Making Africa for Who?

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I went to the Making Africa: a Continent of Contemporary Design exhibit at the High Museum here in Atlanta over the weekend. I caught the exhibit on a free Sunday before the it moves on. This exhibit is definitely something different for the High, which does not have a history of showcasing Afrocentric work.

When I saw the words “Making Africa” all over Atlanta’s billboards and the High’s logo, I was thinking something along the lines of interesting! And then, I was thinking “what does ‘Making Africa’ even mean?” My mind immediately rejected this phrasing in the way that it rejects any attempt at conglomerizing the concept of ‘Africa’. It wasn’t until I saw the rest of the title, “a continent of contemporary design”, on a flyer somewhere else that I considered the exhibit might live up to the vast, complex, multi-lingual, multi-cultural continent it is claiming to showcase and I decided I had to check it out.

I’ll admit that as an African, a North-African, a Moroccan from the Atlas mountains, my approach to anything that uses the monolithic term ‘Africa’ is always skeptical, always critical, always searching for the ‘but what do you really mean when you say ‘Africa’?” After looking up some details online, I found out some ingenious artists were in the exhibit, truly forward-thinking, brilliant artists. These are artists who don’t necessarily need the platform of ‘Making Africa’ or even ‘Africa’ to appreciate their work. Kudzanai Chiurai’s work, for example, speaks of political struggle relevant to a lot of the global South. So I found myself wondering, how is the western American able to view this as separate from stereotypes of Africa? In what ways does it challenge the American viewer to think critically?

What first meets your eyes at the exhibit is white text on a black wall introducing the pieces. The introduction confirms: times are changing, people are advancing, and Africa and its people are part of this advancement. Then it states: there are 650 million registered phones on the continent, this is significantly more than in the U.S. Although, you might know this particular statistic, it should really not be surprising. There are also a lot more people on the continent, given that it is, you know, 3 times larger.  The introduction, did end, to its credit, with a disclaimer that this exhibit does not claim to represent all of Africa – which nothing can ever claim to do – but rather presents a new story or narrative for ‘Africa’ in the viewer’s psyche. 

Without getting ahead of myself, I’d dare to say this statement is meant to guide you to the concept that Africa is not stuck in the Stone Ages. I will go ahead and say that this allows viewers to peek into the African contemporary art world from the comfort of their own lazy and tired perceptions of Africa. Here’s how: It puts together printed out explanations of African history with screenshots of popular African websites, updating the viewer on the current state of affairs in order to convince the viewer that Africa is advanced. If you have been following updates from the continent in even the last five years you would know not find it that surprising that some of the world’s largest urban areas such as Lagos, Johannesburg, and Casablanca are emerging tech and economic hubs on the continent. 

Although this may be a lesson some people need to have, I would like to imagine that we can appreciate African art and contemporary design in a more well-curated fashion. The art is contemporary, yes, but it is also featured alongside mobile apps developed by Nigerian company Pledge51. Soccer-game phone apps, to me, don’t count. That is to say that a mobile app, just like the fact that the continent of Africa has more registered phone users than in the U.S., should not be all that surprising. Not that they don’t deserve a space to discuss and observe, still squishing it together with “art” and “design” is a bit of a stretch.

Imagine an exhibition that did not seek to explain or justify Africa but presented various African contemporary works as they are, with its brilliance and controversy. To have a show on African art without providing the African context, whatever this context is, is to radically claim that African art can stand on its own with its message, and reach a western American audience without an explanation centering that audience. I just don’t imagine you need an exhibit displaying apps made in the African continent in order to understand and appreciate contemporary African art. Then of course, we might have a less appealing show to mainstream audiences but then we could have more engaging conversation about what little understanding and interpretation there is of African contemporary art in the U.S. mainstream culture. The art itself does this, the context it is presented in then hinders us with fully engaging in the intensity of the message presented by the art. 

