Archives for category: artworks

kingpin - White masks seriesThe exhibition, Rethinking Kakotopia, is based on a premise that transgressive visual interpretation of kakotopia should, and sometimes does, play an important role in creating awareness of a crisis of exclusion and violence in the world today.

Literature describes a kakotopian society as one where the citizens live in a dehumanised state, and in fear and suspicion of the outside world and each other.

I contributed three works, from the White Masks series, that picture the grotesque fall-out of the dystopian paranoia of hegemonic agency under threat.

The observer

The Orator hite masksRethinking Kakotopia is on at University of Johannesburg Gallery until 4 Oct 2017.

Artists include: Diane Victor, Vusi Beauchamp, Kim Berman, Conrad Botes, Paul Emmanuel, Gordon Froud, Pauline Gutter, Setlamorago Mashilo, Collen Maswanganyi and Collin Cole. Curated by Derek Zietsman.



BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection

BISM, a limited edition book, hand made and curated by Belinda Blignaut as part of the exhibition A SHOT TO THE ARSE (2012) was recently included on Booknesses: Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection, held at University of Johannesburg Art Gallery and ran from 25 March till 5 May 2017.

BISM, served as part document, part manifesto to A SHOT TO THE ARSE, and includes artifacts, remnants and a number of signed original works by some of the participating artists.

BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection

My contribution to BISM were 10 different pencil and gouache altered photographic print on cotton paper for each of the 10 limited edition copies, and sheet music from my work Die lied van jong Suid Afrika

BISM, Artists’ Books from the Jack Ginsberg Collection curated by Belinda Blignaut incl. work by Richardt Strydom

A SHOT TO THE ARSE, also curated by Blignaut, included works by Stuart Bird, Belinda Blignaut, Jan-Henri Booyens, Breinskade, Kris Canavan, Steven Cohen, Jesse Darling, Simmi Dullay, Ediblspaceships, Kendell Geers, Gabrielle Goliath, Dean Hutton, Jimmy Kipple Sound, Christian Nerf, Panga Management, Daniel Rourke, Athi-Patra Ruga, Wilhelm Saayman, Richardt Strydom, Linda Stupart, David Tallis, James Webb, Vanskrum, Konrad Welz, and Roger Young.

See also: artist book by Richardt Strydom and Jaco Burger, Ad Hominem.

Drome is ook wonde

KD: Why are you so interested in the identity of male Afrikaners? What is so special about it?

RS: Afrikaners’ claim to racial and cultural superiority has been the most obvious, but enduring cultural fallacy with which I grew up. In the early 20th Century there was a systematic white-wash of Afrikaners’ settler history. The recorded and inevitable miscegenation among early settlers (Volksvaders) was the biggest taboo and was suppressed in official historical accounts and more often omitted from family trees. Afrikaners are colonial settlers but somehow insist on laying claim to duel ‘citizenship’ – on the one hand claiming entitlement to an African birthright and ownership, but on the other unwilling to give up their sense of supposed European superiority.

For me it’s an identity that makes for an interesting case-study and I can use myself as subject or starting point of investigation. Afrikaner masculinity is hegemonic in its whiteness, but at the same time it is a post-mastery whiteness, and also an African whiteness.

Whiteness takes its own agency for grated because its pervasiveness makes it invisible to itself. In this context all forms of identity remain almost tangibly political, and all the other aspects that I’m interested such as agency, body politics and the abject also comes into play.

KD: How would you describe the identity of male Afrikaners? How has it been changing over the years?

RS: Its in-group members, who were drunk on staunch Calvinism and a false sense of persecution and self-importance, had always strictly policed the Afrikaner male identity. The current conservative backlash that is besetting erstwhile traditional Afrikaner public institution, like NWU’s Potchefstoom campus, is in my opinion an indication that an entrenched rearguard of middle-aged Afrikaner men suddenly realized that their phallocentric privilege had become deflated. The barracking of old bastions with mothballed ideologies is exposing a deep-rooted fear of restitution. The cultural impotence suffered by this rearguard is currently manifesting in desperate attempts of self-interest that entail the debilitating bureaucratizing of said institutions and long overdue transformation processes, the policing and censure of independent thought and the malicious intimidation and victimization of dissenters.

I find it disparaging that this should still be the case 20 years after liberation – but not at all surprising. It echoes the attitudes and actions of the Afrikaner henchmen towards dissenters in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it became clear that a change in the status quo was inevitable. By actively subverting restitution and transformation processes, many of yesterday’s henchmen managed to hang on and are today still in the same positions of power, and are the motivating force behind the rearguard’s desperate backlash.

