Till Death Do Us Part
Janice Gobey, Central Goldfields Art Gallery, Maryborough - Victoria, 14 Feb – 22 Mar 09 Image: courtesy of the artist.
Words by Dorcas Utkovic
(review posted March 17/09)
While bombarded with red-heart chocolate decorations and intoxicated by the ideas associated with love on the 14th day of February, artist Janice Gobey is onto a different vibe. At Goldfields Art Gallery the mood is somber with a body of work that confronts the harsh realities that are equally associated with the ideas that underpin this day.
Gobey was born in South Africa and relocated to Australia about 8 years ago. She has been exhibiting since 1997 and is continuing sturdily. On her profile; she mentions her background in psychology and sociology which feeds her interest in people especially the relationship between men and women.
I got married in 2007 and my wedding gown still hangs in the same suit-cover, on the same hanger with the same marks and smells of one of my biggest days. As I quickly moved my eye from one gown to the next, I wondered what story would accompany my gown. I reminded myself – which was not hard, the reasons why I married the man who was at the foyer of the gallery.
Gobey’s display methods are significantly unsettling; the vintage gowns hanging against the wall reminds one of garments that are poorly cared for or even dehumanized bodies in comparison to the occasion that they represent and her choice of words in the supporting text (fat, balding, biological clock, good catch, etc) suggest the perception of unappealing growth that comes with marriage.
With her magnificent oil paintings with titles such as; I’m loving myself in this dress and My love will transform you , the viewer is transported to the day when the bride to be chose to see the perfect wedding day and to remain hopeful that hers will be a happily ever after.
While others might read the artist’s tone as somewhat an attack on the institution of marriage, I believe her point of view is indicative of the darker side that gets obscured by the glamour of the wedding day. I commend her for her courage and ability to confront this unattractive side of the institution.
Find out more about Janice Gobey on www.janicegobey.com
Yinka Shonibare: Museum of Contemporary Art
Former South African resident Lesley Snow reviews the impressive exhibition by Nigerian British artist Yinka Shonibare - showing at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art until February 1st 2009
(review posted Nov 08)
Yinka Shonibare was born in London in 1962 but moved to Lagos in Nigeria at the age of 3 where he remained until returning to London to study Fine art, first at the Byron Shaw School of Art then at Goldsmith College where he was awarded an MA. Since then he has been a frequent exhibitor at major international exhibitions and museums.
The current exhibition at the MCA is described by the Museum’s director as a ‘real coup’ and a ‘highlight of the MCA’s program’. It would be fairer to add that a major exhibition by an African artist is also long over due.
Anyone attending the exhibition has first of all to suspend any preconceptions they might have about post colonial African art. This show is clever, satirical and piercingly accurate in its interpretation of the darkest period in African history.
In a series of paintings, sculptures and mixed media installations he confronts not only the impacts of colonial occupation on the continent as a whole but the dualism that many Africans confront within themselves, mainly as result of the small but significant diaspora of Africans to Britain – mostly for education.
This duality is illustrated in a series of photographs of himself posed in various periods of British life and times, most notably as Dorian Gray.
His fascination with the Age of Enlightenment and the cultural and intellectual life of the European 18th Century manifests in a range of paintings, photographs and sculptures.
The centre piece for the exhibition - The Scramble for Africa - is a witty sculptural installation but one not without pathos and ambivalence. It depicts the great European powers sitting around the table in the process of dividing Africa amongst themselves. Headless politicians in gaudy suits of cloth manufactured in Europe, cloth which had replaced the booming indigenous textile industries of Asia and Africa with their wonderful variety of patterns, fibers, dyes and techniques.
But something else was gnawing at the back of my mind as I studied this clever, witty and deadly accurate depiction of the enslavement of a continent – where had I seen it before? Then it struck me. I had seen it in the work of Australian Indigenous artists Destiny Deacon and Gordon Hookey.
Link to previous stories on:
Sudanese refugee artist Fathia Balla
Mahmoud Zein Elabdin
Louisa Seton (East Africa) & Barry Sulzman (Namibia)
Zimbabwean stone sculpture
Gabrielle Poole's paintings of Ethiopia's Hamer people
Paintings by Sutueal Bekele Althe (Ethiopia) Joe Malatji (South Africa)
Inspiring potraits of Sudan
Fabric captures African political spirit (POSTED MAY 2008)
'Walala Wasala: The Fabric of African Politics' will be on display at Wollongong City Gallery from 15 February - 4 May. This colourful recording of the history of a continent and its people features 75 textiles from Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Zanzibar.
