An argument for authenticity
By Farieda Nazier
The following entry is based on my own views of a public talk I recently attended in Joburg. The main topic of this talk was socio political art and whether it was still feasible for South African artist to be using the socio political as reference or content for their work. I argue that South African artists should remain true to their inspiration i.e. Africa and their Africaness.
“Things got blurry politically after ninety four” was one of the opening comments at the public seminar. In other words ‘things’ or politics are no longer simple in the times of a democratic constitution, here in South Africa. Does this mean that Apartheid, in retrospect, is seen as a very clear, black and white, simple politics? Could this be owing to its systematic nature which provided for ease of critique, commentary and protest, from the media and art world alike?
One view is that many of us are over saturated with the idea of Apartheid and its consequences (by consequences I mean present day South Africa). Anything referencing the A-word seems to be considered smut. I often hear the call to “Stop blaming Apartheid” and the famous "Why are we living in the past?"
The fact is that we are all products of our past. We can all agree that the past is multifaceted and layered with input from our parents, siblings, the environment, society, media, politics, you name it. WE are shaped by all these, in various proportions. As South Africans, one such element which shaped us here and now in the present is our shared socio-political history. In this instance that specific history is called Apartheid. Does it make sense to try and forget it, if this is what constitutes US?
As artists we are inspired by our perceptions of our surroundings and experiences thereof & with. We filter these through our senses and deposit it in our minds, assimilate and process the data; and subsequently deliver visual and sound ‘reports’ which manifest as artworks. The reality is that the surroundings that we confront on a day to day basis are heavily laced with physical and intangible remnants of Apartheid. Poverty is one such remnant. If we are surrounded, affected or disturbed by it, why not depict it? That said, does it make sense to search abroad, “in Europe and elsewhere” to make our art more valuable and saleable? (Let’s not start on the value of art works!) Would we not be dishonest with ourselves if we do so?
I would like to open up dialogue by arguing 1) for South African artist to remain true and authentic to their Africa and Africaness; and 2) against the appropriation of European and ‘other’ ideas.
Please feel free to comment or critique.