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ENCOUNTERS
WITH THE
CONTEMPORARY:


AFRICA THROUGH
ART

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INTRODUCTION

Our African politics class has analysed power and institutions through art in the Wright Museum of Art's Collection. Art can be used as a weapon of the powerful. Art can be used as a weapon of the weak. We have carefully read the art to identify various signposts of politics, power and identity.  We have sought to use the art to help us make political meaning, and further our understanding of how art can offer both political critique and political inspiration. For example, Zimbabwean artist Kudznai Chiurai’s work explores the failures of the post-colonial African state: the violence, the false promises of democracy, capitalism and development.  Does the power of his work lie in its ability to shock? Or is it in his ability to use humor and irony to shed light onto unspoken political and social realities?

 

In addition to Kudznai Chiurai, this exhibition includes work by two Nigerian photographers, and a broad range of prints from South African artists, art from Senegalese artists Sandiry Niang and Ibrahima Niang and photographs from Senegal by US based photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn. Students have grouped the various pieces around three connecting themes: Borders & Displacement, Urbanscapes / Private worlds in Public Spaces, and Bodies of the Nation(?)-State.

 

For their label writing assignment I asked the students to think of the art as a visual bridge between the personal and the political; the public and the private. I asked them to uncover the ways in which the art speaks to the imprint of the African state on the physical landscape, lived spaces – urban and rural – our work and our home, our social and cultural identities. And, to consider how the art becomes a site for examining the interplay between the political past, present and future. 

In addition to gaining an in-depth knowledge of the object and the artist, students were  encouraged to develop their skills of imagining and articulating alternative ways of seeing and interacting with the art. In each label, students discuss the broader connections of their piece as it relates to themes from our course: democratic transitions, post-colonial statebuilding, power and human rights, citizenship and political representation, nationhood and identity, development and globalization (particularly the links between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’). 

Rachel Ellett, Professor of Political Science and African Studies

BORDERS & DISPLACEMENT

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Qui suis-je-dans la vie (Who am I in life), 2017

Sandiry Niang

Dakar, Senegal

Oil on canvas

WMA 2017.12.1

In this painting, we see a Senegalese migrant who has endured the journey across the Sahel and into Europe, where he joined the large Senegalese diaspora. The painting speaks to the challenges migrants endure after moving away from their native country. The figure’s undefined facial features represent the migrant’s struggles with identity through the eyes of xenophobic Europeans. When African migrants move to Europe, they are faced with stereotypes that cast them all as a single block of undesirable intruders, leaving them with the challenges of trying to uphold individuality. 

The tan-colored sections that cover parts of the migrant’s face speak to his struggles with identity; the blotches represent this migrant’s struggles with loss of face and identity while living so far from home in an unwelcoming environment. The black background furthers this idea. It represents solitude and feelings of isolation that migrants endure when separated from their families and the ostracization they suffer in white European society. The three faces in the background evoke memories the migrant holds of his family back home. Migrants cling to the memories of their families during the emotional struggles that come with being subjected to racism in a foreign land. The mixture of racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia coupled with the emotional hardship of being separated from family and homeland produce a cocktail of characteristics that define a Senagelese migrant’s hardships abroad.

 

Farah Tolu-Honary'24, Political Science

“La Procession” (Oil on canvas, WMA 2017.12.2) is a tribute to both African migration to Europe and intra-Senegal migration. The migrants are represented by the black figures who are trekking through the Sahel. The undefined path that lies before the migrants represents the uncertainty of the journey ahead. The migrants are guided through their procession by the ghosts and memories of those who died during the same journey, representing Niang’s signature artistic element: three faded faces in the top left of the canvas. 

The large undefined figure on the right suggests the watchful eyes of the European governments, as they implement policies to deter migrants from reaching European shores. In 2015, the EU set up a fund to pay for border security in countries that are migration corridors, which has sometimes meant aiding oppressive state security forces that brutally attack civilians.[1] The watchful eyes of the European states see the African migrants as a homogeneous category of national security threats, which is symbolized by the identicality of the migrants’ physical features.

