Many twists in this artist's tale

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June 6 2010                                                                                                        ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT                                                                                                                               Sunday Times 15

Still edgy after all these years
He’s been called a punk, a prankster and a postmodern trickster. Kendell Geers is also
a passionate artist. He spoke to Karen Rutter about his exhibition at the Goodman
Gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town, which opens on Wednesday and ends on July 10                                                                                                                                                     THE GUIDE
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          E once famously           onto the fabric. He described        the army during the ’80s, and an    beyond. Is he regarded as a
          urinated into Marcel      his show as a “binary approach       outspoken opponent of               “bad boy” in international
          Duchamp’s Fountain        which takes in both a creative       apartheid, Geers nevertheless       circles, too?
          in Venice. He sprayed     and destructive model”.              does not find much to celebrate        “Nah, not really,” he said,
semen (his own) on a Hustler          People are sometimes               in the new South Africa.            smiling. “Except for the right                                                                                     CAPE TOWN
centrefold and hung it at an        disturbed by his work, he said,        “I honestly believed that the     wing in Belgium. They hate                                                                                         MUSIC
exhibition. His shows have          because “it’s like looking at a      doors of learning and culture       me.”
included a brick thrown             car crash — you see the blood,       would be opened. But they’ve           He turned serious: “I think                                                                                     Reggae in the Theatre
through a gallery window and a      and you see your own                 never been more hermetically        South Africans have a love-hate                                                                                    Where: Artscape
broken beer bottle. But has         mortality. Some people find this     sealed. Artists are like cultural   relationship with me. In a way, I                                                                                  Theatre
Kendell Geers, notorious shock      hard.                                thermometers, or barometers,        broke the virginity of the South                                                                                   When: June 12
artist and punk prankster,            “The collection is strongly        taking the temperature of a         African art world — literally,                                                                                     ARTSCAPE seems
finally tempered his tune?          inspired by violence — how it        place. They need the space and      with semen — and it’s always                                                                                       an unlikely venue for
   On the eve of his first solo     has become so banal, and how         support to do this. But it wasn’t   going to be complicated. But                                                                                       skanking, but the
exhibition in Cape Town in over                                                                              viewers need to have the                                                                                           stage is all set for a
a decade, the artist is as                                                                                   courage to decode my work, to                                                                                      night of cool
anarchically articulate as ever,    ‘It’s like looking at a car crash — you see                              take it to the next level.                                                                                         runnings. Some of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                the city’s most
railing against an art                                                                                          “My latest work takes a more
establishment that has become       the blood, and you see your own mortality’                               shamanic, alchemical approach.                                                                                     popular reggae
“culturally castrated” and a                                                                                 It’s about developing signs and                                                                                    bands will supply
country that ignores the vital                                                                               symbols that are universally                                                                                       roots, dub and
contribution artists make.          we don’t know how to deal with       happening here.                     recognised. What I am doing is                                                                                     dancehall beats in      ROOTS RHYTHMS: The Rudimentals will be at Artscape
   Geers’s mixed-media show,        it. In the apartheid years, it was      “A country that doesn’t          a kind of urban contemporary                                                                                       Reggae in the
Third World Disorder, is his        easier to identify violence          respect its cultural workers,       folk art.                                                                                                          Theatre, a
“most personal ever”, he says,      against an ideological enemy.        that allows its ballet companies       “And again, there is that                                                                                       multimedia show celebrating how reggae has played a
referring to his relationship       Now, artists live in fear and        to close and its painters to        binary thing. Take the word                                                                                        prominent role in the liberation of this country. The
with South Africa, and “focuses     don’t know how to approach           leave, cannot grow. The             ‘f*ck’. If I say ‘f*ck you’, it’s                                                                                  Rudimentals, Azania and Ghetto Youths are up. The show is
on notions of violence and the      violence. They end up                humanising aspect is lost.”         negative. If I say ‘f*ck me’, it’s                                                                                 part of the Speak the Mind Poetry festival. — Karen Rutter
debris of a dysfunctional           castrated,” he said.                    As a South African artist        positive. So in one work I paint
society”.                              “I don’t see many signs of        living and working abroad, he       my face with these words,                                                                                          JOHANNESBURG
   The exhibition includes          hope, from either artists or         said, he is able to contribute      placing myself in the middle of                                                                                    VISUAL ART
photographs of Geers,               politicians.”                        more.                               the extremes,” Geers said.                                                                                         Harun Farocki: Deep Play
including one titled F***face,         His disillusionment with             Geers has attained critical         He has not lost his touch.                                                                                      Where: Johannesburg Art Gallery, Joubert Park
and a wall of traditional ritual    politics and politicians has         success in Europe, with his         Confrontational, smart and                                                                                         When: Until September 4
aprons worn by Ndebele              informed much of his recent          work included in such               critical, there’s no ignoring the                                                                                  OPENING today at 4pm, Harun Farocki’s exhibition consists
women at various stages of          work — and prompted his move         prestigious exhibitions as the      contribution Geers has made —                                                                                      of 12 television screens which analyse a soccer match from
their lives. Geers did the          from South Africa in 1997. He        Venice Biennale, Documenta 11       and continues to make — to the                                                                                     varying perspectives. Expect to see behind-the-scenes
designs and e-mailed them to        now lives in Belgium. An             in Germany, and solo spots in       South African and international      IN YOUR FACE: Kendell Geers as F***face, part of his latest exhibition,       footage of coaches losing their cool and players going rogue.
the women, who beaded them          objector who refused to serve in     London, Turin, Ghent and            art landscape.                       Third World Disorder                                                          — Zingi Mkefa