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KUDZANAI CHIURAI, POPULAR MECHANICS I, 2010

Take Kudzanai Chiurai’s Popular Mechanics series. The linocut prints are commentary on the nature of power in a post-war nation, in a nation where power is defined by money, and in a nation where man-hood is defined by violence. These are all universal concepts which apply to numerous societies.

Consider advising curator Okwui Enwezor’s words, “the future has happened everywhere else already.” There is this sense that Africa is catching up to the world, but I genuinely seek to flip that interpretation around. I think developed nations are starting to realize, after having produced their fair share of CO2 emissions, over-pollution, plastic waste, and lack of creative ways of living, that they may have been doing something. Then African nations actually have the answer. Africa will not only catch up to the future but will invent and lead the world into the future is what I am getting at. So the future is happening in the sense that it is being challenged by Africa’s creators, but people in various African nations have always been inventing the future in the way they adapt to various challenges.   

In the spirit of centering contemporary African art and design, I want to move on to appreciating my favorites pieces in the exhibit, including some commentary overheard on my way through:

Black Veil, White Veil

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Left: Justin Dingwall/Thando Hopa, Untitled (White Veil), 2013; Right: Justin Dingwall/Thando Hopa, Untitled (Black Veil) | Courtesy MIA Gallery

This piece provokes the question of identity and background and how the context or background shapes identity. Notice how the same person, with the same features, looks different under different veils.

“I looked it up, it only comes up on Afro-centric websites…”

Do we ever say “it only comes up on euro-centric websites”?

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Mis Wude Style, Senegalese jewelry and fashion label

“Mom, are those outfits that people wear in Africa?”

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LV Possess, Hassan Hajjaj, Moroccan
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PONTE CITY DWT, Michael Subotzy (in collaboration with Patrick Waterhouse)

This is definitely one of my favorite pieces. The middle duratrans print features windows from each apartment – 12 across- on each floor – on 54 floors of the Ponte City building in Johannesburg, South Africa. Each image is put into a really small frame then into a mosaic so that you end up with hundreds of images side by side. These images all together give the impression that you are looking out of one large window. Although this project was completed over the span of two years, the consolidating of images into one space gives the impression that they were all taken at the same time and you are seeing a cross-section of people’s lives in one moment. Some windows have curtains in them, some have people’s silhouettes. On the right panel are all the doors in the building, and on the left are all the TV sets. Very powerful concept. 

Jua Kali series, Tahir Carl Karmali

This photo series uses waste to create armor, gear, and fashion. According to the artist Tahir’s website:JUA KALI is Swahili for ‘Fierce Sun’ – referring to the informal labourers that worked under the hot sun. Now it is a term used for people that work in any informal way and used to describe work that is substandard. I want to change this perception as in reality it is the Jua Kali sector that fuels the city of Nairobi.”

“That’s fresh.”

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Duro Olowu Birds of Paradise 2013 Collection Nigeria

Did Gucci steal maximalism from Duro Olowu?

My Week with Afropunk’s Army

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Photo by @souliscrying

My week as an Afropunk volunteer made me wish it was my everyday life. For the past four days, though, it is has been and now I’m feeling like why is it so hard to accept that the party is over? Afropunk became my life in a good way, in a I’m-part-of-something- bigger-collaborating-with-people-to-realize-a-bigger-vision type of way. I mean, y’all, we built an Afropunk pop-up village in four days.

 

 

Apparently, there were around 2,000 people who signed up to volunteer for Afropunk and they chose 40 of us. At first, this seemed odd to me, why wouldn’t you want more free labor? After being a part of the whole festival production process I understand: everyone, from the core group to the production crew to the volunteers, is there because they chose to be, because they wanted to be a part of Afropunk (it’s true, I learned this from being there). They only want people there who want to be there. Not a lot of festivals are for and by black people so it’s important to have people there who support this. Ironic because I didn’t know what I was getting into at first but of course, subconsciously, I was always moving towards it.

