All images are courtesy of the artists unless otherwise noted

While an interview could be described as a view among, between, betwixt, or in the midst of two subjects—from s'entrevoir (see each other); entre (between) and vue (view)—many interviews in art history are hierarchical not only in the sense of an interviewer “authoring” the material received from the respondent, but also in the sense of the theorist or writer shaping the ideas of the practitioner. As discussed in the First Word, “Situating Africa,” there is a tendency for writers in the “north” to theorize the professional practice of artists in the “south,” developing what Gordon Lewis (2006) refers to as a geography of reason. In their book Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data, Herbert J. Rubin and Irene S. Rubin (2012:7) develop the term “conversational partnership” to describe two or more participants who play an active role in shaping content as they cocreate meaning. This conversational partnership between two artists—one based in Uganda and the other based in South Africa—developed out of the publishing workshop at Rhodes University in June 2016, which aimed to approach the creation of knowledge from the perspective of “sideways learning” (see “Reaching Sideways, Writing Our Ways” in this issue). —Ruth Simbao

SIKHUMBUZO: SANE, in your view, what is the role of an artist within your context in Uganda?

SANE: An artist can remind us of our own humanity and, in some cases, our stupidities. Uganda is a unique place where the elite expose the highest disregard for creativity and revel in their ignorance of all things creative. As such, I find it imperative to discuss the status quo in which politicians divide up the spoils of the country with reckless abandon while the ignorant elite either cheer on or participate in the process of self-cannibalization.

The artist's role is to expose nakedness. In many ways our history is like a form of nakedness—nakedness hidden in the dark. Darkness may obscure information but it also makes possible the nuances of interpretation as well as the interesting possibility of transforming into the present or the future. The past—when exposed—is able to mutate its meanings and contexts. While the past can be viewed as sacred (in the sense of the sacrosanctity of a parents nudity), in other ways it allows one who is brave enough to look at it with scrutiny to discover what the past itself has hidden in the dark. Exposure becomes the present, and obsession with the present can obstruct what the present should see about the past. The concept of “nakedness in the dark” interests me, because I do what I may otherwise not do when exposed to light.

SIKHUMBUZO: In our discussion about your artwork you stated, “I am not a pessimist.” I find this statement interesting. What propels you to say this?

SANE: I say that I am not a pessimist because many people have called me a prophet of doom for Uganda. In this country, any dissenting voice is referred to as adui—the enemy. I have several narratives running concurrently in my work, and what has driven my artistic practice in recent years has been outrage. I think something has gone horribly wrong in Uganda as a whole, but I also believe that we are not on the precipice of disaster. I think we can correct the underlying problems if we wake up now. I recently attended a conference in Minerva Art Academy, Hanzehogeschool, that was themed “Being Political in Art and Design” and focused on the concept of “truthfully telling it as it is with courage.” A number of presenters discussed the distinction between the theory of parrhesia (truth saying) in art and the practice of parrhesia in art. I often need courage to say what I am saying against the backdrop of a society that is lying naked in the dark.

SIKHUMBUZO: During your recent participation in the publishing workshop at Rhodes University you screened Part I of an animation video titled Abanene2 (2013) (Figs. 14) that you produced with Eric Mukalazi. In this video you engage with stereo types of Western curators and explore the ways in which they interact with local artists, as well as their preconceptions of what a gallery space should be. Can you elaborate on the relationship between Western curators and Ugandan artists and comment on issues of accessibility in terms of the Ugandan art market?

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Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

The artist is portrayed at Afriart Gallery waiting for Kimberly Bryant, the character of the American curator.

1

Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

The artist is portrayed at Afriart Gallery waiting for Kimberly Bryant, the character of the American curator.

2

Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

The boda boda driver transports the American curator to the craft village instead of Afriart Gallery where the artist awaits.

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Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

The boda boda driver transports the American curator to the craft village instead of Afriart Gallery where the artist awaits.

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Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

The American curator realizes that the boda boda driver has dropped her at the National Theatre craft village instead of the contemporary gallery, Afriart.

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Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

The American curator realizes that the boda boda driver has dropped her at the National Theatre craft village instead of the contemporary gallery, Afriart.

