ON FIRE - Notions of Community in Post-Apartheid South Africa
“…imagine a community with as lose a form as you will -even formless: the only condition is that an experience of moral freedom be shared in common, and not reduced to the flat, self-cancelling, self-denying meaning of particular freedom”
J. Bataille, in Jean-Luc Nancy’s “ La communaute desoeuvree” (The inoperative community).
ON FIRE Photography Exhibition brings to Berlin five South African photographers from different generations. Focusing on various aspects of social life such as spirituality, identity, immigration, family and LGTBI life, their visual approaches document, question, reveal and/or reinterpret in different ways the notion of “community” in the specific context of the “Rainbow Nation”.
The idea of “community” draws a vast landscape in social narratives and political imagination, that go from the lost utopias of the past, to the longing for the sense of togetherness of the future. Banalized through its extensive use in social media of all sorts, used and abused in political speeches from different if not opposed tendencies, “community” can appear as a port-manteau word. Or a common-place, precisely.
More over, we could ask, after french philosopher J. L. Nancy: has the emergence and our increasing consciousness of decolonized communities, the growth of unprecedented forms of being-in-common -through the channels of information as well as through what is called “multi-racial” society, triggered any genuine renewal of the question of community?
This exhibition explores a visual approach to that question. The selection of photographies (re)present communities that exist in concrete social realities of South Africa as well as in its projected, phantasmagoric or fantasized landscape. Communities appear in unexpected spaces, drawing a landscape between the globalized and the fragmented. Different from other identity narratives or signifiers (religion, gender, “ethnicity”, etc), the “community” appear both as a particularly useful concept to sign the complexity of certain disrupted realities in the crisis of old and more stable models of identification, and a concrete praxis that creates (or not) a sense of togetherness and belonging.
What creates a sense of “community” seems needing to be redefined again and again. From the communion in the spiritual experience of the religious feeling (as beautifully portraited in the work of A. Tshabangu), to the documentation of the illegal migrant workers that Dean Hutton portraits in the „Zuma Zumas“ series, communities appear in these works in the sharing, diffusion, or impregnation of an identity by a plurality, and interrogate the possibility of an “absolute immanence of human to human”.
With: Andrew Tshabangu, Sabelo Mlangeni, Musa Nxumalu, Dean Hutton
Curated by Manuel Osterholt
Opening: 23.10.2015 – 7 pm
Photo Exhibition: 24.10.–07.11.2015 – 2–6pm
At: Grimmuseum, Fichtestr. 2, 10967 Berlin
As part of the ON FIRE program 2014 – 2015
Initiated and produced by Constanza Macras | Dorky Park
Supported by Kulturstiftung des Bundes, IFA – Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Rudolf von Augstein Stiftung
Andrew Tshabangu (b. 1966, ZA)
Born in 1966 in Soweto, Andrew has studied at a number of institutions, amongst them at the Institute of Advancement for Journalism in 1998 and at the Alexandra Community Art Centre in Johannesburg. He taught photography at the Children’s Photography Workshop, 1995 and in 1998 and 1999 he taught at both the Market Photo Workshop and post Matric photography courses. In 1998 he was an artist in residency at the Gasworks Art Studio, London.
Tshabangu’s experience in documenting the spiritual ceremonies of black communities came into play in capturing the rituals of daily life in an African metropolis. As a photographer he is renowned for smoky, atmospheric lighting that lends a mystical element to his images.
Tshabangu regularly participates in workshops abroad, more recently, he was invited by the Nairobi Arts Trust and the Centre for Contemporary Arts of East Africa to conduct a photographic workshop in Nairobi, titled: Amnesia, Platform III. The workshop also had a curatorial strategies and criticism component, produced by Simon Njami and culminated in an exhibition at the National Museum Nairobi.
Sabelo Mlangeni (b. 1980, ZA)
Sabelo Mlangeni was born 1980 in Driefontain near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga/ South Africa. 2001 he moved to Johannesburg and attended the Market Photo Workshop, where he graduated in 2004. In 2009 he received the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts.