Fortunately, since 1994 the triumph of democratic society and a constitution that prohibits discrimination on grounds including race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth has liberated people to question and challenge dogmatic cultural institutions and assumptions. There are many younger Afrikaner men and women who are establishing and articulating their own gender and national identities outside of the thought prison of the Afrikaner rearguard.

Dubul KD: How do you feel as a part of this community?

RS: I would like to see myself as part of a larger South African and African community, and to do that I need to disavow most of the staunch dogmas that inform Afrikaner identity.

Being part of the white Afrikaner community, and its particular history, however has made me become more aware of the ways in which prejudice and bias influence the ways we see others and how privilege can make one blind to the injustices meted out to others.

I find the fact that the majority of white South Africans can claim never to have benefited from 300 years of colonial oppression as well as apartheid completely incredulous. But, the point is – all whites here have benefitted from our colonial history, which continued throughout apartheid and up to the present. And whites are still privileged by that history. As long as we have not yet arrived at the postcolonial proper, that history will continue to dominate the present.

KD: What aspects of the male Afrikaners‘ identity do you want to show in your photographs and why?

RS: I always work at home in my own living room, so my private domestic environment becomes the stage where these isolated performances are captured as still images – relics if you like.

I’m interested in the tension between private performance and public image. I want to show an identity in slippage.

KD: Why did you choose this particular subject? Do you rather use your personal experience and memories or rather the collective experience of Afrikaners in your art?

RS: It was an evolution of sorts. When I started art school in 1990 Resistance Art was at its zenith. South African Resistance Art was a socio-political and cultural response to state oppression. During the 1980s much of it was suppressed and many of the artists faced constant harassment or censure. By the start of the 1990s the liberation movements in Eastern Europe were felt here as well. The then president PW Botha of apartheid `South Africa was ousted in a soft coup – and the journey to democracy began. With this everything that was suppressed came into the open. Resistance Art expressed that liberation and had a profound influence on me.

Since then I’ve had an interest in art that was cognisant of its socio-political and cultural context. I draw inspiration from my surroundings and social interactions, so my current location at NWU in Potchefstroom, the institutional culture and weltanschauung here has been the impetus behind much of the body of work between 2009 and 2013. It was a way for me to make sense of my surroundings and my personal relation and position towards it. The last series to speak directly to this is called The Sleep of Reason Begets Monsters. This series consists of life-sized portraits depicting sleeping male figures. The title (in altered form) refers to the original Francisco Goya etching depicting a sleeping man – oblivious, but about to be overcome by his nightmares. Goya’s work is part of his Los caprichos-series, has been described as a “merciless commentary on social, political, and religious hypocrisy”. In my depictions there are only white men, as sleeping subjects, no nightmares or monsters tormenting them – in this epoch in which the author has long since been declared dead – these apparitions can now only exist in the mind of the viewer.

Sleep 01


sleep 03

Bleek_DigitalCatalogue-67More recently I’ve started to explore my personal archive of memories and experiences – restaging and re-performing some of these. I’ve also moved away from the Afrikaner per se and started looking more at whiteness and masculinity as a set of complex relationships that involves aspects such as agency and social contract.

The Dwang-portraits, for example, are informed by a personal childhood memory. Although ostensibly erotic, these images conjure up the unpleasant experience of public medical examinations administered by state doctors that pre-adolescent boys in state schools had to undergo during the 1980s. By replacing the model with an adult male, these works question issues of agency and complicity.

KD: What are the aims of your photographs? What do you want to tell the audience? Are the photographs supposed to serve the common good or serve you in any way?

RS: For me the photographs are documents of a personal exorcism – a process of working through, and letting go of my inherited identity baggage. I hope that the images offer the viewer an alternative to hegemonic representation and facilitate the discourse around post-apartheid and postcolonial white masculinity – in a way provide different ways of being.

KD: I think you’re brutally honest in your art. Aren’t you too harsh, blunt in representing Afrikaners‘ identity in your artworks?

RS: I believe that radical repositioning calls for candid responses. Having said that, my images are informed by deliberate intertextual relationships that draw on specific visual traditions. So when I say candid, it is in reference to photography as medium and the way it is popularly received.