The figure in the bottom left is a peanut plant, which is a tribute to Senegal’s large peanut industry. The agricultural sector of the economy is suffering from desertification, which is represented by the desert colors of the background. Desertification has forced farmers to migrate from their rural farms, which are no longer sustainable, and into urban centers.[2] Rural-urban migration further contributes to cramped living conditions in cities. As an artist from a crowded Dakar suburb, Niang has focused his work on cramped housing in Dakar. Thus, this piece can be interpreted as the journey that helps create the crowded Dakar suburb that Niang knows so well.

 

Farah Tolu-Honary'24, Political Science

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Cross by bridge only, 2003

Nyaniso Lindi

Rhodes, South Africa

Woodcut

WMA 2015.19.13

Nyaniso Lindi is a resident of Grahamstown, South Africa, and has pursued a Bachelors of Fine Arts at Rhodes University. He is a versatile printmaker who embraces subtractive color relief, collages, and forays into multimedia. His works touch upon the autobiographical form of art which he channels through metaphorical imagery and dazzling color contrasts. He is also a recipient of the Gerard Sekoto Prize and received the opportunity to present his art in France for three months. 

 

The landscape painting has been made by the woodcut technique. The choice of colour for the landscape are the hues of green. On one hand this symbolises greed, ambition, and wealth and on the other it suggests balance, nature, spring, and rebirth. The title of the landscape is called Cross by the Bridge which mimics the orders and barriers set by the colonial era. 

 

In the portrait we notice individuals crossing the track to get from one location to the other, thus defying the norms set by the colonial infrastructure. Instead of choosing the bridge, the individuals, as well as the car, chose to take an alternative route. This also resonates with the theme of borders and how they were conceptualized to restrict the movement of the people in Africa. We also notice a car waiting at the intersection signal. The striking aspect is the fact that neither the civilian nor the vehicle are using the bridge to get to the other side. Individuals choose their convenient methods of movement. The portrait depicts the conflict between man-made infrastructure and nature. The contrast is portrayed by the individuals crossing the rails and the car waiting at the junction. There is also a touch on the uncertainty that the individuals choose to ignore, the approaching train. 

 

Antariksh Sharma'23, Computer Science & Political Science

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Untitled (Real Life) , 2017

Niang, Ibrahima

Dakar, Senegal

Oil on canvas

WMA 2017.12.5

 

Untitled (Chavez), 2017

Niang, Ibrahima

Dakar, Senegal

Oil on canvas

WMA 2017.12.4

The floods of Dakar, Senegal  are a well known yearly occurrence. These floods leave thousands of people homeless in Senegal every year. Ibrahim’s Niang expresses the chaos and devastation left behind in his pieces. These pieces are from his 2017 collection. In these paintings and charcoal collages there is a focus on industrialization, seen by the industrial buildings in the center of the pieces. Less than a year after the 2017 disastrous  floods, Senegal opened a new industrial center.  This center was praised by countries and organizations around the world. However there are unseen victims in Senegal’s new industry park, located only 24 miles from Dakar. The Senegal government claims this as a great step in developing Senegal, however, many citizens of Dakar dispute this. Instead of spreading money on rebuilding homes and developing infrastructure to prevent flooding, the government is focused on developing the economy. Many residents will have a place to work but not a place to live. The arms and hands seen surrounding the industrial buildings are representative of the displacement of the people living in Dakar.  These pieces bear witness to the loss and devastation on the citizens of Dakar that the Senegal government refuses to see.

