Wednesday 29 August 2012

South African Conceptual Image (Exercise 5)

For this exercise I decided to split my images into 3 categories and just see how they might interact with each other even though they vary in subject matter and technique. 

First up, African - European photographer Namsa Leuba explores messages sent to particular viewers, from a Eurocentric standpoint these images are striking as they reinforce the idea of a 'wild' Africa, a dark and untamed continent where people have to use what they have to get by. 

"The Western gaze that focuses on Eurocentric points of view upon an African society is controversially apparent in these images, which make them even more shocking, not only for the Guineans who were said to be afraid and felt exploited by Leuba’s “practices” but also Europeans who might interpret the images as savage. In one of the photographs a tribal costume is mockingly made from American flags." (Sarah Claire - One Small Seed Magazine)

The images made me think about what sort of assumptions a regular European, or even American individual would make of it. Depends on the experience, if you've never been to any part of Africa, one's view is more than likely developed from television and the media. The photographs take a different stand though, for those who have been to Africa know that it's not as wild as people might imagine. Even I as a an African citizen am provoked by the wild and makeshift appearance of the photographed people. Culture, tradition, and a unique fashion sense certainly exist in places like Guinea, after all the only thing that we have to compare are our own, primarily Eurocentric and Americanised views.

View the rest of the photographs :

Next up : How could I not discuss our wonderful presided in all his glory -

Brett Murrays controversial painting aptly titled 'The Spear' is as conceptual as you can get.

The Spear depicts our current president Jacob Zuma, and of course the most prominent and eye catching part of the painting is his exposed manhood. The African National Congress, the current ruling party of South Africa weren't very happy with the painting.

Brett recounts in his words "For me, The Spear has a far broader meaning than some of the public discourse on its meaning, including the first applicant’s interpretation. It is a metaphor for power, greed and patriarchy.” The ANC was outraged at the painting and no doubt some of the good ANC supporters were the ones that ended up vandalizing the painting by throwing black paint over it. Nevertheless, thanks to the power of the internet no amount of effort from the ANC will stop the image from being circulated, which brings me to the discussion topic - censorship. Again, I could not say it better than the artist himself, Mr Murray recalls that while growing up during the 70's and 80's in an Apartheid oppressed South Africa he witnessed that censorship was one of the vehicles used as an suppression tool against the then young ANC. Censorship was what controlled the people and kept the white man voting for the white man. The retaliation by the ANC and the satire that goes along with the presidents decadent depiction just goes to show that members of the ANC either do not understand the point of the paining, or just blatantly agreeing that they are guilty of the things it's members have been accused of. Everything from Corruption to unnecessary tax payer expenditure is on that list, and by attempting to censor something like this painting proves at least to me that the ANC is ashamed of itself. I Mr Murray left out his penis, would the ANC care at all? Would they have figured out that the painting is based on a portrait of Vladimir Lenin?

Vladimir Lenin in all his glory:
Long story short, Lenin was a Marxist revolutionary who believed in the Socialist movement. The title reads : Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will continue to live. A typical propaganda poster from the Soviet Union it became the basis for Brett Murray's work perhaps hinting at how many similarities the ANC shares with a socialist movement. COSATU, the South African workers union even shares the same hammer and sickle motif as the USSR once did, coincidence?

Read Brett Murray's entire story behind the painting here: 

Last but not least Jane Alexander, a South African sculptor who has been active since just before the fall of the Apartheid government. I will admit that the reason I like her works is the macabre aspects. Human beings as far as history goes have been fascinated with the human body being cut up , burned and destroyed, it's that idea of death and the ultimate question I think that we all want to know, or maybe it gives us a thrill, a satisfaction. We are all concerned with our own mortality, but i won't go into a discussion about that, this is about the artist and her piece :

Stripped ('Oh Yes' Girl)

This piece in particular although made by a South African is more relevant to humanity as a whole and not related to the Apartheid struggle as a lot of South African concept works are. Since Jane Alexander is not very open about her work and lets the viewer decide and interpret it for themselves. For this final piece that is exactly what I intend to do. In a nutshell the sculpture is a ridicule of the modern day 'constructed' and perfected woman. The idea of beauty has, and will continue to be jammed down our throats by the spectacle, unfortunately women were the one's who got the bad end of the stick and not men. The sculpture is also impersonal, lacking emotion or colour, slumped on a barbie doll stand. It almost acts as a 'template' for what a woman should look like, a starting point for the definition of a real woman if there ever was one. The sculpture is also both polished and damaged in certain places perhaps pertaining to the struggles of women and the fact that they are survivors more than anything else, having to deal with a lot more pressure from society.

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