The proverbial ‘person on the street’ doesn’t tend to associate violence with the performance of gender or identity – but there is a certain exertion to Afrikaner masculinity that is culturally informed and sanctioned. The coercion to fit in, and to be a man, often manifests violently in Afrikaner culture. A very recent example is a murder case currently tried in a regional court in a town called Vereeniging (translated: Unity) involving the brutal death of a teenager, Raymond Buys, at a so-called bootcamp. The young man’s parents claimed to have sent him to the camp to make a better man of him. Buys died after being tortured for not being tough enough. These kinds of atrocities are committed because Afrikaner men believe it is their right and duty to uphold this kind of cultural chauvinism.

Related to this and other similar incidents is a video work called Dwang/oudisie  #2 (Jeugweerbaar) [translated: under coercion/audition (youth preparedness)]. This video piece addresses the notion of cultural masochism. Hegemonic cultural practices are often perceived to be inescapable and may lead to an internal masochistic conflict between belonging and dissent. A young adolescent is incapable to perform the physical challenges expected of him. His personal motivational laments become a mantra of his fated desperation and failure. The original audio and visuals are taken from television documentaries.

jeugweerbaarKD: You’re showing rather unpleasant experiences, like rape, in the photographs. Is it difficult to convince people to take part in such a project?

RS: I always discuss my ideas with potential models. Some of images and video pieces can be very violating – such as the video piece Dwang/oudisie #1 (translated: under coercion/audition). The soundtrack consists of interviews taken from an illicitly downloaded amateur porn film in which young Afrikaans men audition for roles. In broken English and with strong Afrikaans accents the young men discuss their sexual encounters, preferences and taboos. Headshots of different young men (my own models) being examined in the manner of public school medicals of the apartheid era overlays the sound snippets. The juxtaposition of visuals and audio presents a probing examination of the manner in which male Afrikaner sexuality is performed.

There have been people who have declined to be part of my work – and I respect that. At the same time I would prefer not to unwittingly include somebody whose views oppose what I’m trying to express.

Dwang OudisieKD: Who/what is your greatest inspiration?

RS: Currently I find great impetus from this answer by the artist Barbara Kruger on the question ‘what must change?’

“Everything that makes the world a more dangerous, greedy, power-abusing, toxic, tragic place: torture, arrogance, war, road rage, imperiousness, envy, belief without doubt, racism, sexism, triumphalism, the pathologies of surveillance, disease, snark, drought, earthquakes and the love of guns. Stuff like that…”


This is an edited transcript of an interview with Karolina Drejerska for Afryka.Org published online earlier this year (19-01-2015). Original Polish version here

I have since left the employment of NWU.

I’m fortunate to have a number of works included on Performing Wo/Man, an exhibition curated by Derek Zietsman, focusing on gender identity in post-apartheid South African art.

The exhibition aims to explore how a changing post-apartheid socio-political environment is causing South African men and women to create new conceptions of identity, and to comment on how South Africans are breaking down previously imposed and preconceived identities.

“Identity theorists, such as Stuart Hall and Butler, contend that identities are not something which already exists, but a construct that undergoes constant transformation, a fluid variable which shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times,” says Zietsman.

The exhibition therefore visually investigates, explores and comments on issues such as: inter alia; the historic and contemporary construction of South African identities; masculinity; femininity; patriarchal hegemony; sexual identity; social identity; racial identity; social expectations for post-apartheid gender performativity; political and social change and its effects on gender performativity; rape and violence in South Africa; and abuses of power by role models and politicians.

The artists participating in Performing Wo/Man are Bambo Sibiya, Bevan de Wet, Christiaan Diedericks, Collin Cole, Derek Zietsman, Diane Victor, Gordon Froud, Karin Preller, Grace da Costa, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Paul Molete, Richardt Strydom, Robert Hamblin, Sarah Ballam, Sybrand Wiechers, Tanisha Bhana and Yannis Generalis.

Portret-van-‘n-jong-man_13The exhibition presented by University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture at the UJ Art Gallery runs from Wednesday, 6 August to Wednesday, 10 September 2014.

(Images: Top – Palpation, 2014. Bottom – Portret van ’n jong man #13, 2014)

Makwateng seedbomb 1 May #2
Makwateng seedbomb 1 May #2

Landscape experiments

These are experiments that that go along with practice based research articles as a means to explore visual responses to theoretical arguments.

The gifs are in a response to an article that looks at the use of the picturesque by colonial artists as a means of framing the foreign landscape and how such practices inform the relationship between notions of landscape

The gifs depict the action of seed-bombing, which is a form of guerrilla gardening, here enacted on the site of what was once Makweteng – an area of pre-apartheid forced removals, that is near where I currently live.

Seeing that my usual artistic practice engages with self-identity, I wanted to explore how I could put myself back into the landscape without enacting the role of the possessing agent.

