Protest is a group show at Hazard Gallery curated by Beathur Mgoza Baker. It comprises artworks from South African and African artists that engage with notions of resistance and reads as both a response to the current socio-political milieu and the artist’s role (responsibility?) as social commentator. The exhibition features artwork by Vusi Beauchamp, Kudzanai Chiurai, Willem Boshoff, Abdoul-Ganiou Dermani, Gerald Machona, Angus MacKinnon, Pola Maneli, Samson Mnisi, Lavar Munroe, Artu Peatoo, Kenan Petersen, Jumoke Sanwo, Johan Thom, MJ Turpin, Fiatsi Va-Bene, Usha Seejarim and Laura Windvogel (Lady Skollie).
The works on the show are bold, and for the most part unambiguous in their commentary. The centre-piece of the show however is Willem Boshoff’s Racist in South Africa (2011), which caused quite an uproar recently because of its inclusion in the official South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennial. Boshoff has defended the work, and his artistic and personal position, which was published as a scrapbook by the gallery for this exhibition. The book features responses to and critiques of the artwork that Boshoff collected online during the debacle. Indeed, the exhibition makes much of the merits and courage needed to take a firm stand and stick by it. This quote by Elie Wiesel serves as preface to the text accompanying the show: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
The text continues: “Art and activism have a long history and the ability to refocus society. The views artists take can educate and galvanise action out of complacency and challenge popular narratives. The artist’s position in society is to remain independent, to stand firmly against censorship and the abuse of human rights. There are times when these abuses and censorship is so prescient that the reaction has to be stronger and more immediate. Artworks that emerge from this vacuum often act as a scintilla, igniting a society into a collective ‘NO’.”
Protest is on at Hazard Gallery (previously NIROXprojects) at Arts on Main until the 12 July.