Walala Wasala focuses on eastern and southern African manufactured textiles, from their evolution as trade textiles in the 19th century to the emergence of Indigenous political parties in the era of decolonization, independence and beyond.
This manufactured textile history is fascinating and complex, reflecting both a vibrant indigenous industry and foreign influences. The textiles of sub-Saharan Africa in particular have served as a canvas for portraying and influencing changing social values, mores, political rivalries, historical and regional ceremonies and community events.
Most of the designs represented in this exhibition are commemorative in nature with subjects such as African heads of State, sporting heroes, international celebrities, religious figures, traditional African themes and essential commodities still denied to most Africans, like clean water, electricity and housing.
Textiles capture the vibrancy and vitality of African cultures as few other media do – they are affordable, accessible, transitory, and reflect the changing face of this vast continent.
This exhibition has been made possible by the loan of works from the Tracey Naughton African Textile Collection and Africans living in Queensland.
Walala Wasala: The Fabric of African Politics will be officially opened on Friday 15 February at 7pm by Dr Diana Wood Conroy, Professor of Visual Arts, University of Wollongong, with a welcome by Eugenia Pyne, member of Wollongong’s Liberian community.
This project is supported by Arts Queensland, Multicultural Affairs Queensland, The African Research Institute LaTrobe University, Melbourne; Baboa Gallery Brisbane, Nyaka Melbourne and Chris Kirkhhoff Photography South Africa.
Sudanese refugee artist Fathia Balla - August 2006
Sudanese refugee artist Fathia Balla will make you consider the raw issues of war and peace in her latest art exhibition - now shoing at Fairfield's SNAP! Gallery in Sydney until 3 August 2006.
Fathia Balla was an established film and television director, painter and writer in Sudan but faces challenges as an artist in her new home in Australia. Since January this year, Ms Balla has been working with Fairfield Community Resource Centre’s art worker Adnan Begic to produce and launch her exhibition ‘Making Peace’ in SNAP! Gallery.
The ‘Making Peace’ exhibition will showcase artworks ranging from oil paintings to installations. One installation features an egg next to a plastic gun, symbolising the opposite ideas of life and death.
“The egg represents the start of creation, the start of life and the future in our children. The gun beside it represents war, danger and a lack of peace. I wanted to show that all this war in our world threatens the future of life; doesn’t give it a chance,” said Ms Balla.
Ms Balla hopes that visitors to the exhibition will be emotionally influenced by her art.
“In my experience, art is the greatest and most effective way to influence deep human emotions, because it is tangible language,” she said, “This is why I have promised myself to use my talents in the arts and filmmaking in a very important invitation to peace.”
She adds, “Peace is the axis of my concerns, and the dreams that are always within me… the question that arises within me is how to create peace in our world, which is shattered daily by the fire of war?”
Ms Balla also hopes to speak to artists and convince them of the urgency of her message.
“I want to say to all artists- filmmakers, painters… it’s very important to put peace in your mind and in the creation of your art. This is the big message that we need in the world now.”
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Mahmoud Zein Elabdin exhibit, August 2006
Sudanese Australian artist Mahmoud Zein Elabdin, who has an exhibition running until 14 August 2006 at Thierry B. Contemporary Art Gallery, Prahran, Victoria, and whose work has recently been acquired by The Australian War Memorial
Pictured at left, the artist (Photo by Sharon Walker of On Location Photography) and at right, Mahmoud's work 'Hot Summer Night'
"It is strange how the familiar can become exotic with distance and time." ...So writes African-Australian artist Mahmoud Zein Elabdin, who after an absence of more than a decade returned to Sudan.
To coincide with the acquisition of his work by the prestigious National Australian War Memorial, Mahmoud is holding an exhibition to celebrate his roots. Mahmoud is the first African-Australian to be collected by the memorial whose collection includes renown Australian painters Sir Sidney Nolan and Arthur Streeton and international artists such as C.R.W. Nevinson, Otto Dix and Paul Nash.
The new paintings draw on images Mahmoud saw on his return to Sudan, such as at the traditional markets of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, where weavers ply their trade and women sell colourful cloth. It also draws on architectural decorations and ancient symbols.
His adult observations of what had been his childhood form the core of his new work at an exhibition at Thierry B. Conetmporary Art Gallery in Prahran, Victoria.
Mahmoud said. “Africa had become a continent I felt I had never explored and I was a foreigner. The things I grew up with were a mystery and held a fascination that I could barely contain. It was like seeing things for the first time.”
Mahmoud left Sudan in 1995 and lived for several years in Cairo, Eqypt before being granted United Nations refugee status to migrate to Australia in 2001.
