Block A: Thokoza Women’s Hostel – Angela Buckland

Angela Buckland’s BLOCK A, Thokoza Women’s Hostel is a second instalment of BLOCK A, Jacob’s Mens Hostel. The work extensively elaborates on living conditions in an urban African city.

Thokoza is the oldest women’s hostel in South Africa and is situated in Durban. Originally one of the only residential spaces where black women could live in the city in Apartheid, there is a lot of speculation as to whether they are good or bad for those who live in them, cramped into small living spaces while also being liberated from many familial or patriarchal pressures.

This work intrigued me since it carries such weight, it serves as a valuable piece of documentation and also because, I myself, am finding a greater love for photography as a medium every day. It was an intensive installation process but at the end of the day every experience in the art world ads another thread to your cloth of knowledge and skill.

There are apparently many issues between the younger and older people in the hostel.

There are apparently many issues between the younger and older people in the hostel.

The doors, each a portal to another room within which anything from three to nine or more people have to share a space meant for only three people.

The doors, each a portal to another room within which anything from three to nine or more people have to share a space meant for only three people.

Installation view from a distance.

Installation view from a distance.

An example of a row that is longer, meaning that the room is filled with a lot more people.

An example of a row that is longer, meaning that the room is filled with a lot more people.

Angela Buckland, the artist, shared many intimate moments with the residents as can be seen here.

Angela Buckland, the artist, shared many intimate moments with the residents as can be seen here.

Try and imagine that your whole world, your home, is basically just the space of a bed.

Try and imagine that your whole world, your home, is basically just the space of a bed.

The information of each card lends to this massive artwork a depth that is equally massive.

The information of each card lends to this massive artwork a depth that is equally massive.

Getting the bed by the window is something one earns. It also means that you stay in the corner and that there is more of a sense of privacy not having to be between two beds.

Getting the bed by the window is something one earns. It also means that you stay in the corner and that there is more of a sense of privacy not having to be between two beds.

Playing it safe

My first entry for the Swedish Innovation Photography Competition.

My first entry for the Swedish Innovation Photography Competition. The competition calls for the use of a Swedish innovation to be used in a South African context. I worked with safety matches. Referencing sayings surrounding the idea of “playing with matches” and the concept of the “safety” match in the hands of a child. “Playing it safe” by Kevin du Plessis.

These are the children of the Bult

These are the children of the Bult in Potchefstroom, South Africa. They are children, they play, they laugh, they need food and socks. They also scold and swear and smoke and steal and cause havoc. They have eyes to see. But there aren’t many eyes willing to see them. They’re thankful for what you give them, and pesky when you ignore them. The point is, these are the children of the Bult, and you can see them.

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Mary Sibande: ‘the purple shall govern’

There is a lot to say about these works, lots to discuss, but what it comes down to is that one must experience these works, the same as with any other installation piece. Mary Sibande’s alter ego “Sophie” who used to depict the fears, hopes, dreams, and desires of three generations of black women in her family, who were all employed as domestic workers, now takes a new turn.

Mary, having first dreamt about becoming a fashion designer, chose to use textile as her preferred medium and makes beautiful dresses that hybridises Victorian dress with that of the worker’s uniform, creating an intense contrasting motif which draws your attention to colonialism and issues of race, projections and perceptions, in South Africa.

With the new colour purple taking over from the previous blue, Mary steps into a new era in her work which no longer focuses on the oppressed women of the past but the transformed women of today. Mary is starting a conversation about herself, her own transformation as a modern black woman in South Africa.

"A Reversed Retrogress" shows the old Sophie and the new Sophie in a combat of sorts, the new and the old have come to a crossroads and only one can move forward. This photo was taken in the NWU Gallery and it is the very last time that the blue Sophie will ever appear in Mary's work.

“A Reversed Retrogress” shows the old Sophie and the new Sophie in a combat of sorts, the new and the old have come to a crossroads and only one can move forward. This photo was taken in the NWU Gallery and it is the very last time that the blue Sophie will ever appear in Mary’s work.

