Graffiti artists tag ‘exploitative’ festival by Andrew Robertson

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Internationally acclaimed French artist Clement Mougel works on a mural. Picture: David Ritchie/Weekend Argus

 

Cape Town – A row over the apparent exploitation and censorship of artists at the International Public Art Festival in Cape Town emerged this week on Facebook.

The festival has been accused of deleting comments and blocking artists who vented their frustrations in a post over dissatisfaction on remuneration at the festival.

The festival started on February 10 and ends today in Salt River. It is a graffiti, street art and contemporary urban art festival. More than 30 artists have painted the suburb. Artists and Facebook activists criticised the festival and its organisers, Alexandre Tilmans and Chantel Woodman, for exploitation.

One, Bobd Skull, posted: “This whole setup is raping the art form and artists, (a regular occurrence lately) it is a well thought of sales gimmick to lure investors in to the area under the false impression that festivals like this actually do anything for the community, we’ve been painting and working with the community for years and I can surely guarantee that once the festival ends, nothing in that area will change.”

Another, Meleney Berry-Kriel, said: “I am so done with people believing artists should work for ‘the exposure’ and I am blown over when I hear it mentioned that there’s a budget of R3m and people are still ‘volunteering’. You can die from exposure you know!”

An artist who spoke on condition of anonymity, said after he commented negatively on a post he faced serious repercussions.

“There is a lot of politics in the industry and I unfortunately commented on a post that has had some, let’s call it repercussions,” said the artist who was part of the festival.

“I received a mail informing me of the Baz-Art festival. I mailed them with my portfolio, offering to be a part. I was informed I was unfortunately late and the selection and approval phases had been done already. But I was informed should I come through to the festival on Saturday, they would find a spot for me.”

After going to the festival, with his own equipment and the “potential of cash” payment, he said: “I arrived and was greeted by Chantel, who in a very rude manner, pretty much just told me to wait, they’ll get back to me. I then obviously went and greeted the artists I know at the festival and found a general bad mood from most of them. The discussion led me to find out, that there was no financial payment for the art.

“This on its own grounds is a major issue in the industry. Exposure doesn’t feed us… On their initial post they mentioned something about an awesome investment opportunities.”

Woodman however told Weekend Argus two artists are behind the “hatred” campaign and that remunerations was never part of the package. Woodman said: “The comments being deleted is not done from our side. The discussion is open to everyone.

“The artists I have on board are happy, they feel great to have an opportunity like this. This is the only negative feedback we have received. I am really not worried about all this hatred, because we are all working together, very hard to build the community of Salt River.”

Despite the criticism, Woodman said they are expecting a huge turnout for the event’s closing today.

A response statement from Baz-Art, an NGO behind the festival, said: “It is a pity that the organisation’s intentions are being misrepresented by a small number of disgruntled individuals.

“The feedback we are getting from artists involved is that they are humbled and that they feel blessed to be part of this experience.”

It further read: “We would like to open up discussion among artists. What is your understanding of the link between gentrification and street art? For the artists involved, how do you make sense of your own work and your involvement in this event?

andrew.robertson@inl.co.za

Weekend Argus

 / 19 February 2017, 3:32pm

The Gentrification Of Graffiti by Fers

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There are two things that are very dear to me. One is graffiti and the other is the community of Salt River.

I have been painting graffiti on and off for probably a decade now and a Salt River resident for well over two decades. At first these topics were very disconnected. I did not want them to mix. My “vandalistic” tendencies and community were like oil and water. I wanted to remain anonymous and never painted my neighbourhood.

 

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Two years into these tendencies, I painted my first piece in Pope Street. It was a big one that depicted Spy vs Spy characters and aptly titled Fers vs Hope (a fellow graffiti writer). I painted it in broad daylight, with a ladder and was very anxious. Not because it was illegal. Salt River was a common destination for day-time graffiti, with pieces sprawling down every road. It was well accepted and strangely celebrated. That was the first day that I was appreciated too, not because of what I painted, but because who I was, a resident of the Salt River.