“After an absence of more than a decade, my homeland in Africa has become like a continent unexplored and I am a foreigner. The things I grew up with are now a mystery and hold a fascination that I can barely contain.”
Mahmoud looked at the ordinary and was inspired.
“I felt like I was looking on wonderous artworks in the decorations on the faces of the Sudanese, their homes, their gatehouses, their furniture and humble handicrafts,” he said.
“The traditional markets with beaded trinkets, colourful gourds and intricate ebony sculptures were a goldmine of artistic inspiration.
“It was like looking at the everyday items from my past for the first time.
“Like the traditional Sudanese nomads who carry few possessions but maintain their memories and culture, I have carried my past into my future in this exhibition.
“In a full circle, I have returned to my roots and returned back to Australia carrying the inspiration my past has given me.
“Strangely, I discovered that I didn’t realise what I had until it was beyond my reach.”
To contact Mahmoud, please email: email@example.com
Samuel Fosso’s accidental rise to fame - March 2006
The fascinating work of African self-portrait artist Samuel Fosso is to be featured in an exhibition at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, Thursday 23 March to Sunday 21 May, 2006. Fosso will also speak at the exhibition.
From small African studio to international recognition...
As a precocious 13-year-old Fosso started his own photographic studio in Bangui, Central African Republic. While working to deliver "fast" prints for his clients, even with incomplete rolls of film, Fosso began to use otherwise wasted negatives to photograph himself. At night in his studio he adopted bizarre poses, drawing on characters from both popular culture and his own life. But it was a play with serious overtones, reflecting on the sociological condition of 'African-ness' and issues of African sense of self-identity. His combination of a keen intelligence and a lightness of touch have afforded him a unique position in African photography. Twenty-five years on, his self portraits have now earned him international acclaim though he still prefers to work in his studio in Bangui (even when Vogue gave him a fashion photography assignment, he had the expensive haute couture shipped to his studio!) His first big trip outside Africa will be to Sydney for the exhibition of his works as part of “Masquerade”. You can visit the exhibition and hear Fosso speak at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Circular Quay, The Rocks - details on africanOz What's On page. Another wonderful African artist featured at the exhibition is South African Tracey Rose. You can read more about her on South Africa's www.artthrob.co.za website.
Pictured (above): Samuel Fosso - 'The Chief, the one who sold Africa to the colonialists' 1997, chromogenic print, 105 x 105cm. Courtesy of Jean-Marc Patras, Paris, and Jack Shainman Gallery,
New York. (c) the artist
Sudan photo exhibit March 2006
An important exhibition of work by photojournalists on the plight of Sudanese refugees - 'Sudan: Waiting for the Future' - will be on at Brisbane Powerhouse in March and April 2006. The Sudanese refugee community is one of Australia's fastest growing ethnic communities. The exhibition provides valuable insight into the lives of people forced to flee the world’s longest running civil war in Sudan. It focuses on refugees based in Kakuma refugee camp (in northern Kenya).
The exhibition’s works include images from Australian photojournalist and Young Australian of the Year for Victoria Matthew Albert – who travelled in Sudan and Kenya in late 2004 (see the interview with Matthew at africanOz Features page.) Other photojournalists to feature work at the exhibition are Alysia Olglesby, photo editor of America’s Columbia Dispatch newspaper and Argentinian photographer Justo, who works with Kenya’s leading newspaper, the East African Standard.
For more information on the free exhibit, please see Brisbane Powerhouse website. Also see Sudanese Online Research Association website.
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The desire to paint Africa - Oct 2005
The Art of Africa exhibition is on at Four Walls Gallery until Sat 2 Oct (2005) at 46 Sailors Bay Road, Northbridge, Sydney (Ph 02 9967 8326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). It features some lovely paintings by Australian artist Em Gee, including Moroccan Lady in Blue (left) and Elephant Walk (right).
Em's interest in Africa began with her interest in the spirit of nature - when she was growing up on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. She says, “I drove my Dad crazy every time we went for a Sunday drive and he would look behind the seat to the floor where I sat, and upon seeing all the things I had collected: shells, rocks, leaves etc, he would say 'Do you really need those'?”
Em's fascination with natural beauty continued as she grew up, studied art, married, had children. In her paintings, there remains an intricate connection between the endangered cultures she paints and the beauty of their lands.
“The beautiful spirit of the African land flows through these people and we feel as though we are seeing life through their eyes,” she says.
She hopes her paintings will convey this spirit to people, and inspire them to “save this beauty and culture for our children and grandchildren” as it is “something that we all can sometimes just take for granted”.
