The first two publications in this series of monographs on South Africa’s contemporary artists suggest that the series will become a highly appreciable tool for professionals, and a rich introduction for non-initiates. An all too rare initiative in Africa.
TaXi-001 started out with a conceptual photographic work. Jo Ractliffe is a white artist who challenges the values habitually attributed to photography in its usual forms. She multiplies her investigations, heading down paths that take us from reality to the image and back. Basing her work both on societal phenomena and on fragments of a more intimate universe, she exploits video, photomontage, and photography in situ, and can equally well work wonders with a toy camera.
TaXi-002 followed on with a figure from the former homeland of Venda (in the north of the country), at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. Samson Mudzunga makes sculpture-objects that he uses as both drums and coffins. He uses them in factual performances that blend local folklore and the elaboration of his own myth. His conflicts with the traditional chieftaincy, arising from his defiance of traditional practices in performances, have earned him several stays in prison. Which did not stop him from opening an underground museum in his village in 2000.
Each issue, which takes the form of a detailed catalogue, provides an introduction to the artist’s works and examines the development of their approach and career path. Most usefully, all the texts appear successively in English, French and Dutch. An educational supplement is also available in the form of an illustrated textbook with questionnaires and references. It gives South African teachers and lecturers things to develop in their art classes, branching out from issues directly related to the artist in question.
This collection thus plays the dual role of promoting South African artists on an international level and strengthening art education in the country via the work of its national artists. This will undoubtedly give the artists greater recognition in their home country. Joint backing from the IFAS (Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud), Prohelvetia, the MTN Art Institute, and the Dutch embassy have made this initiative possible. May it and it’s worthy circle live long!