Sydney Felhofer'24,  Anthropology & Political Science 

The Land is Mine, from The Cross-Cultural Identities Portfolio, 2003

Roxandra Dardagan-Britz

South African, b. Zimbabwe

Intaglio

WMA 2015.19.9

 

The chaotic black and white background contains many white slashes, brightening the overall piece. These slashes are at once straight and geometric, as well as fractal and organic. On top of the black and white background texture lie 14 squares- their geometry obviously at odds with that of the background. Of the squares, 7 are obscured by the edges of the piece itself, and 7 can be seen wholly. The squares seemingly have no pattern to their placement. However, within all 14 the white portions of the background have been made technicolor and so every square contains a rainbow. The black of the background still maintains the background texture of the piece, unifying it even within the squares. 

Seemingly abstract at first glance, the title of The Land is Mine reveals the political intention without necessarily clarifying its political message. The rainbow squares on the black and white background could be a representation of South African history of forced relocation, in which varied indegous peoples were forced onto insufficient settlements while white colonists gobbled up the rest of the land for their own ends. 

The Land is Mine could also be read as sarcastic. Considering how political power in Africa has long flowed concentrically from cities, The Land is Mine could be poking at the absurdity of the political/moneyed elite owning vast swaths of land they never even step foot on. This could refer to both older colonial powers, as well as contemporary neocolonial and gatekeeper forces.

Dardagaan-Britz is an avid environmentalist, with a healthy and even spiritual respect for nature. The Land is Mine could be interpreted as still sarcastic, but rather than the absurdity of few distant elites owning the land of the local people, it can be seen as the absurdity of land ownership in general. The title seems to say “no one owns the land, the land is it’s own.”

Trevor Knepp'23, Political Science

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Hier op aard is't leed voor't hart (Here on earth the heart has sorrow), 2003

Christine Dixie 

South Africa

Intaglio

WMA 2015.19.11

 

In this print, Christine Dixie appeals to religions for peace and love in Africa. The title “Hier op aard is't leed voor't hart” means “Here on earth the heart has sorrow”, which is from the bible, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

 

The right side of the landscape is farmland and we can clearly see the fence of the farm, the only human-made element of the landscape. This fence could be interpreted as the border. The fence divides the natural grassland and the mountain, just like borders in Africa divide the continent. Under the landscape, there are five intaglios forming a cross. A woman is in the middle of intaglios showing the key role of women. The right side is a handshake representing friendship. The bottom is a dove representing peace. These five intaglios form a cross, perhaps representing the Christianity and religious meaning of the print.  Three embossings are below the cross. Each of them contains some letters in an ancient style. These embossings show African history as the origin of human history. There is a face of the woman in the right embossing. Her body is very vague, but from her face, we can know she is praising. The overall composition of this print reflects how deeply religion has affected this land, demonstrating how many “trials and sorrows” South Africa has suffered from its colonial and post-colonial history. The author, therefore, calls for peace and friendship of African brothers and sisters. 

 

Zhao Kang'22, Political Science & Media Studies

Child Labor, 2012 

Olugbenga James Akhuemonkhan

Benin City, Nigeria

Photograph

WMA 2015

 

On the Outskirts of Benin City two young men and two children struggle to push a car through a river of mud. One child falls in the mud as they struggle to push the car along the track. The children are not there by accident, they have positioned themselves on this poor road to help provide for themselves and their families due to the object poverty they face. 

Since independence in 1960, it is estimated that up to 400 million dollars in oil revenues have been stolen by Nigerian government officials either directly or through misspending on themselves.  This sum represents nearly the same total of western aid received by African states in the same time period. This money could have been used to fund any number of projects to change the reality shown above: better roads to keep that car out of the mud, improved schools to help the population be better educated and find better work, drainage systems to prevent the flooding, or economic assistance for the families of the children so they aren't forced to assist their families by working. Instead, these revenues have been taken by government officials and wealthy elites for their own benefits, a legacy of greed left by colonial powers that only cared for the profits they received and not the people they were hurting.