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Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

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Eria Nsubuga SANE and Eric Mukalazi

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I

Video still

SANE: In some ways international curators are useful, as they can improve our visibility on the African continent and beyond. However, as expressed in this animation video, in which the American curator is played by Kimberly Bryant and I am the character of the artist, I am somewhat hesitant when approached by curators because of the likelihood for disappointment. In this work, the boda boda3 driver, who is an everyday person on the street, fails to recognize what a contemporary art gallery is and he drives the curator to the National Theatre craft village instead, allowing room for the redefinition of what a gallery might be in Uganda. The artist waits for the curator, but she never appears.

My reservation is partly based on the lack of infrastructure in Uganda to deal with the rigor and scrutiny required to empower the artist and the curator in a mutual way and hence the probability for an imbalance of power in this relationship. I'm not interested in the vain politics of art placement in the West, as this market seems closed to the majority of people, and the power play of global curators is, as Ugandan artist Henry Mujunga Mzili suggests, a “politics of exclusion.”4 Little appears to happen here until a voice from the “outside” appears, and when things do happen they tend to follow the neo-neoliberal line of thought in which everything must make a profit. Support for Ugandan artists is minimal and our public visibility is delicate, hence my attempt to create alternative ways to entomb creative work in the public mind.

I express my anger about this lack of support in the painting Art for Art's Sake, Money for God's Sake (2016) (Fig. 12), which draws from the story in The East African about the death of renowned, yet destitute, Ugandan artist Expeditto Mwebe. The disillusionment and disappointment that many artists like Mwebe in Uganda and East Africa endure is made all the more glaring when juxtaposed against the dreams that the artists have of making money and being successful and influential members of their societies. Why can't we make art for art's sake, and make money for God's sake?

SIKHUMBUZO: You recently exhibited some of your drawings at the 2016 Johannesburg Art Fair, which focused on artists and artworks from East Africa. The graphite texture of these drawings (Figs. 59) has a photographic grading. In what way is this texture and photographic grading linked to the study materials you used in order to conceptualize your drawings and develop the final image?

SANE: In my process I examine and print many images of public characters that I collect from newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, and I constantly store away interesting headlines. I am drawn to gaps created by pixelated images as well as to the connection between photographs printed on newsprint and the accompanying text. Gaps leave room for intervention and interpretation, and the relationship between image and text creates a backdrop for my visual narratives. The newspaper text surrounding the image continues to speak to the viewer, even if only subliminally I also love strong contrasts of black and white in these found images. The heavy black shade doesn't just block light but it also has textured, layered lines that speak a language of their own.

SIKHUMBUZO: Your drawing titled Muhanga's Goats and a Wedding reminds me of The Madonna of Mercy with Kneeling Friars by Fra Angelico, an Italian painter of the early Renaissance. What informs the religious iconography and the interplay of the animalistic caricature in this drawing? This question is posed in light of the facial expressions of some of the characters in your drawing, who appear to be shocked by a public matrimony.

SANE: This drawing, Muhanga's Goats and a Wedding (Fig. 5), critiques the idea that Western classicism is viewed as the Utopian target for artistic and spiritual expression. The wedding scene is constructed through the use of a found image whose owner I do not know, but which I distorted in Photoshop. The woman on the right depicts a Member of Parliament who bought government land belonging to the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation with cash amounting to about three million dollars. When this woman, Margaret Muhanga, was asked in a Parliamentary Committee Session where she found the money to make such a transaction, she thoughtlessly replied that she sold her cows and goats and borrowed money from relatives. Her brother, Andrew Mwenda (on the left), is portrayed in the drawing as her companion and protector. The goat head and the goat feet suggest that the characters are fraught and corrupt, as Biblical accounts portray goats as doomed to destruction. The reference to goats in this work reveals my anger towards politicians in Uganda, especially Members of Parliament, and the notion of decapitation is not straightforward. Rather than simply representing the physical violence of cutting off heads, decapitation symbolizes an attempt to disembody the underlying faults in ourselves and to dissect our feeble humanness. In drawings such as Muteesa Legacies (Fig. 7) and It Is Parliament Taking National Theatre Land (Fig. 9 ), I similarly portray a number of decapitated figures.

