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.


talya chalef said...

well done you - great article.

Dorcas said...

Thank you Talya.

tafi75 said...

well said!! its about time someone stopped SA from becoming a nanny state.