 

Owen Clexton'22, International Relations

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URBANSCAPES - PRIVATE WORLDS IN PUBLIC SPACES

Western hegemonic values have long-dominated artistic representations of Africa and placed them in harmful binaries. Through the following three photos Laylah destroys these binaries and makes the personal political by challenging us to see Black and African life in a different light. We see where life happens--on the streets in Senegal--a stark contrast to American life and culture. It’s not surprising that Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, a native New Yorker, knows how to capture streetlife in a stunning way. She defies the standard story and generalizations of African and Black life, by showing us where tradition and modernity meet on the daily in Senegal.

Mezekerta Tesfay ‘23, Sociology & Political Science

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Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Guet Ndar: My Peace, (Vert), 2016

Saint-Louis, Senegal

Photograph

Museum Purchase, 2020

 

Neon colors bouncing off the outstretched arms of a child laying down to rest and people conversing in the streets portray the nightlife of Senegalese people in the port city of Saint-Louis. Some are walking home and ready to rest. While others are setting out to begin their night of festivities. In this photo, Barrayn aims to capture Jamm Rek, an indigenous Wolof phrase used often as a greeting in Senegal that means “peace only.” As we examine the photograph, we are left wondering what peace means to each individual after a long day. If anything, the normalcy of a night in Saint-Louis, Senegal brings a sense of peace to the viewer; we are all more alike than we think.

Mezekerta Tesfay 

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Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Sowrou and Mustapha, 2014

Dnindy, Senegal 

Photograph

Museum Purchase, 2020

 

Sowrou and Mustapha, two residents of Dnindy, Senegal, embody joy and comradery through a shared laugh in this photo. Their liveliness and charisma radiate through the photograph, almost making one feel like they are there too. While we ponder what Sowrou is listening to and who Mustapha might call on the phone later, we are left wishing we could meet the two of them. Where is Mustapha’s jewelry from, how long has Sowrou been growing his locs? Barrayn shows us the magneticness and magic of Black men enjoying life and each other’s company. Something we all need to see more often. 

 

Mezekerta Tesfay

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Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Young Beauties, (It’s Not Fair), 2016

Saint-Louis, Senegal

Photograph

Museum Purchase, 2020

 

Like day and night, Young Beauties shows us street life in the light, a contrast to Guet Ndar. Here we see Saint-Louis, Senegal during the daytime and a diverse mixing of people and cultures. There is a woman in a hijab and BouBou, a traditional Senegalese dress that can be worn by all sexes (the man across from her in a yellow outfit is also wearing Bou Bou). And, it is of course hard to miss the group of kids surrounding her in brightly colored traditional dresses at the center of the photograph. Though small and in the distance, a woman in blue jeans with a black t-shirt and a man in khakis and a button-up show us that there is no one way to dress and exist in Saint-Louis, Senegal.

Mezekerta Tesfay

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Untitled , 2003

Ntombeko Ntombela

Durban, South Africa

Woodcut

WMA 2015.19.12

The work contains two parts, both of them relief prints. One is a picture of a middle aged woman working a stall at a market. The second, depicts a girl reading from a large book, with a small village and coconut tree in the background. Both prints only have two colors: strong black and pure white. The detailing is rough; and the image is reminiscent of woven art. These pieces were “exchanged” with a lithography by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, who is of the Salish and Kootenai nations. The work was Created at the Durban University of Technology, which was Nonto’s alma mater; she majored in printmaking. 

 

This print was placed in the “personal is political'' section. This slogan expresses a core feminist belief: that the overarching political world directly influences the personal expereinces of women, usually in a negative way. The term was popularized by Carol Hanisch in the 1970s and has since been widely adopted. Nonto and her influencers reference this slogan directly or indirectly many times in their interviews; they further argue that the black women of South Africa are personally subjected to elevated pressures that combine oppression based on race with oppression based on sex. Nonto further argues that black women Africans are placed into a box of stereotypes; I believe this work tries to escape that “box” by depicting the real life of a typical African working woman. 