SIKHUMBUZO: Some of your drawings such as Muteesa's Present Company (2016) (Fig. 6), Muteesa Legacies (2016) (Fig. 7) Kabaka Mukaabya Mutesa I and I (Memories We Stole) (Fig. 8), and It Is Parliament Taking National Theatre Land (2016) (Fig. 9) seem to manifest as a visual critique of tribalism and nativism, as well as euphemisms for Uganda's political elite. Can you explain what inspired these drawings?

SANE: I bear little respect for the political classes in Uganda, and dealing with a subject I like but whose current players I do not trust, I often resort to mockery or satire. In Muteesa's Present Company, I portray my interpretation of what the world might look like if past principals collided with their present equals. I wonder, for instance, what Muteesa I Mukaabya Walugembe, who was the kabaka of the Kingdom of Buganda from 1856 to 1884, would think of his own legacy if he were to time travel into the present day. Would he enjoy Uganda's current political situation? Would he applaud or object to corruption? Would he simply be a purveyor of it like the present ruling class? In this drawing I also portray myself as a character who appears to be playful and lighthearted. However, I doubt that Muteesa I would enjoy me sitting on his shoulders. In fact, some Baganda might take exception to this particular image.

In my work I produce multiple versions of myself appearing as different chiefs or pages of the king. This series, Mukaabya's Legacies (Figs. 59), was inspired by Andrea Stultiens's invitation to indulge in a single photograph that depicted King Muteesa I and his subjects. In my work I play with the collective memory of Ugandans, hoping to tickle someone to ask why I chose to depict the god-king simply as a man—a man with flaws and a man who can be judged by history for past actions long after his death. In my opinion, Baganda people generally do not like to dig up the past, but in refusing to engage with the past a lot of things remain untold, injustices remain unmitigated, and the past remains dead. I do not believe in a dead past but in a living past, which bears the repository of memory itself. So, in a way, my work steals some part of the memory of the past and uses it to look not only at the present but also at a revisited and reimagined past as a way of grappling with missing histories.

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Muhanga's Goats and a Wedding (2016)

Drawing on chipboard, approx. 55 cm × 45 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Muhanga's Goats and a Wedding (2016)

Drawing on chipboard, approx. 55 cm × 45 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Muteesa's Present Company (2016)

Drawing on newspaper and plywood, 70 cm × 100 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Muteesa's Present Company (2016)

Drawing on newspaper and plywood, 70 cm × 100 cm

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Eria Nsubanga SANE

Muteesa Legacies (2016)

Drawing on newspaper and plywood, 30 cm × 40 cm

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Eria Nsubanga SANE

Muteesa Legacies (2016)

Drawing on newspaper and plywood, 30 cm × 40 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Kabaka Mukaabya Muteesa I and I (Memories We Stole) (2016)

Drawing on board, approx. 27 cm × 35 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Kabaka Mukaabya Muteesa I and I (Memories We Stole) (2016)

Drawing on board, approx. 27 cm × 35 cm

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Eria Nsubanga SANE

It Is Parliament Taking National Theatre Land (2016)

Drawing on newspaper and canvas, 80 cm × 130 cm

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Eria Nsubanga SANE

It Is Parliament Taking National Theatre Land (2016)

Drawing on newspaper and canvas, 80 cm × 130 cm

SIKHUMBUZO: Some of your recent paintings such as Wine Tests (2016) (Fig. 10), Art for Art's Sake, Money for God's Sake (2016) (Fig. 11), and What Can Europe Do about Migrants? (2015) (Fig. 12) are humorous and quirky, political and even melancholic beneath the surface. What drives this humor and melancholy? Is this balance deliberate and, if so, how do you manage to maintain it?

