Making a mark: Names to erase and to recall

22 September 2015 - 02:01 By Sean O' Toole

A recent performance art piece by Berlin-based South African artist Lerato Shadi posed a challenging question about the afterlife of the current wave of black female creativity. Will artists like Mafikeng-born Shadi or Polokwane-born Dineo Bopape, currently exhibiting in Cape Town and London, be remembered by future generations?Shadi's performance did not speculate on this generation's place in future history. Instead, it looked at the legacy of black women from the past and their uneven recall in the present.For her performance in Seriti se (2015) Shadi painted the names of women of colour in five horizontal lines across two walls of Galerie Wedding in Berlin."Harriet Powers, Sara E Goode, Yaa Asantewaa," read an excerpt of names hand-lettered in black paint.Asantewaa was a Ghanaian royal and early anti-colonialist, Goode the first African-American woman to be granted a US patent, and Powers an African-American slave who handmade quilts featuring narrative scenes.Shadi spent a year researching her list. As part of her performance she invited a gallery audience to erase the names by painting over them in white. The invitation elicited a mixed response.Some people saw the erasure as an opportunity to internalise a forgotten name, while others refused."One lady wanted to physically stop someone from erasing a name," said Shadi, who has been producing erasure performances since 2012.Last December she was invited to create a new erasure work in a street-facing window of Iniva, a London arts organisation. Shadi was in London again this July for a four-day festival of South African art films hosted by the Tate Modern.The programme included a screening of her five-minute film Matsogo (2013), a tightly framed study of a piece of cake being crumbed and reshaped over the financial page of a newspaper.Also present at the screenings was Dineo Bopape whose film is I am sky (2013) formed part of the programme. It also appears at her current solo exhibition slow -co- ruption [sic] at London's Hayward Gallery.Bopape makes joyfully disordered work that gives the middle finger to slick. This is true of her sprawling sculptural installations as much as her jittery films.Bopape has been making films since 2005. Her London show foregrounds recent work, like is I am sky, a psychedelic mash-up of effects haunted by the human figure.Her earlier works were similarly delirious but had a documentary quality too. Dreamweaver (2008) depicts Bopape agitatedly dancing with an umbrella while wearing a beard and garment made of plastic bags.The work is included in Fantastic, a group exhibition curated by Nomusa Makhubu and Nkule Mabaso at the Michaelis Gallery in Cape Town...

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