 

Max Simeck‘21, International Relations

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Untitled (addiction), 2015

Ibrahima Amadou Niang 

Senegal

Oil on canvas

WMA 2017.12.3

 

The colors in this painting are far less gray and dull than in Ibrahima Niang’s other paintings, but are still dark and foreboding. Although this work is untitled, the word addiction appears on the left side of the painting flipped vertically. The word addiction meshes with the fact that many people see things such as a glass of alcohol, needles, and a dead body in the painting. The urban setting in this painting highlighted by the smokestacks and factories in the background show the common theme of industry and oppression that is so common among Niang’s paintings. 

Senegal, and West Africa in general, have struggled with drug abuse largely due to West Africa becoming a key part of the international drug trade.[3] Domestically produced West African cannabis is exported to Europe, Asia, and the rest of Africa, while West Africa has also become a key part of moving Latin American cocaine to Europe and Asia and Afghanistan heroin to Europe and the United States.[4] In Senegal, it is clear that alcohol consumption and drug use are becoming a greater and greater issue; this is in large part due to the lack of education on the consequences of drug use and West Africa's connection to the international drug trade.[5,6] Post-colonial and post- Cold War policies for Africa that embrace free market principles and open markets to foreign trade have not always been beneficial. African businesses are often outcompeted by foreign corporations, and with legal business also comes illegal business and the drug trade.

Sam Peters'23, Political Science & Ancient Mediterranean Studies

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Untitled (BLABLABLA), 2015

Ibrahima Amadou Niang 

Senegal

Oil on canvas

WMA 2017.12.6

 

This painting, informally titled BLABLABLA because of the phrases scrawling along the top of the painting, has a very drab and depressing and very urban color scheme much like Ibrahima Niang’s other paintings on display. Also like these other two paintings, it comments on issues in Senegal's society. There is what can be interpreted as religious imagery in the painting, both Christan crosses and what looks to be a dome or spire form a mosque or present. But the painting is also commonly seen to be a gray room reminiscent of a coroner's office with a body on the table. Either way, this painting is a commentary on the failure of these institutions, both governmental and religious, to provide anything for the people of Senegal beyond words, hence the BLABLABLA. 

 

Despite Senegal having a largely stable democratic system with multiple peaceful transfers of power, and its adoption of Islam allowing it to largely avoid violence with radical Islam that other parts of Africa have had to deal with, it has not been spared from violance and govenrnental failure. Sepretist unrest in the south of the country and the failure of the government to improve quality of life for Senegalese have both played into the population's dissatisfaction.[7]

    

Sam Peters'23, Political Science & Ancient Mediterranean Studies

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Untitled, 2015

Ibrahima Amadou Niang 

Senegal

Oil on canvas

WMA 2017.12.7

 

The general theme of oppression in this untitled work by Ibrahima Niang is stronger than his other works. The blocky grey structures that resemble buildings and smokestacks to some, give the feeling of oppressive urban industry and hopelessness, and this is a common theme among Niang’s other two paintings on display here (both untitled). The presence of such grey and blocky industry is interesting considering that Senegal is still a largely agrarian state.[8] This work, much like Niang’s others, seems devoid of traditional African life and simultaneously also feels entirely urban. There isn't representation of rural Senegal in his art, and this speaks to the rural-urban divide present in Senegal and many other African states. The urban population of Senegal was favored by the French as this largely more coastal and concentrated population was easier to control and assimilate, This is especially important in Senegal as its capital Dakar was also the capital of all of French West Africa. The grey blankness of this piece speaks to the assimilation of urban centers; there is no traditional Africanness here in this city. While Dakar and urban centers were important for the French, their profit from the colony came in the form of the locally grown agriculture and mining, and these things still make up the basis of Senegal's economy today. Senegal like so many other African states is still reliant on fulfilling their colonial role to survive.[9] 

 Sam Peters'23, Political Science & Ancient Mediterranean Studies

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Two untitled paintings

Jeff Lungu

Zambia

Oil on canvas

WMA 2015.22.1, 2015.22.2

Lungu's work is unique as it seems to be introducing a new and local form of a technique called 'divisionism', characteristic of neo-impressionist painting defined by the separation of colours into individual dots or patches which interact optically. He uses juxtaposed touches of paint, unconnected by halftone colours, the mixing of the colours takes place in the viewer's eye, using colour in its purity and brilliance. In these particular paintings, he captures the radiant energy at a local marketplace and bus stop. We can observe people involved in daily life activities. People are shopping and the marketplace seems to be bustling with energy. They seem to indicate the struggles of everyday urban life and capture the rush that individuals face in the city. 