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Wine Tests (2016)

Mixed media, 100 cm × 100 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Wine Tests (2016)

Mixed media, 100 cm × 100 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Art for Art's Sake, Money for God's Sake (2016), Mixed media, 100 cm × 100 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Art for Art's Sake, Money for God's Sake (2016), Mixed media, 100 cm × 100 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

What Can Europe Do about the Migrants? (2015)

Mixed media, approx. 140 cm × 90 cm

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

What Can Europe Do about the Migrants? (2015)

Mixed media, approx. 140 cm × 90 cm

SANE: I oscillate from disappointment and anger to hope when I look at my subjects of choice. They are sticky and difficult things to look at. I need a bit of humor sometimes to depict them honestly. Humor for me shows that there is hope. We can laugh about corruption but the time will come when justice is done. I am hopeful and cynical at the same time. You are right, it is a delicate balance. Things tip over all the time.

The impetus for the painting What Can Europe Do about Migrants? was the anger and frustration I felt in 2015 during the migration crisis. Being from the South, I find it hypocritical and annoying that countries that have invaded Africa and Middle East—bringing about major crises in the name of globalization and the export of “democracy”—turn around and complain about problems that have been created by their own policies in the “developing world.” The painting was made at the time when Pope Francis visited Uganda amid unprecedented fanfare. (I live near to the Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine5 that the Pontifex visited.) The typical response to the question “What can you (Europe) do about migrants?” is problematic. The solution is not moving our populations to the “solace” or “comfort” of the North. Instead, Europe needs to stop the excessive meddling and misguided interventions in internal matters of sovereign countries in the name of exporting “democracy.”

SIKHUMBUZO: There is a strong sense of history that is embedded within many of your drawings and paintings. It is clear that you are interested in working with archives, be they photographic or other forms of documentation, and I read your work as being about unresolved history, untold lineages, and hidden connections. In your article, “Images, Reflections, Objects” for the online journal Start: Journal of Arts and Culture, you state your interest in “reinterpreting the history that is presented by photographic and painted images” (Nsubuga 2015). You argue that in appropriating images you “question or challenge the validity of the presented image as ‘true’ reflections of the past.” Further, you ask: “What is the past? And what is the present? Are we always living in the present or the past? What is the difference?”

In 2014, you collaborated with the nonprofit organization History in Progress, Uganda (HIPU) on a project entitled Ekifananyi at the Academy Minerva in the Netherlands. What was the outcome of that collaboration?

SANE: That exchange began with an idea from Andrea Stultiens,6 who is a PhD candidate in the Netherlands and also a lecturer at the Hanzehogeschool, Groningen. She approached me after I had done a residency at 32 Degrees East/Ugandan Arts Trust in Kampala in early 2014 to invite me to participate in her project on the historical figure Hamu Mukasa. I was interested in this figure because of his connection with the Uganda Christian University where I teach. Hamu Mukasa donated land to start the Bishop Tucker Theological College, which later became Uganda Christian University. He was Kabaka Mwanga's illiterate page who rose through the ranks and played an important role in the spread of formal education in the Buganda Kingdom and later in Uganda's education system (New Vision 2012).

I suggested to Andrea that I would design a painting course, and I asked my students to engage with a list of illustrations that Hamu Mukasa proposed for his book Simuda Nyuma, but which were never produced. The students were asked to make visual impressions or interpretations of these absent illustrations. Several exhibitions developed from this project and the works were displayed at the gallery at Minerva Art Academy (2014), Framer Framed7 in Amsterdam (2015), and at the Hamu Mukasa Library at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda (2016) (Fig. 13). The notion of absent illustrations links to my broader project of exposing nakedness and reconstructing the past.

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Exhibition of students’ portrayals of Hamu Mukasa's “absent illustrations” that were initially proposed for his book Simuda Nyuma. Hamu Mukasa Library at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda.

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Exhibition of students’ portrayals of Hamu Mukasa's “absent illustrations” that were initially proposed for his book Simuda Nyuma. Hamu Mukasa Library at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda.

14

Eria Nsubuga SANE

Xenophobia Is No Revolution (2015)

Oil on canvas, 140 cm × 80 cm

This work comments on the killings in South Africa of migrant workers

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Eria Nsubuga SANE

Xenophobia Is No Revolution (2015)

Oil on canvas, 140 cm × 80 cm

This work comments on the killings in South Africa of migrant workers

Sikhumbuzo, the examination of missing histories, and the reconstruction of these histories in the present, seems to be very pertinent to your work too. For example, in your performance Ingqumbo (Figs. 15–16) and your photographic work Ntaba kaNdoda (Fig. 25) you seem to enter into an ongoing dialogue with historical sites that need to be reimagined in a present time. Can you elaborate on your dialogue with the past, both in terms of the dialogue you might have with your family or community and the dialogue you have with your own ancestry?

