Tuesday, March 2, 2010

But Is It Art? Arts Minister vs Lesbian Art

Isn't Art a fine tool to evoke emotions? Isn't it a wonderful vehicle to expose ignorance, area of opportunity or just a platform to enable individuals to share, teach and create awareness?
Most might answer yes while some might reciprocate with BUT IS IT ART?
I will not attempt to answer the question “BUT IS IT ART?” the one which has been asked since the inception of art but I will say this:
My believe is that such a question arises when an artist has successfully created a piece or a body of work that not only raises a few eyebrows or hits the viewer with pure honesty but also sends others such as Lulu Xingwana the South African minister of Arts and Culture on what some industry peers called homophobic frenzy.

Here is a young black woman who is not only well commended in her area of expertise but also courageous enough to confront a subject matter that touches people in many varied ways, black women sexuality. Among other things, through her work Muholi has brought to light what black lesbians in South Africa (and beyond) have to endure in their daily existence including hate crimes from members of the society who so desperately need to be educated about [this].
The Minister of Arts and Culture slammed her work at the Opening of an exhibition in Constitution Hill (Johannesburg, South Africa) calling [it] immoral, pornographic and also saying her department services a mandate that promotes social cohesion and national building. According to tonight.co.za the minister further mentioned that she left the show before delivering her opening speech because Muholi’s work expressed the opposite of her department’s mandate.
My question is where is national building when those in prominent positions with the resources to assist in bringing the nation together contradict their own decree, by failing to appreciating the artists’ point of conception? I believe such people as Xingwana need to lead by example in doing away with marginalising what may seem “other” in the society due to lack of education.

In a brief conversation with Muholi, she said she was afraid the minister’s reaction may create the worst hate crimes against black lesbians in South Africa, the very thing which her work attempts to address by showing humility and vulnerability of the women in her photography.

Since Xingwana is in no possession of formal Art education, one wonders what kind of pieces would constitute her body of work - that is if she made time to study towards a qualification in Arts.

Perhaps as people, we should stick to what we know best, support where possible, teach where a lesson is due and appreciate others’ reasons for doing what they do.

Muholi is currently in Melbourne where she is based at Monash University in Artist Residency program with fellow South African artist Anthea Moys. It would be interesting to see the respond to her work in these parts.
Find Muholi on www.zanelemuholi.com
Find Moys on www.antheamoys.co.za
Image: Courtesy of the Artist's website.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Placenta Abruption

Placenta Abruption

What is it?

A complication that occurs to approximately 0, 5% of pregnancies and it arises when the placenta peels off the wall of the uterus causing the blood to pool and creating a clot.

Why does it happen?

For a number of inconclusive reasons or medical mystery at this stage. Researchers are continuing their endeavour. In my case; because my placenta was not rooting well, my baby’s growth slowed down and he was distressed – by the time I obtain the diagnosis it was too late.

Who does it happen to?

Any pregnant woman with underlying situation that could not be detected by
standard pregnancy test/scans (such as the usual ultrasounds that every pregnant woman attends)

When does it happen?

-I believe it usually happens late in pregnancy (I stand to be corrected – this is based on my experience the stories I’ve come across)

What is the solution to prevent it?

If diagnosed in time, the size of the blood clot will determine how much risk the baby & mother are in and based on that; an emergency Caesarean is usually an alternative.
When my Dr at Pretoria Academy Hospital told me that by performing Caesarean I could loose my life; I didn’t know what I was suppose to feel because it meant I had to birth my son naturally which also meant I could (in my own way) bid him farewell before I met him, it was the most bizarre feeling I’ve ever had and the scale of my circumstances only hit me days after I left the hospital.

… And why am I saying all these out loud?

Well, one of the many advises that I took on board after loosing my son was that I must talk in order to help my sanity. So at the end of each sentence I feel better than at the beginning of it and the significance of knowing that someone else is reading [this] gives me comfort to know that by sharing with you - means you will have empathy for me and other mothers as well as appreciate the position that stillbirth leaves a grieving mother in.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Becoming mamaD.

My name is Dorcas and I’m a mother who lost a first son to stillbirth. On the 19th May 2007 I experienced a shock to my system so much so that I did not – could not cry for days! My son, Val was born silent. Since that mystifying day I’ve always known that Val did not pass-on in vain I also knew that I would do something about this ordeal; so tabooed that I was astonished to learn that most of the women in my mother’s age who came to give their condolences have lost a child at birth or miscarried.