You can contact Em Gee at email@example.com
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Photographic Art captures African spirit - July 2005
Three lovely new Africa photo exhibits are now running in Sydney's Eastern suburbs - each of them focussing on the landscapes and cultures of Africa. Out of Africa - an exhibition of fine art photography by Louisa Seton, a Kenyan artist now based in Australia (see photo at right) - focuses on East Africa, while Elements - an exciting new exhibit by Barry Salzman (see photo at left) - focuses on the landscapes & cultures of Namibia. Meanwhile Max Pam's Zanzibar is also running until early July in Wooloomooloo.
Elements is Barry Salzman’s first exhibition after a career transition from international corporate executive in New York City to photographer in his new home of Sydney. Many of the images were photographed in one of the most remote camps in Africa, Sera Cafema, in the extreme North West of Namibia at the border with Angola, home only to a small nomadic group of the indigenous Himba people. Barry says, "The role of each of the elements in our very survival is often lost to us or taken for granted in our urban lives. However, in the stark emptiness of remote desert lands, one is humbled by their raw presence." Uniquely, Barry's photographs are printed on archival silver metallic paper, adding to their striking depth. For more on Barry’s recent work, see www.barrysalzman.net. You can see the exhibition until 3 July at The Art Lounge Cafe, 275 Arden St, Coogee, Wed-Sun, 8am-4pm. Ph 9665 2500.
Out of Africa, an exhibition of fine art photography by Louisa Seton reveals some of Louisa's unique tribal portraits capturing the elegance and spirit of African people. Her black and white images provide an intimacy and clarity. You can see a preview of
Louisa's stunning photographs on her website www.LSimages.com.au. Her exhibition will be on at Bondi pavilion gallery, Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi beach, 21 June - 2 July 10-5pm.
Launch night Thursday 23rd June 6-9pm.
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African Earth Inspires Vivid Colours - 2005
"I immersed myself in this raw environment - dancing in goatskins with the tribe by the light of the full moon, eating sorghum, goat and fresh honey from the hive, but most of all, grinding pigment for my paintings that I gathered from the earth at my feet..." Artist Gabrielle Pool
The Winyarki exhibition (now running in Sydney) is a stunning series of paintings by Australian artist Gabrielle Pool. Her paintings are the result of an invitation by the National Geographic's Stuart McCloud to live and paint with the nomadic Hamer tribe in Winyarki Village, in southern Ethiopia for five weeks at the end of 2004. "(It's ) a personal visual diary of five wild weeks," says Gabrielle who encountered a way of life completely different to anything she had experienced. "Elders would invite you to their huts for morning coffee and then spray mouthfuls of it in your face as they recite their morning blessings," says Gabrielle. But despite the differences, she entirely immersed herself in the tribe’s traditions and daily life - producing some striking, earthy artwork. Her oils and mixed media artworks will hang alongside Stuart McCloud’s photographs of Winyarki Village at Touch Galleries, 1-5 Hickson Road, The Rocks. Ph: (02) 9252 1000.
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Powerful Emotions Set in Zimbabwe Stone - 2005
Australians have a rare opportunity to view and purchase high quality Zimbabwean stone sculptures at the exhibition Passion of Stone now on in Sydney.
Recently, africanOz spoke with three people involved in the exhibition: visiting Zimbabwe artist Thomas Zinyeka; head of Zimbabwe's prestigious Ambassador art gallery Newman Chiadzwa; and exhibition organiser, Malcolm Dunn.
We found that, while the people of Zimbabwe labour under the weight of increasing social disadvantage, their ancient art of stone sculpture endures...
“Stone sculptures can bring light to people more than other mediums. You can feel the power, the feeling. It doesn’t rot or expire. It stays there for millions of years,” says Zimbabwe-based artist Thomas Zinyeka - whose work is now on show at the ‘Passion of Stone’ exhibition at The Rocks in Sydney.
Stone sculpture is so intrinsic to Zimbabwe that even the country's name translates to ‘house of stone’ in the local Shona language. It has been a part of the country's history for hundreds of years - an achievement immortalised in the Great Zimbabwe ruins (see Uni of Singapore site for more on this amazing creation).
Since that time it has remained a popular form of self-expression, particularly during trying political times when there are few other avenues for creative expression. In recent years, complex social upheavals in Zimbabwe have led many artists to turn their emotions 'into stone', a development that has led to some powerful new sculptures.
At the same time, artists are struggling with the effects of political change in Zimbabwe - particularly the country's growing international isolation - which means that few artists are able to exhibit or make a living from their work. According to Head of Zimbabwe’s Ambassador Art Gallery Newman Chiadzwa, “Artists are making powerful and beautiful pieces - the talent in the country is enormous - but because of the drop in tourism they are unable to sell their work.”