15–16

Sikhumbuzo Makandula in collaboration with violinist Christopher Jardine

Inggumbo (2016)

Performance in front of the St. Michael and St. George Cathedral

15–16

Sikhumbuzo Makandula in collaboration with violinist Christopher Jardine

Inggumbo (2016)

Performance in front of the St. Michael and St. George Cathedral

SIKHUMBUZO: As an artist I have an ongoing dialogue with history and my ancestry. With regards to my family, I'm yet to have this particular conversation. Most of my family lives in De Aar in the Northern Cape and Cape Town in the Western Cape, where conversations about family lineage history and ancestry are not prioritized. This dislocation is due to migration to a place that doesn't associate with or relate to ancestral history, as well as to the impact of Christianity and the urbanized environment. This is one of the reasons I moved to the Eastern Cape region where my ancestral lineage originates.

SANE: Your artwork stresses a strong decolonial aesthetic that expresses the reality that the “Rainbow Nation” suffered a stillbirth and that there is now a need for revolution. Can you respond to this reading of your work?-

SIKHUMBUZO: Your reading of my work is accurate. I was born in the mid-1980s and growing up in a family of political activists I experienced the last days of official apartheid in South Africa. In the early 1990s there were huge tensions amongst political parties such as the ANC (African National Congress), the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress), and the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party), and there were ethnic wars that subsequently erupted between amaXhosa and amaZulu in the Johannesburg areas of the East Rand. Experiencing such violence, we now, as a nation, struggle to address what we've inherited as part of our history. Politics influences my work in essential ways as I try to make sense of what constitutes the foundation of South Africa.

In my view South Africa adopted a compromised democracy, and we are experiencing a resurgence of protests, continuous violence, and the violation of black bodies by a government that we believed, as citizens of this country, had our best interests at heart. The idea of a “Rainbow Nation” is a fallacy constructed to make the majority of the South African nation believe that all is well. In 2016 I became an active member of Fees Must Fall Movement at Rhodes University and what we, as a movement, didn't envisage was the degree of systematic violence awaiting us. These experiences are reflected in my artistic practice. In my work I engage with, for example, historical violence perpetuated by the institution that is the church or state apparatus. I harness a visual language that reflects the times I happen to be in as I practice as a visual artist in South Africa and on the African continent.

SANE: You often bring performance into your work and some of it seems to be quite ritualistic—almost like séances summoning a different kind of consciousness. Can you discuss the performance element of your work?

SIKHUMBUZO: My work is simply an attempt to revisit black peoples erased and silenced histories. Importantly the performances serve as a collective memory in questioning who is remembered and why, and in negotiating spaces and places where spirits of those who did not have a proper burial need to be properly positioned in the world of the ancestors. Issues that I and some of my contemporaries are dealing with are to do with the self-authorship of our own narratives as we write our own history by revisiting, remapping, and reimagining our collective identity and social history.

SANE: Can you explain how you revisit, remap, and reimagine identity and social history in your recent performance Ingqumbo?

SIKHUMBUZO: The performance Ingqumbo (which means “wrath”) grew out of my interest in connecting architectural spaces in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape to each other, such as the St. Michael and St. George Cathedral8 and the Drostdy Arch9 that marks the main entrance to Rhodes University. I consulted with two historians, Nomalanga Mkhize and Julia Wells, in order to develop a better understanding of these historical spaces. In planning the performance I was also inspired by the album We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite. My approach was to lead the audience on a procession, starting at the Cathedral and walking along High Street to the Drostdy Arch. These two architectural facades, both of which have a violent colonial and missionary history, face each other on opposite ends of High Street.

