Archive: Issue No. 111, November 2006

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Roderick Sauls, Kemang Wa-Lehulere and Garth Erasmus


A detail of a Dan Halter map piece


Joel Mpah Dooh at Afronova


� Linda Givon at the Goodman Gallery party


Wednesday, September 6

Cape Town's high season has generally been seen to begin around November, when the weather begins to be more reliably hot, and the film companies and visitors from the north move into town, but this month, there are so many good openings on the calendar that one wonders if September 1 is not going to mark the beginning of the new season in future. But perhaps it's just that TRANS CAPE was supposed to happen this month.

On Monday, seven of Cape Town's most well known black artists, Vuyile Voyiya, Roderick Sauls, Sipho Hlati, Garth Erasmus, Kemang wa Lehulere, Mgcineni Sobopha and Randolph Hartzenberg opened at the AVA in 'Amajita in Conversation' curated by the love him/hate him curator Thembinkosi Goniwe. Yesterday, William Scarbrough's intense dissection of the Atalanta Child Murders case, 'Reclamation', opened at Michaelis (more about those shows in Reviews) and tonight Dan Halter opens at Jo˜ao Ferreira with 'Take Me to Your Leader'.

Although these shows are stylistically very different, each emanates from the lived experience of the artists concerned - the Amajita - the 'gents', reflect on life in Cape Town, Scarbrough investigates an old and horrifying serial killer case which transfixed him as a child, watching TV, and Halter, brought up in Zimbabwe, produces 'Take Me to Your Leader', a fine and coherent body of work in which the craziness that has beset his homeland finds itself reflected in the artist's work. Maps of Zimbabwe are cut and woven with strips bearing the names of the white farmers who have been chased off the land, so the delicate process of memorialisation disrupts the geographic information which is the normal function of the maps.

A pool table stands with its feet covered by mounds of silver coins - and we learn that all of the hundreds of coins added together are now equal in value to R2 - the cost of a single pool game. On a wooden veneered board, using the kind of aesthetic of the golf club award and the mine social committee, Halter devises a typeface for a revolution - with letters cut from matchboxes, or formed from glued matchsticks.

Wednesday, September 13

At the Bell-Roberts Gallery tonight, Lyndi Sales' '1 in 11 000 000 chances' is about fate, and probabilities, and the still unresolved accident in which the aircraft Helderberg crashed into the sea in November 1987. Sales' father was one of those who died in the crash. One of the most successful series on the show are a number of small works which poignantly combine intricately laser cut images of text about the crash in seaweed-like forms with symbols of chance, like playing cards.

Friday, September 15

The growing interaction between the art world of South Africa and the rest of Africa was the theme of the latest Art South Africa. Michael Stevenson recently showed four such artists on 'Distant Relatives, Relative Distance' and here in Johannesburg, where I have come for the weekend, Henri Vergon's new gallery, Afronova, located in what was once the Yard of Ale restaurant opposite the Market Theatre, is having the first solo show in this country of Joel Mpah Dooh. Last time I saw Joel it was in the village house where he lives and works some thirty minutes north of Doula, Cameroon, so it's good to see him here again in Jo'burg, showing his lively mixed media collages.

Sunday, September 17

Undoubtedly the best known gallery in Africa, the Goodman celebrates its 40th birthday tonight - and as gallerist Linda Givon turned 70 earlier this year (hard to believe) it's a double celebration. The deli-restaurant Tortellini d'Oro in Illovo has been booked out for the occasion, and the Goodman Gallery people and the gallery artists are there in force - with these days of an incessant round of international art events, it's unusual that they are all in town - well, I don't see Tracey Rose - but William Kentridge is here, Norman Catherine, whose latest show opened at the Goodman yesterday, Robert Hodgins, Penny Siopis, Colin Richards, Sam Nhlengethwa, Hentie van der Merwe, Debbie Bell, Clive van den Berg, Pat Mautloa. Also here are David Koloane, and Bongi Dhlomo.

Accolades to Linda and the gallery are paid to Linda by GG stalwart Neil Dundas, always a warm and insightful presence in the gallery, and then Linda takes the mike and announces that the Goodman Gallery prize for 2006 has been awarded to - this writer! I am totally astonished by this turn of events. A bit overcome, actually. The award is given not only for the artist's work, but also for long standing service to the art community. I can only thank Linda and all the Goodman Gallery people for all their support in my work down the years.

Monday, November 17

As I'm checking in to come back to Cape Town, at the head of an impatient queue, my phone rings. A London number. Better take the call. It's Brian Muller, publisher of Contemporary magazine, who are running a profile article on my work this month. They would like me to send possible images for use on the cover. Can I send them images by the end of the day?

Post Script

And on that high note I am going to announce a sabbatical from writing this diary for a while. Life is too hectic altogether. My thanks to all who have persevered in reading what must often be terribly boring day to day stuff for so many years.

Would-be diary writers are invited to send their names to, and we will try running one-off diaries of a one-month period to suitable applicants. Try your hand. Could be fun. Ciao.