This means many talented artists can't sustain their unique craft and need to turn to other occupations to put 'bread on the table'.
Another problem they face is the tragic growth of AIDS in the country. In his own position as a gallery director Mr Chiadwa has seen many artists affected by the pandemic. “Really I’m crying with the situation in Zimbabwe,” he says. Even visiting artist Thomas Zinyeka has lost close family members to the disease - a loss reflected in his moving sculptures.
The impact of AIDS is what inspired Australian Zimbabwean businessman Malcolm Dunn and his colleagues to organise ‘Passion of Stone’. All proceeds from the exhibition go to the Sydney-based Baobab Tree of Life project, supporting AIDs victims and their families in Zimbabwe. "AIDS is like a time bomb in Zimbabwe," says Malcolm, "Already there are children who are breadwinners supporting other children. With the project, we decided 'Forget about the politics - How do we get to people in need?'"
Together with colleagues, they decided to help start a decidated orphanage and other important projects in Zimbabwe. As for using stone sculptures for fundraising - it was an obvious choice for Malcolm who was born and grew up in Zimbabwe. "I've always loved Zimbabwe's expressive artwork," he says... And Looking at some of the sculptures in Passion of Stone, it's not hard to see why.
You can visit the exhibition 'Passion of Stone', 12-30 May at Sydney's Touch Galleries 1-5 Hickson Road, The Rocks, ph (02) 9252 1000. Proceeds go to the Baobab Tree of Life project caring for AIDS victims and their families in Zimbabwe.
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Silent But Strong Voices - March 2005
Two inspiring artists, Joe Malatji from South Africa and Sutueal Bekele Althe from Ethiopia, will have their work featured at the Silent Voices exhibition at Manningham Gallery in Victoria - Wednesday 16 March to Saturday 9 April 2005. The exhibition, presented in association with Multicultural Arts Victoria and the Victorian Multicultural Commission, is one of many events and exhibitions in Melbourne for Cultural Diversity Week.
Joe Malatji, born in Mahlabatse, South Africa in 1952, uses his experience as a refugee in Botswana to express his cultural roots.
“These eyes we so much take for granted are a gateway to the miracle of colours we can find ourselves in,” he said.
His powerful paintings (see picture, below, right, 'Rosa and Child 1', acrylic on
canvas) are arresting, haunting, emotionally charged and technically assured in their ability to translate the nature of survival and love in South Africa and the world.
Sutueal Bekele Althe, born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1974, is influenced by traditional Ethiopian mosaic art and the visual energy of the modern cubist movement - (see picture above, right, 'Love Me & I Will', oil
on canvas). Sutueal says, “When I sit in front of the plain canvas many thoughts come to my mind, some positive and some negative.
“My paintings are an exploration of my identity and culture. I paint about the honesty of love, the generosity of it, the selfishness of it and how the idea of love can be interpreted by others.”
He says, “…All the earth-toned colours symbolise the inner meaning of our being.”
All works exhibited are for sale with five percent of the earnings going to charities chosen by the artists - the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Salvation Army for Street Kids. A public program, including an artist floortalk and children’s activity day, will run in conjunction with the exhibition. For details about the exhibition and the public program contact Manningham Gallery on 9840 9367 or visit www.manningham.vic.gov.au. The Gallery is located at the Manningham Council offices, 699 Doncaster Road, Doncaster 3108. The Manningham Gallery is open Tuesday to Friday 11am-5pm and Saturday 2pm-5pm.
For details about Celebrate Our Cultural Diversity Week in Victoria, visit www.culturaldiversity.vic.gov.au
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Picture credits: Artwork by Joe Malatji from South Africa - 'Rosa and Child 1', acrylic on canvas (below right) and Sutueal Bekele Althe from Ethiopia - 'Love Me & I Will', oil
on canvas (above right). With thanks to Manningham City Council
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A moving image on Sudan featured recently in Australian exhibitions is Pieta (Darfur) by Australian-based artist AñA Wojak which won the 2004 Blake Prize for Religious Art. AñA was influenced by press coverage on the conflict. Her picture shows men mourning a child who has died in a refugee camp. More details on www.sirhermannblackgallery.com site.
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Africanoz Art Archives - Previous stories & images
African Colours - World wide art links & essays
Suaga Collection - Australian based African mask collection with extensive cultural information
Smithsonian Musuem of African Art - Browse online info & exhibits. Also see their fascinating Beaded Splendour site on African beadmaking
EthiopiaLives.net - 19 Ethiopians turn their cameras onto their own lives
Ashanti Gold Weights - feature from Australia's ANU site.
Australian Museum Online Africa collection