Many twists in this artist’s tale                                                                                                                                                                                               Gauteng Pale Ya Rona Carnival Closing Concert
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Where: Mofolo Park, Soweto
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When: Today from noon till 10pm

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                BILLED as the Gauteng provincial government’s official
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                kickstart to 2010, the annual carnival is being held in Soweto
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                for the first time. The free concert features a line-up that
Sculptor draws                                                                                                                                                                                                                  includes Wlad Haussa from Algeria, Martinalia from Brazil,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                the Gauteng Jazz Orchestra, Prokid, Jonas Gwangwa,
inspiration for                              DOWN TO THE                                                                                                                                                                        Thandiswa Mazwai and Selaelo Selota. — Gillian Anstey
                                             WIRE: Lindelani
copper works                                 Ngwenya at the
                                             Kim Sacks Gallery
from traditional                             Picture:
weavers, writes                              JAMES OATWAY                                                                                                                                                                       Where: The
Robyn Sassen                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Theatre, Gateway
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When: June 7
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                makes the ’80s

        EDUCED by the regular                                                                                                                                                                                                   cool. After a
        patterns of grass woven                                                                                                                                                                                                 sold-out show
        by rural KwaZulu-Natal                                                                                                                                                                                                  at the same
        women, Lindelani                                                                                                                                                                                                        venue last        RETRO REVIVAL: Trent Duvall, Toby Needham-Clark, Sheeba
Ngwenya, 35, sculpts with                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Deveraux, Bullet Mayfield and Bopsy Bought-Won
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                year, the
copper wire. His technique,                                                                                                                                                                                                     group is back
similar to knitting, in the level                                                                                                                                                                                               with a bombardment of ’80s pop and underground hits from
of robust uniformity achieved,                                                                                                                                                                                                  the likes of Fine Young Cannibals, Depeche Mode and The
is a path he took that digressed                                                                                                                                                                                                Cure. The band is tight, sexy, energetic and is made up of
from sculpting in wood, which                                                                                                                                                                                                   extremely talented musicians. — Shelley Seid
the Maphumulo-born artist
learnt as a small boy from his
   “I wanted to try something

new. I wanted to change craft
into art,” he explains. A
graduate of Durban University
of Technology, Ngwenya draws
his inspiration from his training
as well as his traditional
upbringing. Ngwenya was
taught by Andries Botha — who
earned his reputation for
weaving, knotting and tying
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             shoots wide
together elements that you
might be hard-pressed to
consider legitimate art
materials — but his approach is
more gentle, more precious.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             of the mark
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             SHELLEY SEID
   This has much to do with the

