Arts + Culture
Photo by Stella Tate.

Meet South African Artist Gabrielle Goliath, the 2019 Recipient of the Prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award

Her work centres on gendered and sexualised violence and disrupts the status quo.

One Christmas Eve while still in primary school in the quiet South African mining city of Kimberley, Gabrielle Goliath tragically lost a friend to an act of domestic violence. This traumatic event impacted her profoundly, and ultimately pushed her to create artwork that commemorates victims of violence.

While still in school, Goliath moved to Johannesburg where she is still based. As an artists she is known for her conceptual pieces that address complex social issues. Using video, live performance and photography, Goliath's work highlights issues regarding gendered and sexual violence and the invisibility of women, people of colour and LGBTQI+ people.

Goliath studied fashion design at the University of Witwatersrand's School of Arts in Johannesburg, where she was influenced by experimental fashion designers such as Hussein Chalayan. During this time, her work evolved into creations that were more conceptual in nature and "unwearable."

Goliath's work has been very well received both nationally and internationally. She has exhibited widely, garnering several prestigious awards, and is part of numerous private and public collections. One of her most notable works, 'Elegy', begun in 2015, forms part of a long term commemorative performance project. The work staged in various locations across the globe , involves a group of female vocal performers who perform a physically and emotionally draining mourning ritual involving a continuous sung cry for the loss of a particular individual—provoking a sense of distress and sorrow in the viewer.

Eunice Ntombifuthi Dube, Gabrielle Goliath, Centre for the Less Good Idea, Johannesburg, 2018Photo by Stella Tate

'Elegy' was recently part of the Verbo Performance Art Festival (2018), São Paulo; the Palais de Tokyo's Do Disturb Festival (2018), Paris and the National Arts Festival (2018), Makhanda. The documentation of 'Elegy' over the years will be presented as part of a new work, consisting of a seven screen video installation featuring footage from seven different performances. It will be presented at the Goodman Gallery in Cape Town from the 12th of February till the 9th of March and will coincide with Cape Town Art Week 2019.

The artist's accolades include the Institut Français, Afrique en Créations Prize (Bamako Biennale), and most recently the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award (2019). She has also been shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize 2019. Aside from developing her artwork, Goliath is also currently a PhD candidate and Fellow at the Institute for Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town.

Goliath's native South Africa has one of the most advanced constitutions in the world, in theory, it legally recognises and protects the society's most vulnerable. Yet, the society suffers some of the highest sexualised and gender violence rates in the world. This distressing reality mirrors the unreconciled traumas of colonialism and Apartheid on top of entrenched sexism and rape culture. In a society where gendered and sexualised violence is more common, many have become desensitized to the staggering reality. The power of Goliath's work lies in its ability to unsettle the viewer, while encouraging conversations about a society's values and revealing the strength and resilience of human beings.

We caught up with the Goliath ahead of a busy 2019.

Standard Bank Young Artist Award 2019 - Gabrielle Goliath (Visual Art)

What and who influences you as an artist?

It's no secret that the art world is the province of men—in terms of economy, exposure and ego—and that women and minority artists have been and continue to be written out of the canonical narrative of modernism and its weird and violent afterlives. And so, I'm inspired by the recuperative, restorative and very socially and politically inclined work of those who seek to disrupt and, importantly, reconfigure this situation. Just the other day I visited an extraordinary exhibition of works by the great Mmakgabo Mapula Helen Sebidi, curated by Portia Malatjie, which really honoured the work of this undervalued but really magisterial woman.

As an artist, I draw from and am challenged by a constellation of influences: artists like Donna Kukama, Buhlebezwe Siwani, Tracey Rose, Regina José Galindo, Doris Salcedo, and so many more; the poetic but critical work of writers like Gabeba Baderoon, Christina Sharpe and Sara Ahmed, as well as the incredible Pumla Dineo Gqola, who has redefined the landscape of critical black feminism and queer theory in South Africa; and of course the advocacy work of organisations like Rape Crisis, Iranti, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA), Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT), and the Tears Foundation, and the list goes on.

You explore serious themes through your work, your performance pieces are an emotionally draining experience for both the viewer and performance artists. Do you have a particular process that you follow when developing each of piece of work? What does it entail?

I am not a very prolific artist, and this is intentional. Mindful of how regularly violence is perpetuated and normalised through forms of representation, I am careful about what I put out there, and spend a long time, sometimes years, on each body of work. Each project presents new challenges, and requires me to navigate a complex ethical field, one with no guarantee of a 'right way of working'—a space of ethical risk in which every decision holds within it as much the capacity to heal as to harm. A guiding principle for me is to ensure that my work is always subject-centred, and open to the specificity and accountability that demands. My process is often highly collaborative and social, in the sense that a project like Elegy, for example, calls for extensive dialogue and forms of collective labour. There's a lot of research involved—and given the traumatic experiences of individuals subjected to gendered and sexualised violence, and its repercussions—a lot of conversation: difficult conversations, but ones that inform what I think and do in the most profound and humbling ways.