Day 1 

I show up to the site, an empty warehouse in Mechanicsville, not knowing what to expect. I had recently left my job, so my week was free. Nothing to lose right?

I have no trouble finding the team I’m going to be working with: environmental design. Meaning I’ll be setting up the look of Afropunk… the feel if it. I see Yemi, one of the coolest volunteers turned Afropunk crew members I met, and the one who showed me the ropes, i.e. spilled some insider knowledge about how shit is run in festival production. We’re in a big empty warehouse filled with dust and trash from a previous event. Huh. This is where afropunk is gonna be? Ok, I get it, it’s grungy, but where are people gonna sit?

The first thing I get to do is sweep, what seems like mounds of dust. I try not to be too excited to be working behind the scenes- but of course I am, I live for this type of stuff. As we begin unloading a rat pack (semi-big shipping container) and a semi-truck, I see all kinds of west and south African print fabric, lights, chairs, lamps and other decorative items pile out. I realize there’s going to be a lot more to it than sweeping up a warehouse. By the end of day one I had swept the entire corner of a warehouse and stuffed more pillows and cushions than you could find in all suburbian Atlanta.

Day 2

Most of the people I have met in leadership positions of production are women of color and that inspires me. I had been out for a day for a prospective job and I am surprised at how eager I was to get back on site. By the time I came back, progress was made: the warehouse now sectioned off into different areas and the flow of space was starting to make sense. Vendors’ booths and seating was put up with chain fence, signs and artwork covered grainy walls. Fences are up, scrim lining is up, palette furniture is made (on site) and now we get to do the fun part of decorating. Adding aesthetic appeal to a grungy warehouse is fun because you get to be pretty experimental. Dressing the walls, meaning basically putting up cool fabric and letting it look DIY but intentional:

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Artist dressing room in green stage

 

This was definitely my longest day, I stayed on site 10 hours. I didn’t even notice the time passing by. Physical labor and repetitive movements are meditative to me. They release the anxiety I get about time moving forward; a.k.a. boredom. I was so focused on building the dressing rooms and setting up the furniture, I didn’t notice how tired I was. When I got home, I couldn’t feel my legs. I had staple-gunned fabric to walls, and stood on my feet for pretty much all ten hours. Still I couldn’t wait to get back on site Friday for the final push before the show began.
Day 3

I arrive on site later than usual, knowing I’ll be working late at night helping to set up the last dressing rooms and other spaces. There’s definitely a buzz in the air, time is shrinking faster than anyone liked. Production crew members are running around faster and people’s voices are getting sharper. The excitement is building momentum and drive to get the whole layout set up by Saturday morning.

Too many cooks in the kitchen definitely defines the soup of a mess we were dealing with while setting up the last dressing rooms. These cooks in particular being us volunteers. We were eager and eagerness can come at the cost of efficiency and precision. This was a hectic day and night, and by the time I left around midnight there was still much to be done. Everyone is being pushed to their limits. Luckily, Afropunk treats its volunteers well, and everyone on site always says hi, including founder Matthew Morgan.

Day 4 

It’s finally festival day! I get there 3 hours before I’m supposed to start my shift, hoping to catch some festival time. Instead, I get pulled into a job as soon as I get there. I am switched to work with the artist relations department. This means “flipping” or switching dressing rooms for the next act and running around getting necessary items, restocking snacks, and serving drinks in the artists’ lounge. It doesn’t matter, being behind the scenes and having access to all the behind the scenes spaces I helped build is cool enough for me.

Some highlights of working with artist relations department involved making Diana Ross’ son a drink in the artists’ lounge and not knowing who he was because I’m a grandma. Asking  rapper Denzel Curry who he was three times. Finding Willow Smith a tea kettle.

Day 5

Last day of Afropunk and today is a lot more intense. Security upped several notches, the crowd expanded, and there’s an electric feel in the air. The only person I really want to see that day is Princess Nokia, so by the time I get on site and backstage I am crestfallen to hear that she has cancelled her show because she’s sick. Damn.