Contrarily, When asked about these paintings Jeff replied “This is about life in the city. At the bus stop and market recording peace and nobody is in a hurry because there is no worry.” I believe the paintings together represent the everyday street life in Lusaka and its rapid transition to a global economic powerhouse. The Zambian economy was ranked the 8th most competitive country in Africa on the Global Competitiveness Index. It would also not be an unreasonable conclusion that what Jeff is referring to as peace and calm is in fact to say that there is political and economic stability in the country, with successful democratic elections being held every five years and economic growth.

 

Abhey Singh Guram'24, International Relations & Business Economics

Izindiza Mshini (Flying Mechanisms), 2003
Gabisile Nkosi

South Africa

Woodcut
WMA 2015.19.10

A person in the center is in a limbo position is trying to reach out to a bird that is flying at the top, part of a flock that is flying around in the picture. The woman is hovering above a community of homes that form a small village. Although the houses have windows and doors, those are opaque. The person is wearing seemingly tattered clothes, looking as if someone had tried to rip them. The painting is mostly black and white except for the one bird that the woman is trying to reach, which is golden/brown.

In this painting, Gabisile Nkosi draws the beholder’s attention to the societal inequalities that persist to this day in contemporary South Africa. South Africa, often referred to as the most unequal country in the world, experiences racial inequalities within its tremendous social inequality. Black and other non-white South Africans are disadvantaged in terms of social mobility, health, income, and personal wealth.[10]

Nkosi’s painting seems to illustrate the fight of a young, black woman in South Africa against those injustices and inequalities. As she reaches for the birds, which could illustrate the freedom people are yearning for, she tries to escape the racist institutions that trap her in the old system. Power and power dynamics are an essential theme in this piece of art; women in South Africa live a perilous life as the country at the southern tip of Africa faces high levels of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.[11] The painting can therefore also be interpreted as the attempt of a woman to escape the structures of a patriarchal society. The houses at the bottom might symbolize the private realm, the concealed space where domestic violence occurs. Since one cannot see the inside of the houses, due to their opaque windows and door-openings, instances of domestic violence remain hidden to the public.       

Philipp Striegl'22, International Relations

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BODIES OF THE NATION(?)-STATE

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When I Awake, from Cross-Cultural Identities portfolio, 2003

Thando Mama

South African

Woodcut

WMA 2015.19.15

 

When I Awake is a woodcut print, featuring a person running uphill. The person has spikes protruding out of their spine and seemingly no hands. One arm is directly connected to what appears to be the sun, and their other arm seems to have a small flame in place of a hand. They seem to be wearing almost no clothing other than a small undergarment on their lower body, and possibly a blindfold or some kind of bandage over their eyes. The only identifier of gender is their hairstyle, which is very reminiscent of the conical hairstyles of married Zulu women (sometimes colloquially referred to as a “Zulu Top Knot”). Other than their hairstyle, the person seems fairly androgenous. The print is almost entirely black and white, except for the red iris featured prominently on the sun. The sun’s beams also look quite similar to flower petals. The person’s path ahead has a clear, white background, but the background behind them the sun is filled with gusts of wind, giving the figure a sense of forward momentum. The terrain beneath the person’s feet is rough and jagged, with a steep upward slope leading off-frame in front them. 


