Monkey Business: Respect the chicken

08 April 2014 - 02:00 By Yolisa Mkele

Apartheid is a subject that evokes the strong feelings necessary to sell artwork.

South African artist Diezel is the latest to take a shot at visualising the injustices of our past in a bold "Afro-Pop Art" style. I caught up with her at her first solo exhibition at the Living Arts Emporium in Maboneng to see what apartheid looks like in bold colours.

What was the inspiration for this exhibition?

I live away from South Africa for a big part of the year, and the longer I'm away the more I'm drawn to the country and its history. This exhibition was a way for me to try to solve my own pain and issues around being away from home.

What went into your artistic process for this exhibition?

I started by reading about South African history and worked through ideas from there. I then decided what symbolism I would use. I went with chickens and dogs . The dogs are a reflection on society and how they were used in the apartheid days and how they are used today. They speak to a need for security. The chickens I chose because I feel it is not always an animal that is respected, and for me chickens represent people who were oppressed.

Why did you decide to call the exhibition 'No More Monkey Business'?

The title refers to the stuff that the government did that people didn't know of from the 1950s to the 1990s. It is my version of a commentary on that time.

Should art have a message?

I don't know if it is important for all art, but for me it is. I can't speak for all artists but I use art to help me resolve things as an artist and a person.

How long does it take to create some of your work?

Some of them take longer than others because it is not really about what they look like to me. It's more about the message that comes across. Sometimes I feel they are too intense so I try to soften them because I want people to enjoy them. I don't want anyone to feel upset when they look at it so they often get reworked. It could take anything from two days to weeks or months.

  • 'No More Monkey Business' will run at Living Artists Emporium, Johannesburg - open every Sunday and the first Thursday of every month - until the end of April. Call 076-238-0282