In South Africa, race divisions continue to influence the arts
A painter and a writer have both recently depicted race, which remains an uncomfortable issue in South Africa more than a decade after the end of apartheid, in their work.
Cape Town, South Africa
Race is undoubtedly an uncomfortable topic, and one that begs the question: Can a past of racialism ever be overcome? Is it possible to move on? And by move on, I mean have one’s race become nearly as invisible as eye colour or the shape of one’s nail, whether square or oval. And if it is possible, how long does it take to for this to happen? In South Africa’s case, it has become clear that it definitely takes longer than 16 years.Skip to next paragraph
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Tonight I was at the Michael Stevenson gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town, and am going to have to expose myself as uninformed when it comes to art because I’d never before heard Anton Kannemeyer, whose work, Alphabet of Democracy, was included in the gallery’s 2010-11 summer exhibition. What struck me immediately about Mr. Kannemeyer’s work was his head-on take on topical political and social issues in South Africa. In one drawing, he depicts Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of President Jacob Zuma, sitting on a couch with the words “F is for Fat Cat” above him and “BEE rules” next to him. Khulubuse Zuma and his business partner Zondwa Mandela, grandson of former President Nelson Mandela, have been making news lately as their mining company, Aurora Empowerment, has failed to pay workers who in turn embarked on strike action in protest. The two are alleged to have used their family connections to secure the lucrative black economic empowerment (BEE) deal that set up Aurora, and have now left workers on the lurch with just over R16 million in unpaid wages. The intrigue doesn’t stop there, of course, as charges of murder were filed last week against the mine’s security guards for shooting dead four alleged illegal miners earlier this year, and a white knight in the form of South African-Chinese consortium Virgile Asia Mining may yet save the day by squaring up a deal with the mine’s creditors and restarting operations, which had been at a standstill since workers’ strike.
And in another drawing, Mr Kannemeyer depicts a broken building wall with the words “S is for School” written above and “built by Jackey Maarohanye and funded by Bill Clinton and Oprah” below – this in reference to a school run by Jackie Maarohanye that turned out to be using its students as cash-cows. Its funders and supporters included some very high profile names.