size of his figures. In Making                                                                                                                                                                                                         HE backdrop for
the Invisible Visible, which                                                                                                                                                                                                           Shooting, playwright
opened at the Kim Sacks                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ashwin Singh’s latest
Gallery last weekend, the                                                                                                                                                                                                              one-hander, is the
almost 30 of his small,                                                                                                                                                                                                      story of the social and historical
figurative works represent                                                                                                                                                                                                   circumstances of two cousins,
values, situations and, in some        Ngwenya smiles non-                                                   into gold,” he says grinning.        dimensions but in their                  You might consider the            narrator Jehan Singh and his
cases, gods.                        committally at suggestions that        JOHANNESBURG                      Working without preliminary          implications, contain                 medium of wire looped together       talented football-playing cousin
   “Nomkhubulwana is the            his seems to be a Durban               ART                               sketches, he outlines his            marvellous nuances that speak         too base to describe subtleties,     Ishaan. The show is populated
goddess that gives life to the      aesthetic. “Weaving is about my                                          subject matter in wire, giving       to their subject matter. Consider     but you’d be wrong. Ngwenya’s        by multiple personalities, all
                                                                           Making the invisible visible
earth,” Ngwenya says of three       culture. In my culture, so many                                          life to what was previously          the couples embracing. They           dexterity is phenomenal —            played by Dhaveshan
of his sculptures which bear the    things get twisted together. It is     By: Lindelani Ngwenya             invisible. “It’s like playing        are about trusting intimacy on        Portrait of a Young Girl could       Govender, who provide many
name, referring to traditional      like copper wire is in my veins.”      Where: Kim Sacks Gallery,         music.” This is not an idle          one level, but look at them           be a drawing in pencil, its          laughs. Yet Govender’s
African culture. “This is how          He then offers a throwaway          Parkwood                          metaphor; Ngwenya and his            straight on: you can see their        details are so fine.                 impressive performance cannot
we get food,” he says, indicating   remark about tradition: “We            When: Until June 20               brother Themba, who also has         hearts. “This was                        Ngwenya doesn’t restrict          detract from the fact that the
two larger, more-fantastic          believe that the sun is male; the                                        work on show, are both               unintentional,” Ngwenya says of       himself to making things that        personalities are caricatures
looking figures that are like       earth is female. It was terrible                                         accomplished guitarists.             the heart shapes set in relief in     fit easily into luggage. The         rather than characters. While
something between figures and       for Zulu men to be made to                                                  But there’s more to this sense    the woven layers of wire.             organic wire chandelier in the       they add to the entertainment
plant shapes, reminiscent of the    mine by the whites. This               His work is ecologically          of invisibility and transparency.       The gaps and tears in the          foyer of Constitution Hill is his,   value of the work, a lack of
work of the late Durban-born        technique of mining is               aware; Ngwenya buys his             These wonderfully detailed           figure depicting abuse weren’t        as is a life-size commission for     coherence and focus leaves the
sculptor Peter Schütz, who          extremely disrespectful to the       malleable medium from scrap         little figures, oddly                unintentional, though; the            the gym of the Saxon Boutique        play resembling beads that                ENERGETIC: Dhaveshan Govender
worked in jelutong wood.            land.”                               metal dealers. “I’m turning it      monumental, not in their             figure is extremely powerful.         Hotel in Sandhurst.                  never make it into a string.                      Picture: VAL ADAMSON
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Those limitations present an
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             unfair challenge to Govender

A shiny, happy rainbow nation fantasy                                                                                                                                                                                        although it is the weakness of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             the script that highlights his
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             talent. Govender slips in and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             out of myriad characterisations
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             with ease, assuming different
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             voices, accents and postures,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Cast: Dhaveshan Govender
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Writer and director: Ashwin
ZINGI MKEFA                                                              where bodies in slight                                                                                                                              such as the auntie next door                 Singh
                                     JOHANNESBURG                        silhouette, at first take on                                                                                                                        who loves nothing more than                  Where: Catalina Theatre,