 

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Kids recognised me and saw what I was doing. It gave them a sparkle in their eye. They rarely saw one of their own paint our streets. I’m not saying I changed some kid’s life that day because that would be ignorant and pompous. But knowing that there was a small chance that I became a positive role model through something that had such a negative connotation was mind blowing to me. This motivated me to paint more in Salt River and invited more people to paint.

About 3 years later, the graffiti-bylaw was passed and most of Salt River’s pieces were aggressively removed. Day-time painting was a thing of the past and residents were made to believe that graffiti is a crime through local media. The broken window effect was the new gospel. People were told it brought down their property value, even though most never even considered selling. The seed was planted.

 

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Fast forward to 2017, I received a message from a friend about an International Street Art Festival in my neighborhood. I was pretty shocked and excited. After 7 years of condemnation and now it’s finally being celebrated. I quickly reached out to the organisers to ask if I could get involved. For two weeks, I waited for a reply and then decided to read up on their motivations. They clearly state “Salt River’s unique character has started to become known to outsiders as the neighbourhood has entered the early phases of gentrification” and “The movement is likely to help redefine Salt River as a dynamic neighbourhood with its own unique character rather than just a somewhat derelict neighbour to Observatory and Woodstock.”

Two nights ago, the International Street Art Festival curators approved my request. I rejected their approval, because of their motivations. I didn’t want to reveal my main motivation to them because it would just end up in a horrible argument. An argument where they seem to be doing good for the community. Please tell me, what is good about gentrification and how does it help people blossom into your utopian ideals?. Salt River is the last community where gentrification has not been hit as hard as other affected areas within the CBD. But the cracks are showing and that seed planted 7 years ago has grown into the ugliest fucking monster posing as the very monster that previously threatened my neighborhood and the value of our properties.

 

fersyndicate.com

Images by Anothershooting photography

new york’s free jazz loft scene, with tom marcello’s photos from studio rivbea

Not only in relation to the jazz exiles who left in numbers during the greatest age of segregation and racism of apartheid South Africa. Currently, similar issues plague Mzansi’s progressive jazz & live music scene

The Hum Blog

Within the history of underground music there are few movements as inspiring as New York’s Free-Jazz “loft scene” of the 1970’s. It’s also one of the least recognized. When I first began listening to avant-garde Jazz as a teenager, many of my favorite recordings were located within a period (the late 1960’s) during which many players fled the unsympathetic audiences of America and settled in Europe. These records were largely concentrated on two French labels – America, and BYG’s Actuel series. They offered a window into a period of incredible creative ferment. What they failed to render was any sense for what happened next.

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Son Of A Mantis – Group Exhibition

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This multimedia exhibition is more like a get together of like minded individuals on a particular topic that has plagued, inspired and informed the paths of the participants involved. Even though it is curated by one individual which in this case merely brings the artists together through an idea that encompasses a variety of imagery, sounds, memories and experiences. In unity, the shared experience is within the perspective of being born and bred in South Africa with birth dates circulating around the late 70’s and early 80’s among the members of this collective. Individually, each member’s upbringing and cultural experiences may strikingly differ depending on the diverse mix of heritage and ancestry.

The journey that begins and ends with one’s birth, those that came before from all over the world to South Africa where each artist was born to the beginning of a new journey where the artist must now go forth only to discover a journey beyond as well as through ancestry. Some of these artists share ancestry in the indigeneous roots of this land, a place itself rich with history, bloodshed, birth, joy and inspiration.

3 artists get together to discuss this journey, albeit not an easy discussion through visual markmaking, drawing finding roots in something spiritual. Thinking spiritually and in memory all at once about who they are as individuals in land rich in nature, complicated, in man’s design to divide and conquer, separate and overpower.