In the performance I engaged with various sites as I enacted the situations of protest, prayer, and coming to peace with the past history of architectural sites. The performance started outside the main entrance of the St. Michael and St. George Cathedral. Using an okapi10 knife, I ripped apart the red altar server cassock associated with Christianity, which features in many of my performances and photographs (Fig. 15). I then set the garment on fire (Fig. 16), symbolizing years of systematic violence connected with the institution of the church since the arrival of missionaries. Another prop which was featured was an artificial human skull which contained incense used to sage the space, thus taking away the role of the priest and that of servers. The use of the skull was inspired by Pramesh Lalu's (2009) book, The Deaths of Hintsa, in which he analyzes the narrative of King Hintsa, also known as Hintsa ka Khawuta (1798–1835),11 who was killed by the British Settlers and whose head was brought to Grahamstown before it was eventually taken to Britain.

I then proceeded with the audience to a Settler statue opposite the Cathedral, which commemorates the Battle of Grahamstown in 1819 and signifies the spot where Colonel Graham and Captain Stockenstrom decided upon the present site of the City of Grahamstown in 1812. Here I inscribed the words “Nxele, Ndlambe, Umhlaba” on the blank side of the statue, registering that which was occluded from the historical narrative of this statue. Nxele led members of the Ndlambe regiment, who were fighting for their stolen land and were displaced by the British Settlers. The performance ended at the top of High Street by the Drostdy Arch, where I hung a noose. Placing the artificial skull beneath the rope I linked the histories of terror and killing of the two sites. Finally, I handed Molotov cocktails to the audience as a way to remind viewers/participants about the systematic violence that characterized our collective history and memory.

SANE: Looking at your exhibition catalogue titled Ubuzwe, I realize the commonality in the Bantu ancestry that I, as a Ugandan, share with you, a South African. The title Ubuzwe suggests to me the state of “being something.” What is this “something”?

SIKHUMBUZO: To declare a state of “being something” in South Africa is quite complex, as one might think one has figured out this “something-ness” and then it turns out not to be the case. For instance I used to believe that I form part of the amaXhosa ethnic group or nation, and grappling with this perception is one of the many issues I interrogate in Ubuzwe as I meditate and probe the historical and ideological “facts” and “myths” of nationhood. This is in light of how South African people came to be defined and produced through the politics and culture of nationalist struggle. In conceptualizing the “Ubuzwe” exhibition (Figs. 1724), I approached “facts” not in their crude facticity but through contemplation of which facts acquire immediacy and how. Through using historical sites such as monuments and the mountain in the Eastern Cape named Ntaba ka Ndoda, I have come to learn that my Nguni ancestry dates back to 700 ce as a result of migration and trade.

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Ukubamba elentulo (2016)

Inkjet on Epson UltraSmooth Ed 5+ 2AP, 170 cm × 108 cm

17

Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Ukubamba elentulo (2016)

Inkjet on Epson UltraSmooth Ed 5+ 2AP, 170 cm × 108 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Dictator I (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 42 cm × 59.4 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Dictator I (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 42 cm × 59.4 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Dictator V (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 42 cm × 59.4 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Dictator V (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 42 cm × 59.4 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Dictator VIII (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 42 cm × 59.4 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Dictator VIII (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 42 cm × 59.4 cm

21–23

Sikhumbuzo Makandula

The Promised Land (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 29.7 cm × 42 cm

21–23

Sikhumbuzo Makandula

The Promised Land (2016)

Inkjet on Epson Giclee paper, Edition: 6 + 2AP, 29.7 cm × 42 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Ntaba ka Ndoda (2016)

Inkjet on Epson UltraSmooth, (Ed) 6, 120 cm × 120 cm

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Sikhumbuzo Makandula

Ntaba ka Ndoda (2016)

Inkjet on Epson UltraSmooth, (Ed) 6, 120 cm × 120 cm

Ubuzwe is an isiXhosa word that means a nation, nationhood, and a sense of belonging. The term is inspired by the writer S.E.K. Mqhayi's12 book Abantu Besizwe (2009), which narrates the ways in which a sense of place had tremendous influence on his patriotism. In my recent exhibition I unpacked the term ubuzwe to try to understand my own sense of place in a post-apartheid country. Furthermore it was an attempt to interrogate what we've inherited sociopolitically, given the country's past history of apartheid and colonialism. Importantly, the “Ubuzwe” exhibition also interrogates how we as South Africans negotiate our social identity given that we are still transitioning as a democratic state.

