Artists’ views on SA culture

2011-02-02 00:00

ROOTED in cultural politics, specifically ways in which artists respond to and reflect concerns ranging from globalisation and economic orders to changing identities, Positions examines the work of eighteen contemporary artists and art collectives in South Africa through an absorbing combination of interviews and critical comment.

To illustrate how porous are the boundaries between current art practices, the selection includes cartoonists, poets, scriptwriters, fine artists, performance artists and architects. The glue holding this diverse grouping together is that their work is chiefly in public arenas and frequently involves spectacle and even provocation in its expression. Clues to the content of the work come in introductory passages which talk about shifts in meaning in people’s culture and the “nature of cultural production in relation to power”.

Issues of transgression of acceptable bounds of depiction are tackled in several of the essays. The authors and artists concerned engage directly and forthrightly with conflicts in South African culture, taking different positions along the way. Writer and director Paul Grootboom, for example, indicates that he is attempting to rework his play Interracial in such a way that accusations of racism might be deflected, while retaining the intensity of emotion and discomfort which it has generated. The essay on the work of cartoonist Zapiro draws attention to the implications of South African newspaper readership being largely in the middle and upper income brackets; the radical rap­poetry of Lesego Rampolokeng uses vivid and visceral imagery to condemn aspects of the social order; and starkly contrasting pictures are presented of threatening black masculinity and Afrikaner male tensions around cultural involvement. The tricky question of who holds power in performance art is raised and the inescapably difficult matter of whose is the authoritative voice in art, referred to as “the mechanics of control”, permeates the essays.

The literal exercise of power is observed in certain of Guy Tillim’s fine photographs, the power of conventional forms of dance and how this might be challenged is debated, and the thorny matter of artists engaging with cultures other than their own and the attendant challenge of authenticity is raised. The anthology does this skilfully by focusing on works which aim to transport their audiences beyond the confines of convention.

Although a specialised book, it is precisely because it covers different art forms that its appeal should be broad and extend to all with an interest in relationships between culture, society and politics.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.