What came before us that may nourish our bodies to push forward into the future? The draftsman will be joined by Future Nostalgia, sound archivists and selectors who search through recorded material i.e. vinyl records threading similar questions as they journey along. Collin the Bushman, Cape Khoi, educator and teacher of the searching souls gather around this sage, minister of sound and Echoes, will deliver a performance on the night.

We may remember the memories of our forefathers and greatest grandmothers. We may dwell further into the land designed by Others. Or we may discover along the way, the Wise guiding us back Home via the spaceways telling stories of the lonely Khoi girl that flung hot coals across the sky creating the Galaxy-Cies and befriended the stars. Hot coals that bred the Fire we huddle around for warmth, for song, for laughter.

Son of a Mantis
16 November – 17 December 2016

Curated by Grant Jurius

Featuring work by Anwar Davids, Graeme Arendse & Grant Jurius

Including a performance by Collin Meyer aka Collin The Boesman

Music by Future Nostalgia

The title alludes to an ancient Khoi folklore titled ‘The Son Of The Mantis’ (!Gaunu-Tsaxau)

The son of the Mantis is killed by the Baboons, and restored to life by his father. This piece contains specimens of the manner in which the Bushman language is supposed to be spoken by baboons. By /han≠kass’o (L VIII.-11. 6978-7014, 12. 7065-7094). !gaunu-tsaxau, the son of |kaggen (the Mantis) collects sticks for his father to shoot at the Baboons and comes across some Baboons, who beat him and break his head. |kaggen dreams that the Baboons have killed !gaunu-tsaxau and are playing with his eye. He awakes and goes to join in the Baboons’ game and the child’s eye smells its father’s scent and plays about so that the Baboons cannot catch it. |kaggen catches his child’s eye and anoints it with his perspiration and it flies into the air and into the quiver’s bag. He flies into the water and speaks to his child’s eye, wanting his child to return to life again. It grows back into his son and |kaggen catches him and takes him back home.

This exhibition of drawing, painting and sound looks at the importance of art, music, painting and storytelling within our cultural history, specifically from an African perspective. As African artists who spring from mixed heritage within the Cape Town context, we want to keep in mind the practices of not only our forefathers but those who have reaped from this continent since ancient times. From the period when indigenous peoples were living freely off the land, to colonial times where art, music and storytelling persist as a means to survive culturally as human beings.

The act of sitting around a fire, conveying stories and myths; making music and spoken word poetry; painting and making pictures require as little resources now as they did in ancient Africa. Even with advanced technology and tools, maintaining the Spirit of these practices is important. It is an exhibition to honour our ancestors of the Land who have left behind traces of rock art, spiritual books and ancient rhythms. These are forms we still enjoy today with modern tools like spray cans for graffiti, instruments in music and folklores & tales adapted to the present. These are things that keep an ever evolving African culture afloat against the grain of struggle.

Opens Wednesday 16 November, 6-8pm
Followed by an ‘after-opening-party’ (more details to follow)
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Anwar Davids is a Creative hailing from the Cape Flats district in Cape Town, a place full of colour and challenges. Davids’ fascination with graffiti and street art lead him to study Graphic Design at Cape College, where he was influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and Pop Art. Influenced by personal experience and current affairs, his experimental style allows Davids to challenge his creativity and create artworks that express his passion.

Graeme Arendse is, in no particular order, a Designer, Illustrator, Comics Artist, Fong Kong Bantu, Chimurenga People.

Grant Jurius was born and bred in the Northern Suburbs community of Elsies River surrounded by the Cape Flats. His preferred choice of medium is drawing, painting and installation. He a is co-founder of the Burning Museum collective; a member of the vinyl collecting and DJ collective Future Nostalgia; and founder of the street art & graffiti artist based initiative The Street is the Gallery.

He has exhibited at various galleries including: group shows at Artvark in Kalk Bay; MM Galleries in Muizenberg and a group exhibition he curated in Elsies River; and a solo exhibition at Black Box Gallery in June 2013. In May 2012, Jurius was awarded the Lionel Davis Award which included a residency at Greatmore Studios, funded by the National Arts Council. At the end of the residency, he participated in a group show with fellow residents titled Loopings.

