Art
The Rain Prayers by Simphiwe Ndzube. Photo by Jalil Olmedo.

This Exhibition is Uniting the Artistic Traditions of Mexico and Southern Africa

Crossing Night, is a first of its kind exhibition, creating dialogue between the two regions.

It's mid-morning in Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico and the walls of ex-convento Santo Domingo de Guzman reverberate as a local marching band begin their procession playing, Hamba Kahle Mkhonto we Sizwe (Go well Spear of the Nation). One of several iconic songs of the Apartheid struggle in South Africa, sung as a custom by mourners at the funerals of members of the African National Congress's armed wing—the song was also famously sung at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

The marching band was met by local Calenda dancers outside, before continuing their procession through the streets of Oaxaca onto the San Pablo Cultural Centre as part of the Grand Opening of Hacer Noche (Crossing Night). Although the significance of the song was lost on many, some South Africans included, the depth of the music appeared to touch the core of much of its audience.

Hacer Nocer is a program of exhibitions in Oaxaca Mexico, focused on art practices of Southern Africa. The event comprised of a month-long artistic residency program and a week-long educational program with talks open to the public, culminating in an exhibition of work by artists from Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Ambitious in its conception and intended scope, Hacer Noche is the first exhibition of its kind in Mexico. The term Crossing Night alludes to themes of death, night journeys and the event coinciding with the Mexican festival of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The exhibition touches upon the shared histories of slavery, colonisation and postcolonial narratives as part of the DNA of both regions.

Hacer Noche ExposicionesPhoto by Jalil Olmedo


Angolan artist Tiago Borges took part in the residency program conducted at Centro de las Artes de San Agustín and has work in the exhibition. Borges's interests are in collaboration, working with sculpture, playing on words and visuals and disturbing the idea of the garden of Eden.

"I am often interested in site specific experiments," says Borges. "What happens on arrival to a place, what to consider and what form experiences have from the meeting to the interacting point of view". His work reflects on themes, such as history, life and the dance between death and desire in his work. Borges' fusion of words, visuals and sculpture take the form of a fanzine printed in blue over pink.

The fanzine is designed not merely for display in an exhibition, but with the intent of including the viewer, providing them with the option of ownership—to physically take the work, experience and marinate on its themes at leisure. He believes Mexico and Southern Africa have shared socio-political experiences including, lack of a unified identity, unequal access to resources and unrepresentative politics. "I hope this exhibition inspires the people of Oaxaca, especially the Afro-Mexicans who are forgotten" says Borges. "I expect the exhibition to inspire a young generation of sensitivities regarding other forms of creatively understanding and thinking about the community."

Hacer Noche ExposicionesPhoto by Jalil Olmedo

Hacer Noche curator Francisco Berzunza did his Master's of Political Science at the University of Cape Town, serving afterwards as cultural attache at the Mexican Embassy in South Africa. This gave him the opportunity to travel to other countries in the region. He says, "I felt a duty towards a country that has shaped me profoundly and a sense of frustration at the lack of recognition or acknowledgement of African art by Mexican institutions in general".

During his tenure in South Africa, he made a promise to friends to keep the relationship open. For Berzunza, the exhibition is a labour of love, friendship, gratitude while also providing an opportunity to open up a dialogue. "There are shared histories that we don't speak about," he says. "And we behave as if it's two distant places."

At ex-convento Santo Domingo, curious attendees, circle a large abstract structure with wooden beams, synthetic hair, used human shoes and synthetic gloves, dominating the centre of a room. This work "The Rain Prayers" is by South African artist Simphiwe Ndzube. It is a recreation of a work he made in Cape Town in 2016 as a result of partaking in student protests at the University of Cape Town and around the city of Cape Town. The work was inspired by an image of a collective group uniting in a processionary manner to rally for a common vision.

Hacer Noche ExposicionesPhoto by Jalil Olmedo

"As a child," says Ndzube, "I remember seeing groups of people going to the mountain to pray for rain—that strong collective faith, hands reaching into the heavens holding an invisible structure, receiving or sending their prayers to the all-seeing eye above". This work parallels the Day of the Dead—the processions, the collective belief of opening up and receiving the spirits. Ndzube's mixed media installation, its structure of wooden planks of varying sizes and lengths bound together, firmly grounded to the earth but pleading to the heavens above, conveying the collective's dance.