The series Men Only, Ghost Towns und At Home have been shown at Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Sabelo Mlangeni is represented by Stevenson Gallery since 2010.
Recently he participated in various international Group exhibitions (selection): Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life International Center of Photography, New York, Haus der Kunst Munich, Germany and Johannesburg Museum Africa (2012, 2013 and 2014). Public Intimacy: Art and Social Life in South Africa at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014). 9th Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial in Mali and Lagos Photo Festival, Nigeria (both 2011). Appropriated Landscapes, Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm/Burlafingen, Germany (2011). Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African photography, V&A Museum, London (2011). Possible Cities: Africa in photography and video, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College, Pennsylvania (2011). Afropolis: City, Media, Art, Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne, Germany (2010). I am not afraid: The Market Photo Workshop Johannesburg, Johannesburg Art Gallery (2010).
Musa Nxumalo (b. 1986, ZA)
Artist working with Photography as a preferred medium, his photographs explore Youth Culture and their Identity as a Journey To Self-Discovery. Nxumalo’s work interchanges between Social documentary and Fine Art.
Nxumalo has had four solo exhibitions and a range of group exhibitions both locally and internationally including; For Those Who LiveIn It in the Netherlands, 2010, Space Between Us in Germany, 2013 and My Joburg at Maison Rouge Gallery in Paris, 2013.
Recent exhibitions include In Search Of… which showcased two bodies of work Alternative-Kidz (2008) and In/Glorious (2012) and traveled between SMAC Stellenbosch and the Goethe Insitute, Johannesburg, 2015.
Nxumalo has also won several awards such as 1st prize in Visual Art for the Impact Awards 2010, 2nd Prize for the MTNCIT:Y Festival 2009 and the Edward Ruiz Mentorship in 2008. Most recently his book In Search Of… was shortlisted as one of the ten finalists for the FIRST Book Awards 2015. The book is currently nominated for Fourthwall books publishing award.
Dean Hutton (b. 1976, ZA)
Dean Hutton, is a genderqueer artist in Joburg interested in portraiture as co-authorship; social media as narrative; technology as self-reflection and provocation. Dean is exploring ways in which to build a love revolution, from their more personal work, to creating relationships and gathering collaborators to make our public and intimate spaces safer through artist-led creation, mentorship and community organising.
Dean works across photography, video, social media, performance and community action. They were chief photographer of the Mail & Guardian, a Ruth First Fellow, one of the 200 Top Young South Africans, was awarded an Africa Centre AIR Award & is a POPCAP ‘15 runner up. Dean co-curated the #notgayasinhappy #QUEERasinfuckyou Film Festival in June 2015, and is on the organising committee of the Hillbrow public arts festival. Solo shows @ Goethe JHB; FNB Joburg Art Fair; Pt Ephemere, Paris & ROOM.. Dean is a director of The Con magazine, an anti-media media platform founded as a response to the South African media’s unchecked and unacknowledged race, gender and class bias.
In a 18-year career as a photojournalist in Johannesburg Dean was chief photographer at the Mail & Guardian newspaper where her work won several awards. As a photojournalist her interest is directed towards an in-depth documentation of stories that may not necessarily seem newsworthy. Much of Dean’s work is concerned with social issues, and includes the rights of women and the dispossessed, and giving voice to those who are rarely heard above the furore of mainstream media coverage and middle class indignation. She has worked extensively and collaboratively with art projects and artists locally and internationally.
Manuel Osterholt (Curator)
Manuel Osterholt is a young german/greek artist and curator, based in Berlin.
Starting his career as a graffiti writer in his early teens, he studied graphic design on the way and became a full time artist right after that.
After several solo, group exhibition and murals around the globe under his alter ego „SuperBlast“, he curated his first mayor international group exhibition in HELLERAU – Centre For The Arts in Dresden in the summer of 2013. Future/Memory – Street Culture and Contemporary Art, featured photography, painting, sculpture and installation art from Boogie, Martha Cooper, Husk Mit Navn, Cody Hudson, Horfee, Jay Ramier, Skki©, Cleon Peterson and Superblast.