So I’m creating this blog to begin a discourse among women from all walks of life to share our experiences regarding stillbirth and issues relating to pregnancy and birth.
When I read this article below; I must admit I had mixed feelings because during my experience I was 26 and very healthy. I’ve never smoked or taken alcohol or overweight, if anything I believe I was the healthiest I’ve been. I’m not suggesting that the researchers are wrong or anything like that - I’m merely saying there are so many other factors that may lead to stillbirth and this is why funding is needed to support stillbirth organisations worldwide to help make sense of this medical mystery. In my case it was a result of Placenta Abruptio/Abruption. No one told me about the health of my placenta or how well my placenta needed to root in order to feed my baby. While pregnant we are advised to take care of ourselves by eating well, exercising, quit smoking, stop drinking and lots of other obvious things. We are however not told about other risk factors such as the health of our placenta which can affect the baby’s growth by not passing enough nutrients, blood, etc and may even detach abruptly without the mother realising and result in foetal distress which if not diagnosed on time may cause stillbirth.
Obesity, age link to stillbirths
KATE BENSON, The Age, October 15 2008
There could be an "epidemic of stillbirths" in Australia in the next few years if the nation's obesity rate continues to soar and more women aged over 35 have children, researchers have found.
An analysis of more than 100 studies on stillbirth over 10 years, the largest of its kind in Australia and New Zealand, has found about 40 per cent of the 2000 Australian stillbirths a year are preventable if a woman loses any excessive weight, has children earlier and gives up smoking.
"That's 800 babies a year which could be saved if we were able to remove these three modifiable factors," the study's lead researcher, Vicki Flenady, said …
More than 35 per cent of pregnant women are overweight or obese and one in every seven babies in Australia is now born to a first-time mother aged over 35.
Professor Ellwood said other factors which appeared to increase a woman's risk of stillbirth were identified but required further research. These included advanced paternal age, maternal stress, inadequate antenatal care, previous caesarean section, excess caffeine intake, alcohol and substance use. Obesity-related type 2 diabetes also played a role.
The study, the largest of its kind in Australia, was based on the data collected from the 1,264 stillbirths recorded in NSW between 2002 and 2004.
If you are currently pregnant, I don’t mean to scare you or stress you in anyway, but I would say this to you; as you approach the final months of your pregginess – listen to your body because only you know it better than anyone and if something doesn’t feel/seem right and you feel the need to go for a check up do so without hesitation. Sometimes you get used to your baby’s movements, if this changes for example if your baby is usually active in the morning but that day you can’t feel him/her move as he/she usually does; take a cold glass of water and lay on you back for a little while and if nothing happens GO TO HOSPITAL to get your baby monitored!!!! This might turn out to be a worry over nothing because your bub is having a lazy day but it can also save your bub’s life.
See the day I lost my Val, I went into labor without knowing and I’m one of those people who can handle pain and I’ve learnt (the hard way) that in pregnancy every little pain is there for a reason and it needs the attention.
On 16 April 2009 we were blessed with a precious gift that we named Kristijan Thato. He was born 5 weeks pre-mature at 1.98 kg. I live my life with no regrets and I believe that everything happens for a reason but sometimes I ask myself “had I known what I know now would my son be alive today?” and then I realise that perhaps this happened to me so I can enlighten other women who are hoping to start a family.

Stillbirth resources:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Art Deco 1910 – 1939
28 June – 5 Oct 08
National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Melbourne winter Masterpiece.[1]Looking into the future [they] could see science, industrialization, urbanization, economic growth and political interaction worldwide. These were the notions of the world greatest thinkers and scholars of the 19th and 20th century. The industrial revolution in England rapidly spread across Europe and the United States and ultimately across the world due to colonialism. Among the discoveries of this revolution; machinery, plastic, automobile manufacturing were some of the predecessors of tools that have become an integral part of our daily existence in the global society such as radio, telephone, electric light, computers, etc.
According to history lessons; this revolution did not go down smoothly because with great ideas came wealth and with wealth came power and that lead to the ultimate greed and as a result war became inevitable, resulting in 1914 – 1918 war followed by World War II which claimed its undying mark globally.
During this pivotal time in history the artists were also present and as their trade required; they made their comment/point through varied media.

The 19th and 20th century introduced great schools of art with such movements as Modernism, Impressionism, Avant-Garde, Expressionism; Fauvism, Futurism, Surrealism, Art Deco is no exception as one of those movements which became a platform for the artists to make their comment on the current sociopolitical stance.