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Exhibition flyer designed by Graeme Arendse, illustration by Grant Jurius

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Flyer designed and illustrated by Graeme Arendse

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Designed by Graeme Arendse, illustration by Anwar Davids

Not In My Neighbourhood

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Kurt Orderson from Mitchell’s Plein, Cape Town is directing the movie, Not In My Neighbourhood about gentrification from Sao Paulo to Brooklyn to Woodstock in Cape Town. By doing this, he is creating and helping to spark mad awareness among the communities from the slums to the hills just depends on what we as the People are going to do about it. For starters, let’s support this movie that needs to be completed. See more details below about the crowdfunding campaign for the finalizing of this important project. Also see some images and words of the process of shooting some of the last stages of the film in Sao Paulo. Next the crew is moving onto New York to capture the elections

Click link to aid and support here

Not in My Neighbourhood Crowdfunding Video from Azania Rizing Productions on Vimeo.

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(Above)”Filming with Pichacao artist, GG, late at night on the streets of São Paulo. Pichacao is a form of graffiti popular in the inner cities of Brazil. These Pichadores have witnessed the changing landscape of the city and use their graffiti as a means to claim back spaces.” – Not In My Neighbourhood crew

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(Above)”Scenes from Prestes Maia, one of the largest occupied high rise buildings in Brazil. This building and the residents within it are one of the main focuses of filming while we’ve been here. Photo by Alessandro Vecchi. Find out how you can contribute and help us here”:indigogo/nimndocumentary

Not In My Neighbourhood on FaceBook

FilmContact.com

GroundUp article on the phenomenon of displacement in Salt River and Woodstock

RAW VISION – ActionKommandant

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Bluegum Street in Bonteheuwel

Up until this year there are many in South Africa who do not know the face of Ashley Kriel. Many will not recognize his image if shown a photo of the freedom fighter, let alone associate struggle with the poster of a face forever frozen in time. Upon viewing the first full featured documentary film on this fallen hero, that face may very much remain entrenched in mind. For the Cape Flats community it is uncertain how much is known about the Umkhonto WeSizwe  member and leader, or how much it even matters. The elder generations of the Cape Flats still reminisce on the social order that  Apartheid brought regardless of the hardships of the time. The youth ever drifting deeper into the darkness of gangsterizm and drugs if not slipping into premature teen pregnancies. The face of the Cape Flats image alone has always been associated with criminality, Afrikaans (the oppressors language) and laziness. Yet, we see a revolution of artists, poets, filmmakers, musicians and activists  emerging from the flats, from the city with possibly the longest history in the country. It’s nothing new – it’s just that active members of the community of the Cape Flats remind us of the brave men and women of our past echoed in the work of those still struggling today. Those especially “born free”. The post Apartheid generation. How can a generation who have no experience of Apartheid or vaguely remember the Apartheid era relevantly relate to the struggle that was supposed to end officially in 1994? We would possibly have been explained at some point why warm, happy childhood weekends were spent on certain beaches and not others. Maybe we would have  been told stories of our mothers carrying us in their wombs while travelling in the “coloured” section of the train. Journeys and travels we sense but somehow fully relate to because we were born into it. The struggle to live. To be what we are. Where we come from. To validate even how and why we a part of that struggle and even deserved of the fruits of that struggle.

Certainly, Nadine Cloete has struggled to achieve the feat of her documentary, “Action Kommandant”, the film on one of the youngest activists from the Cape Flats to die in his struggle for freedom. When asked about the long tricky process of assembling enough interviews, film footage and accuracy into depicting the most honest portrayal of Ashley  Kriel, Cloete said “there were many issues”. The director started on the film in 2011 and says that she struggled to meet the budget and it was not that easy initially when approaching Ashley Kriel’s family. There has been a lot of pain surrounding not only his death but also sensitivity around how honestly he has been portrayed. The family has been interviewed many times only to be disappointed by misquotes and mistakes.

