Marikana rising: a cultural response

2012-11-10 18:25

Mine workers, capitalism and police brutality are trending in South African culture as artists continue to respond to the galvanising images of police opening fire on miners at Marikana.

“Miners are waiting for justice. Workers are waiting for a living wage,” writes artist Faith47 of her graffiti series The Long Wait.

The series first appeared on the streets of Joburg and this week entered the gallery space, at David Krut, in her debut solo show, Fragments of Burnt History.

Based on photos of workers by Alexia Webster, her figures drip with defeat.

At Gallery MOMO, Blessing Ngobeni’s display of powerful mixed-media paintings, On This Earth, kicks up platinum dust.

One work features a wall of miners’ bodies and Julius Malema rising like a vampire.

Sindiso Nyoni, a graphic designer whose Protect & Serve was the first piece of Marikana art to hit the internet, says: “I saw the images and that night put pen to paper.”

It features a hair-raising image of a police officer grinning through a balaclava.

Just days after photojournalist Greg Marinovich revealed his forensic essay on the killings, his work was shown in an exhibition called Outsider, where Kudzanai Chiurai presented a piece called There’s a Dead Miner in My Garden.

Mining themes have also flowered in music. At the Soweto Theatre last week, Themba Mkhize and Nokukhanya Dlamini addressed Marikana before performing Miriam Makeba’s Gauteng – the story of men who disappear in search of gold.

Jazz funk unit The Brother Moves On this week called up the history of “the filthy yellow rock” with a new track called Good Times, the tale of a miner who visits a shebeen. Listen to Good Times here.

A plaintive folk track called Marikana has been released by vocalist Gareth Smit. It reflects the tone of A Poem on the Unending Hurt of Marikana by Ari Sitas, which has spread across the internet.

Spoken word has raised a fist in a track called Blood Shed of the Innocent by a collective of poets and rappers called Soundz of the South, or SOS. Listen to Blood Shed of the Innocent here.

And the notorious Kalahari Surfers today release their newest protest track, Many Are Afraid.

The unsettling electronic composition is underscored by video art featuring footage of the massacre.

Big-picture work is also under way. Miners Shut Down is an internationally funded feature documentary on the mining industry by Rehad Desai.

“We were already filming at Lonmin in the weeks before,” he says. “With the shootings, we found our story, one that tragically reflects a larger history of state, capital and workers.”

Visuals of the massacre play out in the film’s preview, released today.

As the 1976 image of Hector Pieterson became a kind of Pietà in South African iconography, bodies falling in a rain of bullets are etching themselves in our collective cultural memory.

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