‘‘negotiated’’ space in which cultural exchange, negotiations, and transactions are said to occur.
It is within this matrix, that the colonial ghost lives on.
Show Me the Flaming Art: Patron-Clientilism and the Convenience of Race
On February 15, 2016, students at the University of Cape Town set up a shack and a portable toilet on campus in response to accommodation issues – a housing crisis – facing undergraduate students from low-income families. When the university management demanded that the shack, dubbed ‘Shackville,’ be removed from Residence Road near where the Rhodes statue stood, on campus, students refused and retaliated by burning paintings in nearby residences (Fuller and Smuts halls). The debates following this, in relation to the artworks task team, revealed a substratum of white networks, which have, over the years, actively worked to legitimize, enrich and endorse acquaintances while discrediting those who operate outside those networks. Although it is no surprise, it is interesting how all this surfaced in the direction that the public discourse took. This paper is aimed at diagnosing the disease of patron-clientilism at universities, particularly relationships art schools have with partners outside of the university. Furthermore, it seeks to question the ways in which race operated in creating senses of change. I argue that in the arts, it’s not the marginalization of blackness but its strategic appropriation (the illusion of being in but ‘out of place’), and tokenism that has sustained such networks and the control of moneyed power.
Nomusa Makhubu is an art historian and artist. She is the recipient of the ABSA L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award (2006) and the Prix du Studio National des Arts Contemporain, Le Fresnoy (2014). She is an ACLS fellow, an Abe Bailey fellow, and was a research fellow of the Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF) in Nigeria, Lagos where her doctoral research was based. Makhubu was a committee member of the National Arts Festival. She co-edited a Third Text Special Issue: The Art of Change (2013). She was a recipient of the CAA-Getty travel award in 2014. Her current research focuses on African popular culture, photography, and performance art. She lectures Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
The Conundrum of Know-it-all-ledge: A reflective moment
In this paper, I will be unpacking the notion of know-it-all-ledge and what it means. Not only connoting to what is perceived as “knowledge”, know-it-all-ledge also speaks to the pedagogical frameworks taught at institutions and who has agency in activating spaces where “knowledge” is allowed (or denied) to infiltrate. Additionally, by unpacking the conundrum at hand regarding know-it-all-ledge, I will explore erasure and deletion of black narratives within the framework of fine art and history of art. By looking at who has agency in producing or disseminating know-it-all-ledge in these disciplines, the (in)visible white hand that maintains this position of power becomes visible through the dissemination of these very “knowledges” in situations where black students are the minority; where the epistemological priorities of the black students are pacified and overlooked, where the black psyche again becomes subjected to the power of the white authoritarian either in the form of a lecturer, or in the form of the structure of the syllabus or the institution. By weaving in Carli Coetzee’s ideas surrounding accented thinking I will locate myself as a black female artist and scholar by reflecting on my experiences within an academic institution and the push and pull of being in a position, the conundrum, where my demographic has played out to be an enabler or disabler in these moments.
Simnikiwe Buhlungu is a Johannesburg-based artist, currently studying a BA Fine Arts degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. Between print-based mediums, text and collage, ideas of language through the use of Broken Inglish and the black experiences within the current social climate are constantly thrown into question. Navigating the spacial and the social, the visible and invisible ultimately forms a backbone of this artistic practice.
Crossroads: Reading between the lines
Aaliyah Tshabalala, Mosa Kaiser, Khwezi Zungu
A panel dialogue between current women students from Rhodes University about their experiences at a ‘historically white university space’ and a conscientisation of ‘black womanness’.
A Luta Continua: Doing it for Daddy - Ten Years On... is funded by the Rhodes University School of Fine Art and Research Office, and the Wits School of the Arts.Source: Rhodes Fine Art
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