The earthy ochre tones and dark scrawls in Asanda Kupa’s Chained in blue (2017) evoke a mass of figures united under a banner of resistance. The canvas appears as an eruption of expressive marks and dynamic energy. The piece seems to summon songs and chants for freedom. It is an especially poignant piece in the Artbank of South Africa’s collection. In an interview Kupa describes how, “I use crowds as a symbol of oneness, that everything is connected, and all is one”.
The sixteenth of December is a day steeped in significance. It has been named, claimed and also retrospectively framed. During various moments of history this day has commemorated anguished battles and victories, based on the dominant perspective.
Culture is not fixed. It ebbs and flows from one generation to the next. Our ancestors and elders bequeath to us gifts of knowledge and embodied knowing. Yet sometimes we forget. When the rituals that contain and connect us are lost we become untethered from our communities and unable to contain the depth of wisdom acquired before us.
Over the last year, the pandemic has cast a long shadow over our lives, but while the national lockdown saw an overall decline in crime, acts of Gender Based Violence spiked dramatically. According to Amnesty International, in just the first week of lockdown, 2 300 calls for help were made to the South African Police Service. Only three months later, a tragic tally of twenty-one women (and children) had been killed by their intimate partners. Although necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the lockdown has created a context in which many women are trapped with no way to escape the violent hands of their abusers.
Sifiso Samuel Gumede, Education not police, 2017. Linocut
A day when bullets rained down, clouds of noxious gas infiltrated airways and peaceful protests were met with violence, the course of our nation’s history was irrevocably changed. On June 16th we honour the sacrifice young people made in the fight for freedom. The Soweto Uprising that started in 1976 spread like wildfire across apartheid South Africa. The spark that lit the proverbial match was the enforcement of Afrikaans alongside English as the medium of instruction across schools. Students objected and with few other means to voice their dissatisfaction, they planned a protest action.