He notes similarities in the conceptual art and freedom of expression explored by artists in both regions. "The work is very accessible, it's a common language, using everyday relatable materials in a not so conceptually abstract final image," says Ndzube. He further highlights the relationship between religion and spirituality, "the mythologies and the nagging Christian religious influences" as pillars of both regions.

The journey through the many exhibition spaces spread across Oaxaca brings both light-hearted and jarring moments—art that reflects a wide range of human experience.

Hacer Noche ExposicionesPhoto by Jalil Olmedo

Hacer Noche exhibits works by world renowned artists (mostly South African) from the region, both living and deceased, including William Kentridge, Zanele Muholi, Santu Mafokeng and David Goldblatt and also exhibits works by artists whose profiles are rising. Whilst, the educational program provided a thought-provoking smorgasbord of talks both by artists and academics alike discussing topics such as artistic practices, biennales and identity politics.

Despite the grand ideals of the exhibition, there was a discernible lack of artists and academics of colour present, especially women of colour. One academic during her talk, raised concerns about the 'invisibility' of women of colour in attendance despite the display and discussion of their work. When the issue surfaces, Berzunza does not shy away from addressing it. Hacer Noche is his first curatorial role and he admits to making mistakes blaming budgetary constraints, lack of organization and planning. "Things should have been thought out better, relationships should have been built to achieve this," he says. "In the future these issues need to be addressed properly and instituted at a policy level in Mexico to avoid such a thing occurring again".

While no exhibition is perfect and won't meet the expectations of everyone, representing artistic practices of a region requires a balanced representation of its demographic in all forms. Securing a space at the table for people who have traditionally and continue to be overlooked is important for the credibility of cultural dialogue and exchange. Berzunza says, "I hope more shows evolve out of Hacer Noche, that artists from this region have more solo shows here that more dialogue opens up".

Hacer Noche ExposicionesPhoto by Jalil Olmedo

Hacer Noche, ambitious in its conception and execution, yet with creases, sets a precedent for opening up further cultural relationships between Mexico and Southern Africa. But making sure the arts are inclusive is not, in this case, the sole responsibility of the hosting nation. It is also the duty of powerful people in Southern Africa, to be aware of their own communities and to ensure there is true representation when planning further cultural exchanges.

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Hace Noche goes till 5 February 2019 in Oaxaca Mexico. See more pictures from the exhibition below.

Photo by Jalil Olmedo

Music

Listen to Samthing Soweto’s Album ‘Isiphithiphithi’

Samthing Soweto's highly anticipated album is finally here.

One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Isiphithiphithi by Samthing Soweto is finally here.

The South African artist's project consists of 12 songs and features Makhafula Vilakazi, Shasha, Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa and Mlindo The Vocalist.

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Gallo Images/Getty Images

South African Telenovela 'The River' has Been Nominated for an International Emmy

This is the popular telenovela's first International Emmy nomination.

One of South Africa's beloved telenovelas, The River, has received its first ever International Emmy nomination in the category of "Best Telenovela", according to IOL. The River will go up against other telenovelas from Columbia, Argentina as well as Portugal. The 47th installment of the International Emmy Awards will take place on November 25th of this year and will be held at the Hilton in New York.

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Culture
Photo (c) John Liebenberg

'Stolen Moments' Uncovers the Namibian Music That Apartheid Tried to Erase

The photo exhibition, showing at the Brunei Gallery in London, highlights artists from Namibia's underground scene between 1950-1980, a time of immense musical suppression prior to its independence.

Before its independence in 1990, a whole generation of Namibians were made to believe that their county had no real musical legacy. Popular productions by Namibian artists from previous eras were systematically concealed from the masses for nearly 30 years, under the apartheid regime—which extended to the country from South Africa following German colonization—depriving many Namibians of the opportunity to connect with their own musical heritage.

"Stolen Moments: Namibian Music Untold," a new exhibit currently showing at London's Brunei Museum at SOAS University of London, seeks to revive the musical Namibian musical traditions that the apartheid regime attempted to erase.