Eunice Ntombifuthi Dube, Gabrielle Goliath, Centre for the Less Good Idea, Johannesburg, 2018Photo by Stella Tate

Your work 'Elegy,' initiated in 2015, is part of a long-term commemorative performance project, each iteration marking the absent presence of a specific woman, or LGBTQI+ individual raped and killed in South Africa. The piece has been performed both nationally and internationally. Why do you think this piece, developed specifically within a South African context, resonates so powerfully abroad?

On the whole, I have been encouraged by the ways in which different audiences – in South Africa and in other parts of the world – have responded to Elegy performances. For me, Elegy is a political project, in that it calls people to acknowledge and mourn for individuals whose lives and even deaths are regularly disavowed on a social and political level. The social encounter of Elegy, and the insistence of each performance upon a specific individual, collapses the safe remove of a 'distant' suffering. I have learnt that one should never underestimate the capacity of others to empathise. Following performances in Europe and the US, I have had many very personal conversations with audience members, who found the piece to be both moving and challenging. There is also an intersectional work at play in each context, as people connect the commemoration of a specific individual with personal experiences or socio-political contexts. Recently, for example, after performances in São Paulo – commemorating Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa – a number of audience members shared with me personal experiences of rape, which was devastating, whilst for others the piece recalled for them the recent assassination of political activist Marielle Franco, and the endemic nature of this violence in Brazil.

South Africa has some of the highest reported sexualised and gendered violence and murder rates in the world. As an artist, what role do you think the arts plays in contributing to popular discourse, attitudes and policy around these horrific acts?

I've never found it helpful to try and fix what art should and should not do. For me, it's not so much about what the role of art is, as much as what opportunities it presents, and what are the ethical implications of those opportunities. Can art inflict harm? In my opinion, yes—but it also allows for different ways of thinking and feeling, and for facilitating more affective and relational ways of encountering what is often difficult and sensitive subject matter. In my work, I seek to counter the kinds of symbolic violence through which traumatised black, brown, feminine, queer and vulnerable bodies are routinely objectified. And here I am referring not only to art, but to the field of representation at large, and the ways in which we image, write, sound, speak and perform violence. My objective is to make possible alternative aesthetic encounters that allow for the commemoration as well as celebration of disavowed subjectivities. And this I see as being in itself a kind of recuperative and political work.

Your work illuminates the deep emotional wounds and suffering of victims but also calls into question the values of society as a whole. How has your work been received by both the general public and lawmakers in your country? Do you think there has been a shift in attitude and sensitivity surrounding the issues you explore through your art?

I think that sort of impact would be difficult to gauge. Reflecting on the reception and impact of my work, I look rather to the kinds of relational encounters it brings about, and to the very personal responses people often share with me. This kind of feedback is very humbling, especially when it comes from individuals who have experienced or been touched by racialised, gendered and sexualised violence. Whilst I cannot lay claim to shifts in policy, I do know that for some, my work has deeply affected them, allowed for a shift in attitude, and even a measure of catharsis or healing.

Photo by Stella Tate

You are the recipient of the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award 2019 (visual arts). What's on the horizon for 2019?

2019 will be a busy year for me. The Standard Bank Young Artist Award is a really affirming one for me, and will involve a touring exhibition here in South Africa. I have also been shortlisted for the Future Generations Art Prize, and for that I'll be presenting a new body of work – This song is for ... – in Kiev in February, and that will then travel to Venice. I am also excited about a number of Elegy performances that I have been invited to realise in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the US, as well as presentations on my work that I will be giving at different conferences. Grrr... and then there's my PhD – chapters one and two, here I come!


This Is What Rotimi's 'Walk With Me' EP Listening Party Looked Like

The Nigerian singer held an intimate listening party on the eve of the release of his new EP, 'Walk With Me,' at Brooklyn's Okay Space.

Walk With Me, Rotimi's new and highly anticipated EP, dropped Friday—giving us a seven-track peek into who the singer and actor truly is sonically.

The night before, the Nigerian-American crooner gathered over 100 tastemakers and day-one supporters to Brooklyn's Okay Space—the shared gallery space between Okayplayer and OkayAfrica—for an intimate listening party celebrating the release, as well as his music video for "Love Riddim" which also dropped this week.