SANE: While I sense a commonality in our artwork I am also reminded of a difference in the sense that, even when I relate to your process and your work, I engage with it from my own set of beliefs and interpretations, which are different from your experiences. We are both from colonial backgrounds but the levels of exploitation and marginalization have probably been higher in the experiences of many South Africans. In my painting Xenophobia Is No Revolution (2015) (Fig. 14), I deal with issues of xenophobia from my own perspective, but I am sure that xenophobia unravels quite differently in South Africa. Does this difference in the colonial recognition and experience come into play when questions of xenophobia come up; when black South Africans who are likely of Bantu origin attack their immigrant cousins from the rest of Africa?

SIKHUMBUZO: The Settler colonialists and missionaries have done so much damage in the psyches of black people, and it becomes evident especially in South Africa. In this context I prefer to use the term Afrophobia instead of xenophobia, as the attacks affect only the black immigrants from the rest of Africa. The current government that is in power has, in my opinion, done very little in fostering intracontinental relationships with other African states through education and international relations, and socioeconomically. The majority of South Africans are not taught or made aware of how the country won its liberation struggle through the help of other neighboring states such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, and Swaziland. An inferiority complex that underpins ways of thinking after years of discrimination reveals itself when immigrants who come to seek refuge in South Africa are stereotyped and stories are created that implicate them in the stealing of jobs.

As a practicing artist I see it as my duty to challenge these stereotypes. Furthermore, I try to create links with others and to work collaboratively with artists from South Africa and beyond. For example, I recently collaborated with Moffat Takadiwa, a Zimbabwean artist, as part of my solo exhibition, “In Search of a Nation” (see this issue, p. 26, Fig. 17). In our collaborative performance we explored trade relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as issues of migration. The time is now to challenge the status quo of borders that were created by the colonialists in order to divide us as Africans, and we need to reimagine our identity in the so called post-colony

SANE: In your Dictator series (Figs. 1820) you seem to evoke a silent protest. Is the color red, which features so predominantly in this series, an evocation of an uprising?

SIKHUMBUZO: In the Dictator series, I was interested in the history of political dynasties, exchanges, and cooperation in the fields of culture and military affairs between African states and Asian countries. The Diktat is constructed as “I is another,” (Rimbaud in Petitfils and Sheridan 1987), portraying multiple identities. I focused on the cooperations specifically in countries such as Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, China, and Malaysia, where the political, economic, and cultural are embroiled. Yes, the red was used as an evocation of nationalistic uprising and to speak back to coloniality that still defines culture, labor, intersubjective relations, and knowledge production within the countries mentioned above.

SANE: You oscillate between performance, photography, and social sculpture. How do you manage to do this so seamlessly? Where do you situate your thinking process in building ideas that are multidisciplinary? Finally, can you link your process to the act of dialoguing with the past as a means to reimagine missing histories?

SIKHUMBUZO: Working in a multidisciplinary way helps me to resolve and map out ideas in a form of situations that could be imagined using various tools. Normally the process starts as research—reading various texts or studying sounds that may help shape my ideas. Sometimes my approach is intuitive, especially with performance. A drawing, photograph, video, or sound is then realized as scenarios that can be read in various forms then eventually pieced together as a body of work or singular art pieces. I also work for quite long periods of time with site-specific projects, and this longterm approach seems to require that I work in various mediums. For instance I have been working in an area called Keiskammahoek in the Eastern Cape researching a monument named Ntaba kaNdoda.13 It took a period of three years to research the historical context of this area and monument as I experimented with photography, video, and a literary archive. These longterm projects are realized with working with professionals such as historians, art curators, ethnomusicologists, and nongovernmental organizations such as Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda.14 This multidisciplinary and collaborative approach enables us to reimagine our missing histories.

Notes

Funding for this research and the publishing process was provided by the South African National Research Foundation SARChI Chair in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Thanks to Ruth Simbao for feedback and writing support; Susan Blair for text editing support, and Rachel Baasch for assisting us with the images.

1

SANE is Eria Nsubuga's artist's name.