Still, being at Afropunk and seeing the festival go live after helping to set it up for three days was amazing. Highlights of the actual festival: going to the red stage and dancing to Werc Crew’s Atlanta-famous WHINE set. Talking to an older security guard about his many gigs guarding famous people’s spaces. Reuniting with a friend I hadn’t seen since we volunteered for Afropunk when it got cancelled in 2015. Moses Sumney’s spiritual performance on Sunday. After Solange’s performance, winding down with Atlanta-based DJ Ash Lauryn’s deep house.

Day 6

There is nothing like the left-behind feeling after an event has crescendo-ed to its climax and died down. It’s amazing to me how a certain space can change its feel and purpose from one day to the next. I stroll onto site for the last time without any trouble. The space that once had heavy security has become free-flowing again. I promised to help break down, pack up, and clean up and there’s a lot to be done. I also kind of want to see the people I worked with one last time before they went off their separate ways, mostly back to NYC and to prepare for Afropunk Johannesburg in December. Various pieces of afropunk village are broken down to become a regular warehouse space again. The place is a lot quieter and the wind whistled through the warehouse walls. Afropunk 2017 is wrapped up.

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Being a part of Afropunk, with so many women of color giving directions and running shit, and being surround by people with ambition for creative visions has definitely induced some inspiration and wakefulness that has changed the way I feel and create. I crave that feeling and when I am pushed into it, it’s always a reminder to be here. I know the power the present moment has on me, and often I forget that here right now, this is it. Create your vision from here. Being a part of Afropunk has validated my decision to pursue writing and creative visions because there are so many beautiful, ambitious, creative people in one space. From my fellow volunteers to the various people who create Afropunk, to the festival go-ers who equally make it afropunk, I was surrounded by people who all want to be (t)here.

Split Realities at the 2017 Atlanta Zine Fest

20626576_10154939077978233_5395618970190200357_oThe Atlanta Zine Fest this year was a great coming together of artists and activists, those with strong online presence and those who do work on the ground. A gathering of everything zine and DIY in Atlanta, the 5th year in a row and exhibited workshops, discussions, and film screenings on Broad Street in downtown Atlanta put on by the wonderful people at murmur gallery. The schedule was split between Mammal Gallery on one side of the street and murmur on the other side. With the theme “Reality Schism” this split fits the irony of the subject matter.

I found myself at home amongst activists and artists. This year focused on the dichotomy of being an artist with a marginalized identity and how activism shapes your art. The ways in which making art as a marginalized individual feels like a “reality schism”. The ways in which marginalized voices create art and culture while simultaneously being ignored and silenced. The ways in which you experience a double reality, much like “double consciousness” as an artist in which you not only create art that counters the dominant narrative but you have to take in news and media and break it down to understand this narrative and resist it.

 

The only discussion I got to sit in on, because I’m perpetually late, was titled “My Other Other Account” led by Pastiche Lumumba. The topic was exactly what it sounds like. That moment when you have to create two, three, four accounts to direct your self, identity, and work to the right channels without getting the wires crossed. If you are a poc in Amerikkka, you might wonder, is something I’m posting considered too radical? But I am trying to be unapologetic, but at the same time what if this is too much for their privileged asses? The constant negotiation of how to curate yourself to both maintain a “marketable” status and your own voice and vision is maddening. Pastiche delved into this by at first describing the six or more different social media profiles he maintains and curates.

 

Pastiche is a brilliant meme artist or “memestress” and takes on the political through creativity and humor in memes. Often taking on controversies of the art world or mainstream internet culture, Pastiche breaks complex conversations down through these memes. For example, he took on the complex issue of who can and cannot depict black trauma, sparked by white artist Dana Schutz depiction of Emmet Till titled “Open Casket”. His meme brilliantly featured a shot from the popular satire Get Out and labeled the scene as a situation of the art controversy, with various characters representing various interests and people in the situation. A common meme technique, this immediately makes the premise of the situation, that of white supremacy and hegemony, accessible, but also uses pre-established internet culture to bounce the discussion off of.