The night was simply a vibe—folks enjoyed libations and bites from The Suya Guy, with sounds by DJ Tunez. Rotimi opened the gathering up with a thoughtful prayer, with the music video reveal to follow. The singer then walked the audience through each track from Walk With Me, opening up about the creative process of how each track came to life.

Following, Rotimi engaged in an even more in-depth Q+A session with OkayAfrica's arts and culture editor, Antoinette Isama, where he touched on his experience touring with Wizkid back in 2011, his thoughts on the continued rise in popularity afrobeats is having in mainstream music, his hopes for the future and more. Tunez then ran the EP back when the party ensued, as the project is full of tracks that are worthy of being on repeat.

Listen to Walk With Me below, and be sure to take a look at photos from the listening party by Nerdscarf Photography.

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CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Director Ladj Ly and Almamy Kanoute attend the photocall for "Les Miserables" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

How To Survive Cannes Film Festival As a Black Filmmaker

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind.

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious gatherings bringing celebrities, filmmakers and actors claiming to celebrate the world's best film. Although the festival is way behind Sundance or the London Film Festival regarding diversity efforts, it remains the place to be if you're a filmmaker—especially a Black one.

I, myself, am a Black French filmmaker who was invited to Cannes as part of their scheme for young film lovers—3 Days in Cannes—open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 28. The scheme, which launched in 2018, requires young hopefuls to write a cover letter showing their passion for film. It ultimately gives young people the opportunity to discover the international selection of films showed at Cannes.

READ: Black Women Are the Future of French Cinema—When Will Cannes Catch Up?

Being in Cannes for the first time was a wonderful experience, but it can be tough to navigate as a Black filmmaker if you're not prepared for it. So, here are top tips.

1) Don't be a person of color—especially if you're Black (Just kidding. But still.)

Cannes is a beautiful, posh city in the south of France. It is part of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, an administrative region where the far right party Rassemblement National (formally known as the National Front) hits record-breaking highs. Despite the fact that the festival is incredibly international, at times it can feel pretty racist, like a sunny, idyllic version of 1960s Alabama, where a party of more than one Black person gets routinely rejected from some clubs/bars/restaurants. On top of that, the staff and some of the security working at the festival can be incredibly aggressive and rude to you and in French. If you don't understand it, it's even more confusing.

To avoid it, try to stick to the official Cannes parties, or hang out in international hotels like the Miramar or the Radisson Blu Hotel—which are used to an international crowd. You can also stick to parties at the various country pavilions near the Film Market.

2) Stick to the African Pavilion

At the festival, most countries have their own pavilion. But because the festival believes Africa is a country, all 54 countries are gathered in one pavilion. This pavilion also includes the Caribbean, since Jamaica, as life would have it, is also an African country. In the African Pavilion, there was even talk on how to submit films if you're a filmmaker of Indian descent (despite the fact that India had its own pavilion).

You're not African? That's okay, no one cares. Pan-Africanism is still alive, I guess? Thankfully, out of the many pavilions, I did find the African Pavilion was the best one the most welcoming and whose schedule was the most open and clear. Because Cannes is such an exclusive festival, most of the parties and talks won't be communicated outside of those who are supposed to attend.

The African Pavilion, however, requires you to sign up to their newsletter. You then access their app where you can see the schedule, the talks to attend and the party they planned. The only downside is that they were understaffed, so some talks and events were cancelled last minute and with limited communication.

If you're a Black French filmmaker, speaking English is a must to get the most out of the pavilion. If you're an English-speaking filmmaker, try to make friends or meet people who speak French, as some of the talks/discussions might not have professional interpreters.

Also, go to the events organized by diversity in Cannes. Now, if you're a Black filmmaker who would rather not stay in the community for fear of being pigeonholed? Unless you're part of a talent scheme run by the festival...good luck getting others to support you.

3) Be ready to WAIT to see films and to party

On average, I waited 1 hour 40 minutes for each film I wanted to see in the official selection program. And I purposely chose not to see the famous ones like the Pedro Almodóvar or Quintin Tarantino's films. I also waited almost two hours to see a film from the Un certain regard selection and didn't get in—despite my pass. Now, Un certain regard has the most highly sought after films, even more so than the Competition, because they tend to select the best among indie international films. To get in for sure, you need a "Un certain regard" pass, so they need to invite you themselves. Even if you have a ticket at the counter, you might not get in unless you wait two hours (standing) or choose to attend the early screening or the late ones (and still, you should be ready to wait 1 hour for these).