The prominently featured sun could be representative of many things. Given that the piece is named When I Awake, it can easily be seen as a rising sun that the person is dragging through the sky. The rising sun is featured prominently on the South African coat of arms, and is seen as symbolising rebirth, knowledge, and    

willpower. However, the long and narrow depiction of the sun’s rays makes it very reminiscent of the King Protea flower, South Africa’s national flower. The fact that the person is directly bound to this symbol of South Africa, if not fully a part of it, while pulling it uphill could represent the people of South Africa leading the nation forward. The person can be seen as representing any and all Black South Africans, due to their seemingly androgenous appearance and culturally significant hairstyle. The hairstyle suggests that the figure is a woman, which could mean that specifically Black South African women are bringing (or will bring) about progress and change. The androgenous nature of the person’s body could show a de-sexualization of women since they do not possess traditionally hypersexualized depictions of breasts. Instead, this person is represented as a strong and driven individual, with no obvious depiction of sexual appeal. Additionally, they appear to be blindfolded and gagged, which could be representative of the oppression that Black South African women have faced, both during and after apartheid.     

Kyle Thompson-Taylor'22,  Political Science

Ideals and Rituals, 2003 

Jan Jordaan

Gauteng, South Africa

Woodcut

WMA 2015.19.14

This piece by Jordaan contains many design patterns in its background that evoke the feeling of a  more traditional, tribal African aesthetic, speaking to the non-colonial side of African culture. Front and center in the piece is a skull of South Africa’s national animal, the springbok. All of  this is set against a contrast of black and white, the only two colors featured in the work. The centerpiece of Jordaan’s work, the springbok skull, carries a great deal of political and cultural  significance in South African history. The springbok was chosen as the national animal under the  white minority rule during the 20th century and was actually nearly replaced until Nelson  Mandela intervened to stop the change.[12] Notably, the springbok is the mascot of the national  rugby team for South Africa, and when black players were first allowed to participate in the sport  for the national team, they were only permitted to display the springbok’s head on their crest  rather than the whole animal like their white teammates.[13] The symbol of the springbok has  naturally divided opinion in South Africa, and its divisive nature is touched upon by Jordaan  here. The artist is taking the symbol and stripping it of its identity as a symbol of the white rule,  and rather infusing it with symbols of traditional African design. This also could be a reason why  the piece only contains two contrasting colors (black and white), which represents South Africa’s highly divided racial past and its former Apartheid regime. By combining the two colors and the  symbol of the springbok with tribal designs, Jordaan is pointing out the high degrees of division in the nation’s past, but may also be hinting at a bright future wherein the national symbol of the  springbok can be embraced by native Africans as their own rather than being viewed as a symbol  of oppression. 

Emrys Draper'24, History

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Minister of Education & Minister of Finance, 2010

Shopping for Democracy & I Shot the Leader, 2010

Kudzanai Chiurai

Zimbabwe

WMA 2015

Kudzanai Chiurai is an activist and artist who uses his artistic ability to speak out against injustice in his native Zimbabwe. Born in 1981, the year after Zimbabwe gained independence, Chiurai grew up in an unfair and often Draconian world and after attending his schooling in South Africa returned to Zimbabwe and began using his art to speak out against Robert Mugabe but was forced into a self imposed exile following threats to his life from the regime in 2004. He has since continued his activism and continually uses his art to speak out. In his pieces “Minister of Education” and “Minister of Finance” Chiurai takes aim at the institutions of Zimbabwe as well as the legacy of colonialism. 

The “Minister of Education” is a hopeful take on the future of education in Zimbabwe, his pose is certainly confident and almost defiant and seems to say “Education will persevere you can’t stop us”. The gun in his waistband can be seen as a stand against politicians who seem to not understand that forcing education practices that don't work isn't the same as real reform, in other words, pushing education through the barrel of a gun. His dress, while impeccable, is also very western and perhaps speaks to the amount of whitewashed history that is still taught in many African countries due to the legacy colonialism. 