It gave me such pleasure to be able to attend an exhibition; Art Deco 1910 – 1939 at NGV last week. Every year for the past five years Melbourne has hosted some of the world acclaimed shows. Among the previous landmarks were: Picasso: Love and War in 2006, Dutch Masters in 2005, Impressionists in 2004 to name but a few.

With its glamour and streamlined products, Art Deco chose to make its mark in a positive manner that celebrated the future possibilities of Industrialization. Lead by pioneers such as Coco Channel, Paul Colin, Josephine Baker, Jeanne Lanvin and others,Art Deco exudes elegance and proves how people celebrated life amidst the depression of war. The movement showcased art objects as an essential luxury that the elite society could not afford to be without.
This idea was encapsulated in Paris Exposition of 1925 - International artists were invited to participate in this grandeur exhibition and the idea was to emphasise art and design as a necessary luxury for the society and to uphold Paris as the world’s capital for lavish items.
Art Deco presented functionality and commemoration of design in a glamorous [2]fashion evident from the automobile to plastic cased radios to elegant evening garb and mostly the way to reach exotic destinations in the grand luxury liners and streamlined trains.
Sourcing from Africa, Egypt, Japan and other movements of the century, the collision of ideas and references made Art Deco stand out.

Gyrating vigorously in her little banana skirt, Josephine Baker became the epitome of the Exotic reference in Paris at the time. With her unstoppable shimmies and the swirls within her banana skirt, Baker represented the ultimate Avant-Garde. She was able to embrace and subvert the stereotype while sexually liberating the female body. The movements of her body suggested the rush of the female body in a male’s position. She also created the disturbance of the European ballet equilibrium. This is the power that art has and to this day those with the capability of rocking the boat remain at the fore of their game.

There is so much to say about this particular exhibition but one thing is for sure…next time you touch your iphone screen and shuffle through your ipod while gearing up for a cruise controlled drive under the electric street lights think of those who saw all those possibilities and say a silent thank you. Visit the gallery on http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/

[1] Image details: VICTORIAN RAILWAYS (publisher)
Australia 1856–1976
The Victorian Railways present The Spirit of Progress 1937
booklet: colour photolithographs, letterpress, 12 pages, cardboard cover, stapled binding
20.8 x 26.8 cm (closed)
Museum Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2005

[2] Denham MACLAREN (designer)
England 1903–1989
Armchair (c.1930)
glass, metal, zebra skin
68. 0 x 57.0 x 85.0 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Accessioned, 1979 (W.26-1979)
© V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Love and Hate

Love and Hate, Brunswick street gallery (bsg), 15 – 28 August 2008

…he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he…wait I love him no more!
Love and hate the biggest rivals since the beginning of time. Isn’t it amazing how flawless one’s new love appears to be? How incredible it is to overlook all those fashion faux pars just to gaze into their adoring eyes? But after one little slide it suddenly becomes crystal clear that in actual fact you never really liked his/her fashion sense particularly that shirt he wore when you first met. These ideas were brought forth in an exhibition envisaged by Janice Gobey, South African Artist whose been based in Melbourne for seven years. Love and hate opened at Brunswick Street Gallery (bsg) on 15 Aug 08 and will run for two weeks. This is such a yummy show and the viewer could relate to the works on so many varied levels; from cute little red heart shaped chocolates to beautifully framed words that remind one of the warm grandparents’ home, the display tackles such heavy subject matter in a light hearted fashion that I found myself smiling through the works. Most artists incorporated the traditional hand written love letter or diary caption.

[1]For example in Rose coloured Spectacles, the work is rich on so many levels but I particularly enjoyed the simplicity of delivery. Gobey divides the work into 3 sections; the canvas, pages from diary/journal and the actual object that began the affection – the Orange shirt.
The voyage begins with a beautiful painting of a neatly flat packed shirt that fills up her composition and next to it the supporting text affirms how she deliberately overlooked yet noticed something unsettling about this particular shirt. In the next parts of her work the slip up is summed up in a few sentences and from then on the flow of the flaws is inescapable. She writes “I woke up today in the Orange shirted man’s bed, it struck me that the room was rather bleak, mismatched linen, dog hair on the bed…”[2] According to her website, Gobey has background in Psychology and Sociology which lead her to the interest in a human behaviour she is especially intrigued by the relationship between men and women and the dynamics of romantic involvement, marriage, break-ups and other related issues. Janice Gobey is currently working on an exhibition to be held in country Victoria during February of 2009. Find out more about her story on http://www.janice.com/
[1] Image details: Janice Gobey, Rose coloured Spectacles, Oil on canvas, text

[2] Janice Gobey, Rose coloured Spectacles, Oil on canvas, text

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Journey from Ethiopia to Melbourne

The Journey from Ethiopia to Melbourne

Exhibition by Ethiopian Artists: Befekir, Sutueal & Tamirat
Fortyfive downstairs, Melbourne
10 June – 21 June 2008

I walked down the stairs of number 45 on Flinders Lane and the narrow staircase lead me into a world worth exploring. I took a glance around the gallery while at the entrance and the room was field with African energy and colour that confirmed I was in the right place. Sutueal Bekele’s presentation particularly stood out for me and luckily he was there and available to answer any questions.