The floral attacks are a way of re-introducing indigenous flora onto derelict land.I aim to revisit the sites in spring to see if any of the seeds sprouted.
I decided to use gif animations because it is a sequence of frames. The format is willfully square as opposed to ‘landscape’ or ‘portrait’.

Makwateng seedbomb 27 April #1
Makweteng seedbomb 27 April #1

Makweteng seedbomb 27 April_02
Makweteng seedbomb 27 April #2


Dwang 6

Artwork: Dwang #6 – part of  ‘BLEEK: photographic and audiovisual works 2010 – 2014’ at The Gallery, NWU Potchefstroom (artwork details: 40 cm diameter, digital print on 100% cotton artist paper, edition 10).

BLEEK encompasses a number of photographic series that sets out to interrogate the performance of white masculinity from different points of entry. Masochistic violence and self-interrogation are recurring themes in the body of work. I am is especially interested in the manner different traditions and contexts are embodied in particular power rituals.

 The Dwang portraits in particular are informed by a personal childhood memory. Although ostensibly erotic these images conjure up the unpleasant experience of public medical examinations administered by state doctors that all pre-adolescent boys in state schools had to undergo during the 1980s. By replacing the model with an adult male I want to question issues of agency and complicity.


“They picked out promising adolescents; they branded them, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of Western culture; they stuffed their mouths full with high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to the teeth” – Sartre (1963:7).

As a child, growing up in Oudtshoorn, I can’t recall having an awareness of Culture. The town is endowed with many beautiful historical buildings and obviously has a rich history – but such things are taken for granted through the eyes of a child who doesn’t know any other place. In school we were taught local history like the origin of the town and its naming after Baron Pieter van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, who was appointed Governor of the Cape in 1772, but who died en route to Africa; and of the ostrich feather boom (but with no mention of the Jewish contributions in this regard). I also remember going on a school field trip to Arbeidsgenot, the home of the Afrikaans writer and poet C.J. Langenhoven. The house was musty and stuffy, but in the garden was the most wondrous thing – a glistening sundial that told the time by its relative position to the sun.

In 1983, the year before I was to leave the sleepy Little Karoo for the industrial heartland of South Africa (the Vaal Triangle), I was selected, along with three other boys from my school to attend Die Eerste Dinkskrum vir Afrikaner Jeug (The First Think Tank for Afrikaner Youth). Middle-aged men in brown suits with moustaches and thick-rimmed glasses told us about the rooi- and swartgevaar . In our small groups we were tasked to devise plans to fight communism and to protect the Republic. Soon afterwards the daily school routine would start with orchestrated searches for terrorists’ limpet mines hidden around every corner and/or in every dustbin. This was followed up with regular evacuation and security drills. At school, we were taught how to cower under desks in case of terrorist attacks and to always lie with your feet towards – and your head away – from an exploding hand grenade. I was 12 and suddenly the world had become a very dangerous place.


So, then, in 1984 I joined my mother and elder sister in Vanderbijlpark. They had just moved out of a semi-detached duplex into a three-bedroom house in the suitably named working class suburb of C.E.3. From our gate one could see Sharpeville. On 3 September of that same year this township would erupt in violence and terror after on-going demonstrations and stay-aways led to violent and bloody clashes with the police force. At night we would go to bed with music loud on cassette players , or with the radio turned on, to drown out the sounds of gunshots and screams. In the mornings all the children of the neighbourhood had to wait at their front gates to be collected by an armed gunman who would then escort us to school. In these army guarded schools we were fed the myths of Afrikaner Nationalism, constructed two generations earlier by Afrikaner male intelligentsia. We learned about jeugweerbaarheid (youth preparedness) and geestesweerbaarheid (spiritual preparedness). Satan incarnated, strangely, as communist ideology, joined the fray of dangers and through pop music he threatened to corrupt our minds and turn us against our country and our parents, and our race – it was a total onslaught.

I had been a promising adolescent, raised according to the principles of Western culture – or at least as much of a semblance there had remained of that after three centuries in Africa. Mine was an identity carefully constructed and policed by my elders. I could speak the language, but the words held no meaning, they left a bitter taste. They stuck like vomit to my teeth, to recall Sartre’s phrase. I fear that there are still many corners of my mind buried under the residual indoctrination. However, through my processes of art making I began to dismantle this strange heart of whiteness that I was coerced to wear.

This is an excerpt from a personal response to Sartre’s preface to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched Of The Earth upon re-reading the book earlier this year. The title of this piece refers to the line in which Sartre states that “…the European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters”.