In describing his work, Pastiche also brought on the discussion of finding work which would feed him and pay the rent while also maintaining the strong voice he has achieved which makes his work so good in the first place. A lot of the time as an artist newly forming your identity you have to decide if you are going to be unapologetically radical and if that is going to be enough (to eat) or if you will have to censor and fragment yourself in order to be successful (to eat). Given that fragmenting yourself means more labor, how much is it worth it? When are you simply contributing to the narrative which you seek to oppose?

Pastiche Lumumba has also led an online class specifically for black people on “mediating information from news media through art culture and memes”. This is interesting because not only do you have to learn to filter what is going out from you into the online world, you also have to filter what you take in. Hence, a reality schism, in which you perceive everything from a double lens. Although this double lens is your truth, you can spin yourself around too many times trying to keep up because more often than not the oppressive forces which create the hegemonic notion that your identity is not part of the mainstream end up being the ones which dictate your life. Whereas your art and consciousness, your intellectual understanding is more complex and advanced. Hence the fragmented online personas, which are nonetheless exhausting to maintain and obviously a heavier burden for those with less privilege and a more radical message.

So then the question becomes, why wouldn’t you want to fragment yourself as an artist? Who do you make work for? Where is your most authentic voice? This led me to come across the conundrum of being both an artist and a marginalized individual. As an artist fragmentation occurs often. Many artists deal with the conundrum of being heard through more than one language so to speak. Fragmentation happens when your creative voice becomes delineated to a single track/medium/outlet/genre, and you start to be confined by the parts of your work that are more acceptable. These lines of acceptability further intersect with and are built upon lines of privilege and hegemony with the white dominant culture determining what is acceptable and cool, and you must further split yourself as a person of color. Thus the space to be an artist becomes even more confined. So the question is then, when can you say “Fuck it, if you want me you have to take me as I am”? The answer is when you’re that fucking good. Unfortunately “good” is also an arbitrary marker dictated by power and hegemony. But there is still a space in which you are an amazing artist who dictates your art. The question for me as a writer then is, do you get there by just doing you, or do you continuously do good work that’s less you until you can do you?

I think that as a writer my work is very much about my social and political experience (is there anything else to write about?). Stories are always political, because they always have a message. There is always a “why” to writing which even when it is answered in the psychological or social realm eventually ends up in the political realm (because the political is personal). So to me this dichotomy seems an impossible one to breach. If I write poetry, I am drawing from my experience, I can write about love but I can also write about pain, this pain is tied to a political reality. If I am writing a story I believe I have a message to deliver and I don’t want to waste my time contributing to the narratives which have made my voice marginalized in the first place, thus my work becomes more or less political.

We finished off this night with a “light art” workshop with Black Noize Media, a startup media group that is trying to become a creator, diffuser, and distributor of black art and media. In this DIY workshop we learned how to make signs that light up with lights and some cardboard, and how to project an image with a power light onto a wall. I think using light as a creative protesting tool to make a political statement is a great idea. If you project an image with light onto a wall everyone has to see it and it is simultaneously so transient no can take it down and you aren’t breaking any laws. You take up space in a way that escapes power grips and censorship. You become as light as air and untouchable. It’s clever and powerful. 

Beatriz Serves the Tea at Dinner

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Beatriz says “the world doesn’t need you Doug, killing is easy, try healing for once,” and we are all left fantasizing about what we would say to a multimillionaire white man if we confronted him. This scene encompasses a great deal of tension and conflict throughout the film Beatriz At Dinner, this is the part that feels right, that confirms that no matter how much power you have accumulated through money you are still weak and have no power against your own humanity and mortality.