Before he called Melbourne home, Sutueal made a name for himself in many parts of Africa. He has participated in a number of exhibitions following his Fine Art studies in Addis Ababa.

Sutueal has lived most of his youth days in refugee camps and a fabric that held his life together at the time was based on dependence upon a community. According to my personal knowledge and experience, in African culture, being a “male” means one owns up to a great deal of responsibilities within a society. With this role comes a duty of being a man and that means one becomes the shield for that community, the strong one, the one who is in control of many life challenges, with emotions being at top of the list. I may not know the physical hardships that take place within a refugee camp but from our safe and comfortable “couches” at home we are constantly fed with distressing images of what people go through in order to end up living in such places. I believe that for people like Sutueal and perhaps a lot more others, growing up in such conditions may have varied impact on the persona but the common denominator is emotional scar which they will eternally wear.

Upon my first glance at his work, Sutueal’s representation of women in his paintings was so remarkable. Serene as they appear from afar, the closer you get the more emotional they [women] become. When I asked him about his women; before he could even utter the words, the melody of his voice just gave it all away and I new right then that these extraordinary women represent a deep sentiment in him. The three women in Emotional Presentation depict the different levels of emotions that women who surrounded him would have embodied in their daily existence. This reminded me of a South African actor/director who once mentioned in an interview that African people are not loud in their expression; a simple arched head could exude an emotion greater that a bucket full of exclamations. One doesn’t need to know the subject matter to realize that

[1]these women have a load on their shoulders.
Satueal’s technique creates a barrier between the viewer and the women. When I gave him my interpretation of the composition, he confirmed that the vertical lines represent the separation between his and their common ground which is emotional pain. This is because as one of the men within the communities (camps), the only way to show his emotions was by looking at these women and allowing them to take in his pain and share it with him through their unrestricted capability.
His palette is filled with warm and earthy hues which reminds the viewer of rich African ethnicity.
The canvases portray the masses of colourful fabrics that make up their shema (traditional Ethiopian garment) and as sorrowful as their expressions are, the overall voice of the composition communicates to the viewer in a warm tone. The subject matter is well suited and illustrated with care. He introduces white within this richness of ochres, reds and yellows which suggests purity and honesty in the unfolding story.
The expression on each woman’s face comes from the bottom of her chest and shoots straight to the viewer’s inner being. The canvas invites one for a closer inspection, encapsulates a big personal narrative and delivers the content in an easy to read manner which leaves you with something to ponder.

Amidst this intense emotional voyage, Sutueal brings forth a method which he mastered early in his art practice – Ethiopian Folk painting. This particular method is quite rigid and doctrine in approach meaning the artist is usually forced to conform to these set principles. Meskel Celebration depicts these fundamentals and also demonstrates the inflexibility that gives the artist very little room for personal style. The long rectangular canvas [224x40cm] illustrates a series of holy men wearing their pure white Shema and saints in their brilliantly coloured cloaks surrounded by the tools of their trade. Typical attributes that constitute this meticulous technique are well embraced by the artist. The good people (priests and saints) are illustrated with oversized opened eyes and light skinned. On the other hand evil characters or nonbelievers would be shown in profile with one eye opened. The artist gives himself a leg room and in doing so, he bends the rules by capturing a holy man with closed eyes. When he spoke about this work, he jokingly mentioned that there is nothing wrong with closed eyes; he is after all human and does that sometimes. He defies the rules even further by creating depth on this composition as well as painting parts of the background/wall. Once again, the traditional painters of this technique were not concerned with unnecessary background like landscapes or buildings, their main focus would be on the theme of the illustration.

I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition and look forward to Sutueal Bekele’s next offering. To find out more about the artist visit him on http://www.sutueal-art.com/

[1] Image details: Sutueal Bekele, Emotional Presentation, Oil on canvas.
2 Image details: Sutueal Bekele, Meskel Celebration (The Meskel festival celebrates the finding of the cross), Oil on canvas.