"Imagine you had never known about the musical riches of your country," said the exhibit's curator Aino Moongo in a statement of purpose on SOAS' site. "Your ears had been used to nothing but the dull sounds of country's former occupants and the blaring church and propaganda songs that were sold to you as your country's musical legacy. Until all at once, a magnitude of unknown sounds, melodies and songs appear. This sound, that roots your culture to the musical influences of jazz, blues and pop from around the world, is unique, yet familiar. It revives memories of bygone days, recites the history of your homeland and enables you for the first time to experience the emotions, joys and pains of your ancestors."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs

The 'Stolen Moments" project began in 2010 in an effort to champion Namibia's unsung musical innovators. For the collection, Moongo and Assistant Curator, Siegrun Salmanian—along with a group of international scholars, artists, photographers and filmmakers—curated a large-scale photo exhibit that also features a 120-minute video projection, focusing on the dance styles of the era, along with listening stations, a sound installation that features "100-hours of interviews with musicians and contemporary witnesses," and displays of record covers and memorabilia from the period between 1950-1980.

The musicians highlighted, produced work that spanned a number of genres—a marker of the country's vast and eclectic underground scene. Artists like the saxophonist Leyden Naftali who led a band inspired by the sounds of ragtime, and the psychedelic rock and funk of the Ugly Creatures are explored through the exhibition, which also centers bands and artists such as The Dead Wood, The Rocking Kwela Boys, Children of Pluto and more.

"There are many reasons why you've never heard this music before," Moongo continues. "It was censored, suppressed, prohibited and made almost impossible to listen to. Its creators are either long gone or have given up on music making, by reasons of adversity, death and despair. And yet this beautiful music exists with a liveliness, as if it had never stopped playing. It is still in the minds of the few who can remember, with the ones who played it, and on those rare recordings that have survived in archives and record collections scattered around the globe. Allow me to share these stolen moments with you."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs


Photo (c) John Liebenberg

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"Stolen Moments" is now showing at the Brunei Gallery in London and runs through Sept 21.

popular

Foul Language and Depictions of Rape Spur a Book Recall Campaign in Kenya

Kenya's Top Book seller pulls a South African book for youth due to foul language.

A main book supplier in Kenya, Text Book Centre, has announced that they would not stock a book due to its "vulgar and foul language." The book, Blood Ties, was written by South African author Zimkhitha Mlanzeli. The banning comes just after a video went viral in Kenya of a school child having a verbal outburst peppered with strong language. As reported by BBC, the removal was sparked by parents showing outrage after excerpts from the book were shared on twitter. These excerpts contained use of the f-word as well as a description of a rape scene.

As per their statement, the Text Book Centre claims they believe in "upholding high moral standards and raising generations of responsible citizens who are not only educated but ethical." The Kenyan publisher, StoryMoja, has defended the book in a statement of their own. They argue that the book is part of a new series showcasing books that deal with "contemporary societal issues" and that this particular book is a fictional story that grapples with the negative repercussions of peer pressure. "In actual fact, the book guides readers on the steps to take should they find themselves in a similar situation and underscores the sensitivity with which victims of sexual abuse should be treated." The statement also highlights the fact that the publishers had listed Blood Ties for readers in high school or above.


The discrepancy is that some schools have recommended the book as a reader – meaning for younger children aged 12 or 13 – though it has not been approved by the Kenyan Institute of Curricular Development (KICD), the entity in charge of managing texts used in schools. In a tweet, the KICD claimed that the book was not approved and that some teachers may be recommending texts without ensuring they were endorsed by the KICD. The dispute is sparking debate as to what should be taught in Kenyan schools.

As of late this morning, StoryMoja is in the process of recalling all copies of the book from stores and schools across Kenya. In a tweet they claim that it is because they have determined the language used in the book is the issue and not the subject matter.

Censorship is always a contested topic, just last month we reported on Nigerian authorities censoring a music video for "threatening security." Also, Kenya's censorship tactics have been in the global eye since a refusal to screen the film Rafiki for its homosexual heroines despite being lauded at international film festivals.

Here are some reactions from Kenyans on Twitter:





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