” I had to spend a lot of time with the family in order to gain their trust that I would portray Ashley’s story honestly and accurately”, Cloete says, “first meeting with his sisters was in their kitchen, where we just talked and got to know each other”. The process was daunting financially but worthwhile striking a relationship with the family for the director which also made the project a lot more emotional on a personal basis. Cloete feels that the more popular image of the “gangster from the Cape Flats” is easier to sell in film. Most recent films depicting the darker “coloured” side of the Mother City seems to always be about gangsterism meaning that obtaining funding would be an even more difficult task. The director went on to say that “there are many lost voices within the Cape Flats, because “coloured” activists are often overlooked and how many know about the MK heroes of the ANC”. Many of those heroes fought alongside Ashley Kriel and still reside in Bonteheuwel a place now known for its violence and problems with drugs. However, there is a rich history in activism during Apartheid and many activists still live in the community aligned with support from community members along with various religious leaders. The attendance at the screening of the film proved the pride and support of the community in the legacy of Ashley Kriel on Youth Day, June 16 as the Civic Centre in Bluegum Street in Bonteheuwel was packed out the door forcing organizers to install an outside screen as well for those who couldn’t make it in.

 There was a tangible excitement and wavering emotion as the audience waited for the film to start. The event was hosted and opened by speeches of family members, comrades, poets,students and principle of Bonteheuwel High School, music by the Jazz Yard Academy and Emile YX(activist, hip hop artist, member of Afrikaaps and former member of Black Noise) as Master Of Ceremonies. Emotions ran high long before the film even started with heartfelt nostalgia from friends who fought alongside Ashley Kriel and still carry the torch the stigma of Apartheid is hard to shake in present time when segregation is still very real in Cape Town. The area is one of many that has been the dumping grounds of  forcibly removed residents from locations strung along the Southern Suburbs of the city since the Group Areas Act. Yet, many members from the community, among them artists and activists spoke fondly of the suburb as a hub of activism, consciousness and a close knit community defined by those who fought and still strive for freedom. The speeches was followed by a moment of silence to reflect on the spirit of Ashley Kriel and others lost in the fight against oppression. Candles were lit and raised in the air and that spirit became more apparent as complete silence filled the room.

The film is haunting and dark and the light at the end of the tunnel is the poster image of the face that becomes ever more important after viewing, his family, friends and comrades who carry the torch and the community of Bonteheuwel from where he launched into action. Especially if little is known about Ashley Kriel, his short but effective life, his consciousness and how he died will be forever be remembered. The film has been hugely successful and acclaimed, Cloete travelled to the Cannes to promote the film, screened in Seattle and selling out every one of the seven screenings at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival in Cape Town. Currently, Nadine is hosting her film at the Durban International Film Festival. After attending the Bonteheuwel screening on Youth Day  last week though, it’s hard to imagine a more electrifying atmosphere at any of the viewings of this film. For those unfamiliar to the work and life of Ashley Kriel, like ourselves there was shocking moments of discovering some of the extent to which the “Che Guevara of Bonteheuwel” dedicated his life.

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A moment of silence at the screening at Bonteheuwel  Civic Centre. Photo by Judith Kennedy

