The atmosphere after South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994 was one of jubilation, as the nation celebrated their newly won freedom. Soon though, the real complexities of being a “Rainbow Nation” started to emerge, and it was unclear what came next. Shield and Spear, a documentary film directed by Petter Ringbom, seeks to explore this. A story about what comes after, Shield and Spear documents what it’s like to live and work as an artist in this new democracy.
With a focus on the intersections between art and politics, Shield and Spear weaves together a constellation of stories about art, music, identity, race, and freedom of expression in South Africa – 20 years into democracy. The film features a range of contemporary South African artists and musicians who have been influential in these spheres.
Included as part of the artists featured is the infamous Brett Murray – referred to by a critic as “the dark prince of South African pop art,” Zanele Muholi – photographer, activist and 2013 recipient of the Index Award for freedom of expression, and Roger Ballen – one of South Africa’s most acclaimed photographers who has been depicting people living on the margins of society through his work since moving to Johannesburg in the 70s. Also in the line up is conceptual artist and musician Xander Ferreira of Gazelle, Soweto-based design collective The Smarteez,Siyabonga Mthembu – the charismatic and openly political frontman of the band The Brother Moves On, and Mpumi Mcata of the BLK JKS – one of South Africa’s most recognized bands in recent years.
Other artists and musicians who will feature in Shield and Spear are Spoek Mathambo, Fokofpolisiekar, Yolanda, Jack Parow, DJ Invizable, Athi Patra Ruga, Motél Mari and Dirty Paraffin.
Ferial Haffajee (editor of the City Press newspaper), Lloyd Gedye (business and arts reporter for the Mail & Guardian), Atiyyah Khan (freelance journalist based in Cape Town) and Milisuthando Bongela (Johannesburg based writer and entrepreneur) make up the journalists who will be contributing to the film.
Petter Ringbom, the visionary behind Shield and Spear, is a New York based director of documentary and narrative films. The Russian Winter was his debut feature documentary, and he has since gone on to direct a short film called May Fly and a video collaboration with artist Karl Haendel called Questions for My Father. Marquise Stillwell, founder of design consultancy Openbox is the executive producer of the film, with Alysa Nahmias (co-director and producer of the award-winning feature documentary Unfinished Spaces) fulfilling the role of producer.
Shield and Spear is currently in production and is set for release in 2014, to coincide with the anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election. Visit the website (shieldspear.com) for more information about this upcoming film, find Shield and Spear on Tumblr for behind the scenes pictures, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep informed as things continue to unfold.
UPDATE: Watch the trailer here.