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.

The Garden at Night, by Gerhard Marx

Goodman artist Gerhard Marx was invited to be festival artist at the 2014 Clover Aardklop and I had the pleasure of working with him and photographing his work. The Garden at Night is a show about nature, about humanity, and about how those two things connect with one another. The intense dedication to detail and perfection is this artist’s greatest attribute while also working with very unique media.

View of an "Animal" carcass through which can be seen two of Marx's big "Carpets".

View of an “Animal” carcass through which can be seen two of Marx’s big “Carpets”.

"Mother and Child".

“Mother and Child”.

An inside-view of one of the "Animals".

An inside-view of one of the “Animals”.

An example of the kind of material used to make up images on the polished black surfaces.

An example of the kind of material used to make up images on the polished black surfaces.

The stand for the "Animal" carcass is also designed and engineered by Marx. It is flexible in terms of position and can swirl around to create many different interpretations.

The stand for the “Animal” carcass is also designed and engineered by Marx. It is flexible in terms of position and can swirl around to create many different interpretations.

One if Marx's "Animals". The carcasses are made through a long and careful process of cutting and fitting pieces of bracken together, always finding the exact right bend to achieve perfect balance.

One of Marx’s “Animals”. The carcasses are made through a long and careful process of cutting and fitting pieces of bracken together, always finding the exact right bend to achieve perfect balance.

"Vertical Figure". This beautiful work made up of a polished and worked black surface with ground down plant root material takes the human form back to its origins as part of the planet's miracle of life.

“Vertical Figure”. This beautiful work made up of a polished and worked black surface with ground down plant root material takes the human form back to its origins as part of the planet’s miracle of life.

The counter weight on the stand of "Vertical Figure". Designed and engineered by the artist, this add-on links the work to the maps as a sort of map-making instrument.

The counter weight on the stand of “Vertical Figure”. Designed and engineered by the artist, this add-on links the work to the maps as a sort of map-making instrument.

This work is made up entirely of cut-up pieces of maps with no extra lines added. The artist shows his dedication to the subject matter superbly.

This work is made up entirely of cut-up pieces of maps with no extra lines added. The artist shows his dedication to the subject matter superbly.

The title view of the exhibition. "The Garden at Night" is a beautiful title and brings to the works an element of mystery, referring to the ongoing growing processes we never truly get to witness due to the slower nature of growing things.

The title view of the exhibition. “The Garden at Night” is a beautiful title and brings to the works an element of mystery, referring to the ongoing growing processes we never truly get to witness due to the slower nature of growing things.

"Scion: child" is a bronze sculpture but was first sculpted with small pieces of bracken.

“Scion: child” is a bronze sculpture but was first sculpted with small pieces of bracken.

These editioned works are meant to bring to the installation the human element which forms part of art talking mostly about organic matter.

These editioned works have to with the bifocal nature of human sight. It connects to the works all focusing our attention to that which we may not always be able to truly see: the busy organic world living all around us.

An almost full view of the installation.

An almost full view of the installation.

The material used to fit together the "Animal" carcasses.

The material used to fit together the “Animal” carcasses.

Theatre lights used to light up the two carpets on display making the pop out in the gallery space and almost seem like they are back-lit.

Theatre lights used to light up the two carpets on display making them pop out in the gallery space and almost seem like they are back-lit.

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The two large carpets. Plant root material used to give a bird's eye view of maps as they are from above. These works especially makes you see the earthy elements of what underlies all of our roads and buildings, which may not always come across on the maps we use.

The two large carpets. Plant root material used to give a bird’s eye view of maps as they are from above. These works especially makes you see the earthy elements of what underlies all of our roads and buildings, which may not always come across on the maps we use.

A portrait that I took of the artist, Gerhard Marx. He is signed at one of the most reputable galleries in South Africa, the Goodman Gallery. Gerhard is a perfectionist in his artwork and even when installing his work. It was a great pleasure working with him.

A portrait that I took of the artist, Gerhard Marx. He is signed at one of the most reputable galleries in South Africa, the Goodman Gallery. Gerhard is a perfectionist in his artwork and even when installing his work. It was a great pleasure working with him.

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"Horizontal Figure". This work was my favorite in the exhibition. The detail the plant-root material lends to this almost magical work is phenomenal. To me, it also connects to the oh-so-holy human body heading back into the earth and forming part of the on-going natural recycling process.

“Horizontal Figure”. This work was my favorite in the exhibition. The detail the plant-root material lends to this almost magical work is phenomenal. To me, it also connects to the oh-so-holy human body heading back into the earth and forming part of the on-going natural recycling process.

Two new maps, or "Carpets", made using Google Maps.

Two new maps, or “Carpets”, made using Google Maps.

A detail of one of the "Carpets" made from plant root material.

A detail of one of the “Carpets” made from plant root material.

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.