Sophie, cast from Mary Sibande's own features, always has her eyes closed so that she can dream up these fantastic scenes where she transports herself into a visual world of what could be, what is happening to her, what processes she sees herself experiencing.

Sophie, cast from Mary Sibande’s own features, always has her eyes closed so that she can dream up these fantastic scenes where she transports herself into a visual world of what could be, what is happening to her, what processes she sees herself experiencing.

Note the beautiful detail on the hands and how  they catch the light. In the prints (below) Mary poses as Sophie and it is noteworthy that she has managed to match her own skin texture with the beautiful matt black on the installation pieces.

Note the beautiful detail on the hands and how they catch the light. In the prints (below) Mary poses as Sophie and it is noteworthy that she has managed to match her own skin texture with the beautiful matt black on the installation pieces.

"A Terrible Beuaty is Born". Sophie's apron is being ripped off by her creatures. She is being born as a redefined version of the black South African woman.

“A Terrible Beuaty is Born”. Sophie’s apron is being ripped off by her creatures. She is being born as a redefined version of the black South African woman.

"Non Winged Ceiling Beings" installation. The shape and form of these beings as well as that of Sophie's dress in Retrogress, is inspired by Mary's uncle who was in an accident and had to carry/hold in his organs for two kilometers. This image must have appealed to the artist as it represents that which comes from within, released and shown to the world while it is also a difficult and painful process. These beings must be interacted with for you to decide what they represent...did Sophie give birth to them, are they her army, what exactly do the do? How do they strengthen this particular vision Sophie is having? We must also take into account here that the inspiration for the title of the show comes from a peaceful riot during Apartheid where participants were sprayed or marked with purple pigment in order to differentiate or shame them. Mary uses it as a symbol of pride and rebirth.

“Non Winged Ceiling Beings” installation. The shape and form of these beings as well as that of Sophie’s dress in Retrogress, is inspired by Mary’s uncle who was in an accident and had to carry/hold in his organs for two kilometers. This image must have appealed to the artist as it represents that which comes from within, released and shown to the world while it is also a difficult and painful process. These beings must be interacted with for you to decide what they represent…did Sophie give birth to them, are they her army, what exactly do they do? How do they strengthen this particular vision Sophie is having? We must also take into account here that the inspiration for the title of the show comes from a peaceful riot during Apartheid where participants were sprayed or marked with purple pigment in order to differentiate or shame them. Mary uses it as a symbol of pride and rebirth.

On the left is "Admiration of the Purple". The creatures preparing to crown Sophie, connecting to a previous work "Her Majesty Queen Sophie". He dreams, thoughts, fancies are forming a strong figure worthy of admiration.

On the left is “Admiration of the Purple”. The creatures are preparing to crown Sophie, connecting to a previous work “Her Majesty Queen Sophie”. Her dreams, thoughts, fancies, tranformations are forming a strong figure worthy of admiration.

Looking to see in colour

By Kevin du Plessis, mixed medium on 100 % cotton artist’s paper.

Synopsis:

I’ve been working on a series called ‘Colour Blind’ inspired by a sociology class I interpreted earlier this year. “I am colour blind,” a young student said, “everyone is the same to me.” I immediately recognised this argument from various other cultural debates and formed the opinion that such a notion does not resonate with our multi-cultural nation. ‘Colour Blind’ focuses on 8 different people’s ‘racial history’, so to speak, depicting their backgrounds in ink illustrations while the artwork shows only one colour, skin colour.

Flowing from this on going project comes ‘Looking to see in colour’. This work explores the continuing need for South Africans to engage socially and otherwise with different cultures, albeit a difficult process met with discomfort, and even disapproval.

The title encompasses what the work is about: looking, seeing, and colour. Dealing with perceptions and projections, and a personal struggle in learning to be comfortable in situations that ought not to be uncomfortable, the work looks to engage the observer into its own observations. As I started travelling into the bowels of Johannesburg I realised that I was being watched and that I was also looking back. I caught some of those expressions and relayed them as I saw them looking, while I was trying to see, in this work. ‘Looking to see in colour’ is meant to present an open seat to whomever is willing to sit.

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