Salma Hayek can make an entire movie worth watching through her facial expressions alone. In Beatriz at Dinner, the story is told mostly through Beatriz, someone with a strong capacity for empathy and healing, and her face. You cannot believe a character who is unaware of themselves, and Salma Hayek brings a believable and profound awareness of self alive in Beatriz. With several long up-close shots of her face and only the sounds of conversation, the scenes she is witnessing before her are ones we have to imagine on the other side of the camera. In particular the close-up is a powerful filming device because Beatriz is all but invisible, sociologically and historically, in the space she is in throughout most of the movie.

Beatriz ends up at an intimate business dinner at an upper upper (upper?) class white client’s house after her Volkswagen gives out on her. She finds herself in a space she is used to but a position she has not occupied before. That is as the dinner guest of her wealthy client. This client, the wife of a wealthy money mongrel, asked her to come up to her secluded mansion home in the hills outside of western Los Angeles for a therapeutic massage before her husband’s business dinner. The woman, Kathy, quickly invites Beatriz to dinner when she finds out she is stranded until the mechanic gets there. Of course Kathy insists that Beatriz is part of the family, and despite her husband’s slight protest, Beatriz is invited to dinner.

The idea that a woman of color would take up space at a dinner table that is meant to be commanded by white men is a profound one played out subtly and powerfully by Salma Hayek throughout the movie. She speaks to them as if she has known them since they were children, conveying that she has abundant compassion and understanding to deal with them all. Further she demands they have compassion and understanding for her. Of course this is a tall order amongst the privileged. Beatriz is unapologetic. She shares space with these people and takes up space, as well as commands attention. That she insists on continuously speaking while they are interrupting her and attempting to exclude her is appalling to them. So, the cognitive dissonance which these upper class white people experience when a woman of color commands attention is hilarious and disturbing.

It becomes evident that Kathy’s wealthy business guests do not often interact with someone like Beatriz. “Someone like Beatriz” referring both to her unique personality and to her marginalized identity. Beatriz, a working woman of color and Kathy’s wealthy white business guests. This is plays out when she gives mandatory hugs and sincerely asks personal questions. The guests are uncertain around her, although they do their best not to display it. It is namely Doug Stewart, capitalist mogul and exploiter with whom her encounter reaches a crucial point of tension. Beatriz is unphased. People are just people after all. There is no material wealth that makes this white man better than her.

They both experience the same world, yet their realities are very different. Throughout the evening these realities clash. While Doug sees an opportunity to make money building a resort in a village in Mexico, Beatriz experiences the displacement and ravagement of her community and people. Doug directly kills elephants, Beatriz protects them. Doug doesn’t mind clearing away a known bird sanctuary to build a mall, Beatriz takes in goats to feed them. Doug has contributed to the displacement and mass murders of Mexican people and Beatriz spends her time (spoiler alert) trying to heal from the displacement that tore her family apart- and help others’ heal. Eventually, it becomes evident that these realities are impossible to reconcile. Yet, this dissension is not something Doug has ever had to address seriously. Neither does his wife have to imagine that her vacations cost a family their lives. That is the nature of privilege. This is the moment Beatriz presence becomes so powerful.

The question begins to surface, once the complex history connecting them is revealed, of whether or not Doug is the source of Beatriz’ and countless others’ suffering. And the answer is yes, of course. Yet the way this is played out is through the proxy of animals. Doug is an avid hunter, he likes to go out to the plains of “Africa” and hunt wild beasts whom he claims would otherwise be extinct if they weren’t hunted (how funny). Beatriz, who is recently mourning the murder of her goat, who she raised and provided with shelter and love, finds this appalling. Their attitude towards the creatures we live on this planet with, compassion for animals versus pure ego-gratifying exploitation of animals, becomes the point of their dissonance. It would almost cliche if it weren’t perhaps ironically touching upon the hypocrisy of privileged people to see animal lives as more important than human ones.

