Tuesday, March 18, 2014

(P)review - Tension Torsion: 20 Years On

An alternative reading 

Written by Alberta Whittle

'Bite the Bullet' by Avitha Sooful, ready for installation. 
Tension Torsion at the Ithuba Arts Gallery brings together a group of four South African artists, whose experiences growing up under Apartheid have compelled them to reflect on the issues that surround the concept of Democracy. The South African Government News Agency proclaims March 2014, Human Rights Month (1). Against this backdrop of celebration, a variety of questions arise,

How do we understand democracy today?

What does democracy mean in South Africa?

What is the legacy of the past 20 years?

Reflecting on this celebration of 20 years of Democracy in South Africa, Gordon Froud, Oupa Vusimusi Mokwena, Farieda Nazier and Avitha Sooful question the role and the mechanics of the distribution of power. Their work focuses on the social and political sound-bites and legends, which surround this celebration of Democracy and the deification of Mandela. Instead of passively accepting the sanitised version of events, which proclaim democracy as a completed action, the artists resist this accepted narrative.

Their works heft unwieldy themes of power, authorship, resistance and race, whilst utilising an unexpected sense of play. Political art is a serious business and these artists are serious. But there is something reminiscent of the funfair about this show. Employing the warped sense of perspective and scale found in the Hall of Mirrors of a traditional funfair, the artworks reveal alternative interpretations of a shared past. The construction of memories reveals a process of recollection, nostalgia and commemoration. Froud, Mokwena, Nazier and Sooful straddle different generations of South Africans whose knowledge of Apartheid draws from personal and collective memories, as well as accepted historical narratives urging us to question, Has freedom been achieved?

Human Rights Month is commemorated in March to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. Human Rights Day on 21st March falls within this period. South Africa is regarded as a beacon of hope on the continent and internationally in the promotion and protection of human rights.

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