2

Abanene: The Chronicles (2013), Part I, https://vimeo.com/75559994. Mukalazi and Nsubuga are planning a series of Abanene animations.

3

A boda boda is the motorcycle taxi used as a popular means of transport in Kampala.

4

Personal conversation with Mzili at Afriart Gallery in Kampala, Uganda, September 2015.

5

“Namugongo was formerly a place of execution of all people who committed grave offences in the kingdom of Buganda. It is here that 14 of the 22 Uganda Martyrs offered their life to Christ (burnt alive), on the orders of King Mwanga in 1886, having refused to denounce their Christian faith … On 6th June 1920 Pope Benedict XV beatified the Uganda Martyrs. Pope Paul VI canonized them on Mission Sunday, 8th October, 1964 in Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome. The same Pope honoured the Martyrs with a pilgrimage on 31st July to 2nd August 1969—the first visit ever by a pope to the African Continent” (Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine, Namugonga website: www.ugandamartyrsshrine.org.ug).

6

See Andrea Stultiens’ website, Things I do with photographs:www.andreastultiens.nl.

7

The exhibition at Framer Framed 2015 was titled “Simuda Nyuma: Forwards Ever Backwards Never” (see www.andreastultiens.nl and www.framerframed.nl).

8

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George, now known as the Grahamstown Cathedral, was built in the 1800s and first opened its doors in 1830. In 1853 St. George's, by virtue of the appointment of a bishop, became a cathedral. This made it the mother church of a vast diocese, a diocese in which the church has grown so much that it has twice had to be divided (http://www.grahamstowncathedral.org/aboutus/history.php).

9

Marking the entrance of the Rhodes University the Drostdy Arch is one of the important tourist spots in the city of Grahamstown. The place is one of the seven buildings of the Albany Museum, and over a period of two centuries it has been a site where rituals of terror were experimented on black bodies.

10

The okapi is a lockback or slipjoint knife originally produced in 1902 for export to Germany's colonies in Africa. The knife takes its name from the giraffe-like central African okapi. Okapi knives are very popular in Southern Africa, but have a rather nefarious reputation as they are associated with criminals and street gangs.

11

King Hintsa was the fourth Paramount Chief of the Gcaleka subgroup of the Xhosa nation from 1820 until his death in 1835. “Invited to peace talks by Governor Harry Smith, the British demanded 50,000 cattle in compensation for the 1834 war, and that Hintsa tell all Xhosa chiefs to stop fighting the British … Hintsa was captured by the British during the Cape Frontier Wars 1835 and in extenuating circumstances was shot and killed trying to escape resulting in him becoming a martyr for the Xhosa people. His body was subsequently … dismembered by troops in search of grisly momentoes [sic] and … his head had been preserved and taken back to Britain” (https://www.geni.com/people/Hintsa-King-of-the-Xhosa/6000000014474799582).

12

Mqhayi was born in the Cape Province, South Africa, to a Christian family. At the Lovedale institution he was trained as a teacher. In addition to teaching and helping to edit journals in the Xhosa language, he was appointed to the Xhosa Bible Revision Board in 1905. Later he would help to standardize Xhosa grammar and writing, and then become a full-time author.

13

Ntaba kaNdoda is a monument with a deep history in precolonial and early colonial legends, on the one hand, and disputed history in Lennox Sebe's Ciskei, on the other hand. Before Lennox Sebe erected the Dutch Reformed Church-inspired spike on the mountain there was Ntaba kaNdoda—a peak named after Chief Ndoda. Located about seven kilometers from Dimbaza on the route to Keiskammahoek, Ntaba kaNdoda is an imposing sight. As part of his efforts to create an authentic Ciskeian identity, President Lennox Sebe commissioned the erection of a monument on the peak of Ntaba kaNdoda (http://www.bctourism.co.za/itemdetail.php?id=542&category=15).

14

“Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda is a nongovernmental organization that promotes sustainable rural development in Keiskammahoek South. We are owned and controlled by the local communities, who came together and formed this organization in September 2002. We are run by a Board of Directors elected at a General Assembly held every two years” (http://www.ntabakandoda.org.za/index.php/about-us/1-who-and-what-is-ntinga-ntaba-kandoda).

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