 

The “Minister of Finance” is a direct jab at the governmental agencies of Zimbabwe. This piece shows the minister extravagantly dressed, not exactly the garb one would expect or want from a finance minister. This speaks directly to the corruption and money grabbing often seen in government institutions, enriching oneself rather than serving the people. The mirror and ring he wears, while further illustrating his wealth, also points to a focus on his image and how he presents himself rather than focusing on his role and position. His posture and pose is demanding, almost threatening and serves as a comment on the heavy handed approach to governing that sometimes occurs in Zimbabwe especially under previous leaders. 

 

These pieces together show the Chiurai’s desire for stability and accountability in his native Zimbabwe. Highlighting the need for institutional accountability and more efficient and reliable government agencies. 

 

Solvi Gunderson'23, Political Science

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Slaveland Speeches, from Cross-Cultural Identities portfolio , 2003 

Dominic Thorburn

South Africa

Intaglio

WMA 2015.19.8 

‘Slaveland Speeches’ is an excellent example of contemporary South African printmaking, blending traditional intaglio print techniques and images with color and design choices reminiscent of the protest art period that preceded the collapse of the South African Apartheid state in the early 1990s. It reflects a nation still dealing with the consequences of its colonial past, particularly as it relates to inequality and social justice. The print also serves as a tool for preserving the culture of South Africa’s indigenous people, enabling a nation to collectively move forward without forgetting the more challenging aspects of its past. Note, the intaglio technique used by Thorburn holds a distinguished place in the artistic life and visual culture of South Africa. In fact, according to Thorburn, the process of printmaking itself can be aptly seen as a metaphor for the transfer of power from a white minority apartheid regime to inclusive majority rule. Along these lines, the pressure that must be applied to the press and the [14] resistance the paper exhibits as it absorbs the applied ink, can both be seen as symbols of the societal struggle that continue to this day -- well past the conclusion of the political negotiations. Note, beyond just technique, the use of color in Thorburn’s print also carries [15] significance. Specifically, the red field surrounding the slave figure in the center of the print, juxtaposed against the thin black lines defining the structures of Grahamstown, appear to be a nod to the “Red on Black” images prevalent on South African resistance posters in the 1980s. Those posters were designed to elicit an emotional response from the observer -- a call to action so to speak. In short, Thorburn appears to desire to have his audience maintain that same energy and spirit, willing to combat inequality and injustice wherever it may exist. 

Zachary Cranna'23, Political Science

ENDNOTES

1. Rankin, Jennifer. “EU Running out of Money to Stop Migrants Travelling from Africa.” The Guardian (2017). 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/20/eu-running-out-of-money-stop-migrants-travelling-africa.

2.“Desertification: The People Whose Land is Turning to Dust.” BBC (2015). 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34790661.

3. Nick Danziger, The Hidden Face of Drug use: From Cambodia to Senegal - In Pictures (The Guardian. April 21, 2016).

4. Simon Howell, West African and The Transnational Trade in Illegal Drugs; Physical Properties, Policing and Power (Africa Review, November 28, 2014).

5. Senegal: “Worrying” Rise in Alcohol Abuse (The Point, November 13, 2008).

6. B Seck,et al, Attitude and Behavior of The Youth of Senegal Towards Drugs (National Library of Medicine, 1994), 17-22.

7. Senegal Country Report (EURICSE, 2016).

8. Senegal Country Report (EURICSE, 2016). 

9. Senegal - Country Commercial Guide - Agriculture Sector (International Trade Administration, October 8, 2020).

10. https://unequalscenes.com/south-africa (accessed 10/25/2021)

 

11. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/05/1092122 (accessed 10/25/2021)

12.“Springbok,” Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation, November 7, 2021), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springbok.

13. Francois Cleophas, “Springbok Represents the Persistence of Apartheid Structures in South Africa,” The Wire,  accessed November 12, 2021, https://thewire.in/sport/springbok-apartheid-south-africa.

14. Thorburn, Dominic. “Sobriety and Sunshine – Dominic Thorburn throws light on South Africa Printmaking”. http://www.artmondo.net/printworks/articles/sa1.htm.

15. Ibid.