         RESH from another                                               human and animal qualities;                                                                                                                         some good gossip and Uncle                   Wilson’s Wharf
         international tour, this
                                     DANCE                               and the intense Prison Pas de                                                                                                                       John, Ishaan’s football-mad                  When: Thursday to Sunday
         time to France, African     African Footprint                   Deux, performed by Oscar                                                                                                                            dad, hero to the boys until his              until June 13
         Footprint is celebrating    Conceived and directed: Richard     Tsele and Supa Zungu.                                                                                                                               darker side is exposed.
its 10th anniversary.                Loring                                 However, due to the show’s                                                                                                                          The difficulty is figuring out
   The first public performance      Choreographed: Debbie Rakusin       reluctance to delve into the bad                                                                                                                    who writer/director Singh had
of the show was in May 2000.         and David Matamela                  as well as the good things in our                                                                                                                   in mind as the protagonist — is           so many of its theatres dark for
   African Footprint initially       Poetry: Don Mattera                 history, those things that prove                                                                                                                    it recently murdered and newly            such long periods? And why is
presented itself as the answer       Music and lyrics: Dave Pollecutt    what resilient people we are as                                                                                                                     buried Ishan, into whose space            it up to enterprising
theatre-goers had been looking       Costumes: Lindy Joubert             a nation, I was left, both times,                                                                                                                   his cousin enters to clear out            playwrights, directors,
for — a post-apartheid stage                                             feeling as though an optimism                                                                                                                       his belongings? Is it Jehan, who          producers and performers to
                                     Where: The Theatre of
show that told the story of                                              without wisdom, without                                                                                                                             brings the old ’hood to life              assume the risk to entertain
South Africa without making          Marcellus, Emperors Palace          reasoning, was being forced                                                                                                                         through his reminiscences?                what has become a pitifully
some in the audience feel the        When: Until June 20                 upon me.                                                                                                                                            Eventually, it seems that the             dwindling theatre audience?
pain of the past while others                                               I had no choice but to accept                                                                                                                    spotlight settles on Uncle John,             Singh’s idea to stage a soccer
felt guilt.                                                              that this country is wonderful,                                                                                                                     the wife-beating, hard-drinking,          play with a twist was spot-on.
   Told primarily through dance                                          beautiful, full of people of                                                                                                                        bitter victim of apartheid.               With some critical assistance
choreographed by Debbie             suits and flashy cocktail            different races living under one                                                                                                                       By the end of the evening, one         (read development finance), a
Rakusin and David Matamela,         dresses in the Sophiatown era,       rainbow, all happily ever after.                                                                                                                    feels simultaneously cheated              potentially good idea could
poetry written by Don Mattera,      ending with the jeans and               This is problematic.                                                                                                                             out of a well-constructed play            have been translated into a
and music and lyrics by Dave        tackies of urban Kwaito culture.        It tends to suggest that to      BIG SMILES: Thabo Komape and Elizma Wildschutte in African Footprint              Picture: LETTIE FERREIRA      and swept away by the sheer               great script. From the many
Pollecutt, African Footprint          This was my second viewing         look at the bad, to contemplate                                                                                                                     force of Govender’s                       voices in the script, it is clear
starts with humankind’s             of African Footprint. The show,      what it meant for some people                                                                                                                       performance. His boundless                Singh has identified a rich
genesis in the Southern African     with its cast of 17 dancers, four    to go through that kind of pain,      To cut the hardship, the           achieved.                             almost the same as the South         energy and ability to hold the            source of tales that need to be
region.                             singers and six percussionists,      is in some way futile and           difficulty, the racism, the            It is a light, entertaining         Africa I know.                       audience are a rich reward.               told. Those voices are familiar
   With the help of many            has a number of moments that         counter-productive in the ways      violence that gripped this part      show, suitable for the whole            Which is why taking tourists          One has to question what has           and compelling and deserve
costume changes, the dancers        impress. These include the           in which it dredges up the bad      of the continent since 1652,         family — and the visitor from         to this view of South Africa is,     happened to the once vibrant              lives bigger than the fleeting
move from animal skins, to          Genesis opening sequence             old past.                           debases much of the good we’ve       overseas — that is set in a place     at best, weird.                      theatre life in Durban. Why are           caricatures we see in Shooting.

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