You need a pass AND a ticket to see the films from the official selection and walk the red carpet up to the Grand Théatre Debussy. For the ACID, Director's fortnight, Semaine de la critique, and the Official selection's films not shown on the red carpet, you just need a pass—and to be ready to queue for at least 45 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Cannes cinephile pass as it has a low priority. I saw people waiting 2 hours to see a film and not getting in, while people with professional Black passes arriving 10 minutes before the screening walking past them. Because the Cannes festival is for professionals, they have, unfortunately, priority over members of the public.

Now, with the parties at Cannes, word on the street is that they are not as legendary as they used to be. Even if you get invited to one, you still need to wait an hour. It's not because they are over capacity, but rather they feel the need to pretend that they are. Unless you're a VVIP. And if you're one, why are you reading my article?

Anyway, despite not being as glamorous as they used to be, they remain so exclusive that if your name is not on the list, you might need to sell your first born to attend.

Thankfully, you can avoid it by being smart. When I arrived in Cannes, I was dead set on going to parties to network. Since almost all of them are invite only, I went to the parties at the pavilions, like the UK one, the American one (which costs 20 euros because Americans are always about their money) and the African Pavilion—that were kind enough to facilitate networking by introducing me to fellow filmmakers. God knows how talking to strangers and building new relationships can be difficult, and they made it easier.

4) Make friends with distributors or people working for the Mayor's office

The whole point of the festival is to sell films. Tickets are sparse for most people, so some badge holders wear their Sunday Best and stand outside the grand theater, holding signs asking for tickets. It makes sense that distributors are incredibly powerful, since they have the power to buy and sell films internationally. They are given way too many tickets that should be given to people waiting for hours outside.

So, if you make friends with distributors, they will always have a handful of spare tickets, even for the big ones that everyone wants to see. They also have tickets for the big parties as well. Press badge holders also have priority since they are responsible for a film good or bad media coverage. So they have a handful of tickets too.

People working for the Mayor's office also have tickets because they work closely together since the festival brings so much revenue to the city. Make friends with them, as well as film students and you'll get tickets. Don't know where to find them? Social media is your friend.

There is also another way to get tickets to films: the staff. For example, I couldn't get tickets to see Mati Diop's Atlantiques. I walked to the ticket counter and saw a Black woman with a great hairstyle. My instinct KNEW I had to tag along. I asked her if she needed help. She was looking for the same tickets. We asked someone at the ticket office if they could help. They said they had nothing. But one of the staff members saw us and said she could try to help us. She came back with two tickets and that's how I got to see the film. I got lucky and was cunning. So be nice with the staff, they can help.

5) Be ready for anything

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind. Since you're spending so much time waiting and walking from venues to venues, you won't have time to eat unless you bring food you've made before hand. You're not allowed to eat inside the theaters and if you walk the red carpet, you food is thrown out beforehand. You can try buying food and drinks in the morning and finish it by the time you walk the red carpet. I'd advise buying it at a supermarket like the pricey Monoprix. Or the nearby McDonald's. It's cheap, warm, almost always open and a great way to socialize! Young filmmakers, as well as those from Britain and the States will come to McDonald's to eat since it's one of the places they know best. Why not strike up a convo there?

Also, don't forget your power bank. Your phone will get out of battery for sure, especially if you post content on social media.

Finally, despite its reputation, the festival is incredibly badly organized. You will be told that your badge is not allowed to watch films at other selections, or you would be given the wrong directions and will be lost in the croisette on your way to see an obscure film.

Chill, be ready to walk and use Google Maps. And enjoy!


Julie Adenuga: "There Are Young Artists In Nigeria Who Are Changing the World"

In an exclusive interview, the Beats 1 radio presenter opens up about her Nigerian heritage, documenting Homecoming in Lagos, and London being an important hub for afro-fusion sounds.

Julie Adenuga sits at the intersection of two continents.

As an affable tastemaker who transforms banal interviews into engaging conversations with some of the most famous artists in the world, Julie is leading the global dialogue on new music from her daily radio show, which broadcasts to over 100 countries.

The North London native of Nigerian descent hails from a musical family, her brothers are artists Skepta and JME, and has risen from the underground as a self-taught presenter on former pirate radio station Rinse FM to being one of three lead DJ's with her Beats 1 show on Apple Music.

A champion of homegrown talent in the UK and across the African diaspora, Julie is a purveyor of the afro-fusion genre, as is evident in her recent Homecoming documentary, which captured the fresh innovators from the Lagos music scene, and her DON't @ ME club nights, which has featured Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and The Compozers as residents.

Chosen as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora, we speak with the presenter and broadcaster on owning her Nigerian identity, the responsibility of spreading afrobeats and why London is a key location for the genre.

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