This point of contention between them is interesting because on the one hand it represents the perfect juxtaposition of their characters. On the other hand it provides a soft controversy-free area to display this conflict. Because it’s animals and not people, and everyone’s supposed to love animals. If you don’t, you’re obviously evil. So the questions regarding human rights to life which might be ironically considered too “political” are avoided. While this might also be interpreted as satire on the ongoing joke that people in first world countries often seem to care more about animals’ lives than humans’ lives, it could also be a clever way of skirting a potentially highly politicized message addressing the real phenomenon that is the destruction of Central and South America, as well as working class United States, that capitalist trade agreements such as NATO have caused, and which characters like Doug benefit greatly from.

 

South African Artists’ Paintings Open Portal to Ancestors

Once I pulled on a joint with the leather vintage shoe seller in the back of his car, trunk open and merchandise lined up on the street in front of us, I sat back and calmly contemplated the comings and goings of the Sunday Maboneng Market in Johannesburg. I tugged his ear with some discussion questions, and then I made my way inside the market. I was looking for the little loft gallery that had caught my eye on last Sunday’s visit.

I floated through the crowded food vendors to the back, past the bathroom, and up the stairs, most people missed the fact that the stairs were an entrance. I climbed them and was not ready for the white figure-head protruding out of the black canvas that met me at the top. The figure head, with hollow eyes, red and white beads dripping out of the open mouth, a nail sticking out of the crown, bruising the otherwise dead grey forehead with blotches of pink, became a flat surface as I realized I was looking at a painting and not a sculpture. This is how Cassius Khumalo’s pieces come to life.
pasted image 0When Khumalo first told me about his art-making process I thought I was hearing a spiel tailored for tourists. Khumalo described an underwater convening with his ancestors where he goes into a swimming pool, yes in the literal sense, and hears their voices telling him what to create. This last part I had to fill in with my own imagination as he told me he could not divulge what he sees in the depths of the water, only saying, “when I do an artwork it is no longer Cassius anymore the spirit of God takes place in me that keeps on revealing the secrets of knowledge power and strength to inspire a living mankind as god gave me the hand of god.”

Khumalo calls upon the spirits of his ancestors to communicate with him in this realm through his art, or as he told me “most of my work comes from my dreams and the past I went through where I had a problem with connecting with my ancestors. It is revealing dark secrets I want to share with the world cause I believe we all have secrets which can inspire us to make ourselves more than what we are.”

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When I observed the paintings I got the sense that a message was being conveyed to me from another time and space to be deciphered now. The interaction between white and red colored beads, alive, and used today, and the worn down, derelict masks that look like they have been dug up from the ground, bring a chilling awareness that we are continuation of the past and not as new as we like to think. Much of Cassius’ work surrounds healing this rupture which the “modern” era has created between us and our ancestors, this breach in communication that robs us of our power. In this sense, Cassius achieves his purpose in creating a link between his ancestors and their descendants. “[They] learn about [how] the past creates the future, it is important to know where we came from and where we are going to, so that we can leave more information for other generations to come.”

Cassius describes the beads as “represent[ing] the healing power of my culture which is a positive thing which reveals what you don’t know but have to know,” and is the “wise advice and enduring love of the mysteries and spiritual truths that lie at the heart of this life of ours. I retain the hope; and the expectation that our dialogue is not over and that death is not the end of all things but simply a transition to another life of consciousness.”

Cassius is from the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg and has been working on his pieces for the past 7 years. He is continuously creating and exploring his craft. His show LOST had been on exhibition in The 13th Floor Gallery on Commissioner Street in Joburg since this April, “with the Gallery of the 13th Floor, my second solo show titled ”LOST” [is] only huge works . I call it LOST because the works will explain more about not knowing where you come from. It is going to be huge because it explains my lost of self.” Cassius opened new show titled “102” on July 9th in the same gallery, which features the following triptych titled “The Awakening of the Kundalini”:

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