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Photo by Judith Kennedy

We were astonished that this hero was never part of our public school curriculum as a historical subject. Why have our parents not told about this man and what he represented to the Cape Flats and humanity? Could it be that he went completely under the radar during the 80’s, the era within which Kriel was in his prime? Most of us at The Street Is The Gallery were born in the 80’s which may explain how we missed the news of the conscious movements happening within Bonteheuwel an area neighbouring our own hometown, Elsies River. We were born into a time when Apartheid may be ending but trouble within the Cape Flats was rising within gang wars elevating to its peak in the 90’s. It would seem that the “Coloured” culture sold to this generation of youth would be steeped in violence and power rather than the incredible legacies of such examples as those who actually fought for the people as opposed to killing them. Our heroes, as far as we were concerned were always graffiti artists and hip hop activists in the 90’s or gangsters. So the lie was sold the people in the communities which explains the lack of exoneration of positive images within which we, “The Khoisan” could reflect. In Action Kommandant we see the face of the man which seems now fresh to us, ironically a young image of a man in his youth forever fresh. A man before his time, who had to fill the gap of his father who was killed when he was young. A man who had to grow up quickly and become smart and conscious and rise above the mental state of a people oppressed not only physically but in spirit and mind. A man who had to go into exile because of his fight against the Apartheid police which he took directly to the source, their homes and disrupt the supremacist order. Most amazingly, a man who went into training in the MK camps to become even stronger before he even reached 20 years old, the age he was also killed by the police not long after returning to Cape Town from the camps. Since Ashley Kriel’s era, so many “coloured” youth strive are in prison by 20. This is clearly not our only story and existence.

Cloete further explains that complications continues, “there were some more issues with the filming and screening of the funeral, due to copywrite issues we were unable to broadcast the funeral at other than festival screenings”. When asked the importance of the footage of the funeral, Cloete says, “the funeral scene makes the depiction more real, the emotional power of the loss of this leader to the community of Bonteheuwel”. Indeed, the scene is powerful. Something that should be seen more than talked about. The face again, strong, frozen but not defeated. “For the first time, the face of Ashley in his coffin is shown in film”, says Cloete, “this adds to the emotional power”.

Nadine Cloete initiated the making of the film completely on her own budget. The director funded the project using money from work she did at Rainbow Circle Films where she cut her teeth working as an intern from 2005. RCF was based in Elsies River an area not far from Bonteheuwel. There she met colleagues from the Cape Flats who wanted to make a difference through film including Kurt Orderson, previously featured in RAW VISION. She also met other filmmakers like John Fredericks also known as Mr. Devious a former gangster from the area. Cloete did her honours at University of Cape Town working on the music documentary “Maak It An” for local rapper and activist, Jitsvinger. Her interest in making a film on Ashley Kriel sparked when she saw footage of the activist address a crowd in one of his public speeches. It inspired her to discover how young he was when did his first speech at the age of thirteen at his school. “He had the courage to express the right for the oppressed to say how they wanted to live” muses Cloete, “he initiated his first march at that young age from his school around the text book issue, targeting inequalities in education”. ” I was also intrigued by the advent of photos of Ashley that went missing causing he’s face to become obscured in the history of our own integral activists within the Cape Flats. Certain narratives become more dominant in the media while the heroes like many Bonteheuwel members of the MK have gone largely unknown or forgotten for too long.” When asked about the perseverance to see the film completed against many obstacles that even put the filming on hold for a while before finally being completed this year due to lack of funding Cloete remarks, “It is important to have  voices from within the communities of the Flats telling our own stories and showing that other side our culture, how we contribute positively to society”

The film was edited by Khalid Shamis, the editor of Afrikaaps, another pioneering documentary directed by Dylan Valley who helped create awareness around the heritage and history around Afrikaans culture in Cape Town, specifically in the Cape flats.

We have only seen one of many of the screenings of this powerful film in Cape Town. It is hard to imagine a better environment or reception than the one experienced in Bonteheuwel. We are certain though that as this film travels the country as well as globally that many will be touched. If we haven’t acknowledged the face of Ashley Kriel before, then we definitely won’t be able to shake the image now.

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Photo by Judith Kennedy

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Wheatpaste in Bonteheuwel by Cape Town collective, Burning Museum of Ashley Kriel. Photo by Nadine Cloete

See trailer below

Screenings currently continue to premiere at the Durban International Film Festival.

Nadine Cloete on Facebook

Action Kommandant Blog

Khalid Shamis