Unapologetic Cape Town artist, Ayanda Mabulu‘s Yakhal’inkomo – Black Man’s Cry painting recently caught the media and art scene’s attention when it got pulled off from the Jo’burg Art Fair last weekend. Live caught up with him and asked him a few questions about the incident and he gave extensive responses to our questions. This how it went down.
Live: You recently had your Yakhal’inkomo – Black Man’s Cry piece pulled off at the Joburg Art Fair. What does this say about the freedom of expression especially for artists in our country?
Ayanda: It’s totally bad to find out that the majority of art lovers, especially the art community, finds themselves in a tight corner- seeing the majority deciding for themselves- choosing what’s good to be consumed artistically by the art lovers. It’s the same thing that politicians do in our society; we borrow them power and soon they forget that they are there to serve us. They think they are more superior than everyone, in parliament for instance, + – 400 parliamentarians decide for the majority of citizens without looking at their interests. So same thing with the what happened at the art fair, these people just worship those who injected the capital, and not the public and that’s wrong.We have long gone from the era where only certain people have a right to freedom of expression. Censorship is a worm that needs be thoroughly eliminated from our society till infinity. We as artists will fight this battle till what used to be god be dog and what used to be dog be dog, meaning that we will tilt the scale and reverse this situation and inspire change to the people. This is our South Africa as citizens, and we have a right to contribute on the rebuilding of our constitution.
Live: How does an incident like this one make you feel personally and as an artist?
Ayanda: At first I was hurt and I can never forgive the wrong doers until they change their fashion of doing things. Activism is an act of love and respect for everyone. As an artist, I know I’m a weapon and a tool, an instrument for change and it’s my duty to inspire that change. For me to archive that I have to be strong, so this made me stronger, and we gonna grow stronger and stronger you know, but now it’s time for change,. Those who do wrong to us must now understand that in my vocabulary there is no “I” but “we” ’cause we all form part and parcel of the human family and together we can never bow down
Live:Could you let us know what message you were trying to get across with the piece?
Ayanda: I wanted to address the issue about the manslaughter in Marikana you know, so that people can see the legacy and the scars this massacre has left in the families whose bread winners were been killed brutally in cold blood without respect, like those cows in Spain killed by a matador. The work speaks about economic censorship and cheap labour; people are crying on the ground and they don’t feel safe in the hands of the police, they don’t feel well represented and they feel failed by their leaders whose interest is that of looking after the interest of the imperialists even today. The work is about talking about this dangerous spectacle where citizens are getting killed and starved whilst the world just watches. I looked at the so-called “sport” where a Spanish matador killed a bull with spectators watching and it reminded me of how Marikana miners were brutally killed in cold blood, and I wanted to question the role our leaders are playing to change the situation. The painting speaks about human dignity.
Live: And you obviously aren’t apologetic about it. Is this the response you were anticipating?
Ayanda: No my brother, how can I be apologetic whilst speaking the truth? No, I can never be apologetic, people who should be apologetic are the ones who took my work off the wall, not only Ross, no, he just needs to get fired. I mean people who should be apologetic are the law makers and all those people with no conscience who did not even have guts to show their faces, the cowards who instructed their puppy (Ross Douglas ) to take my painting off, they should be apologetic.
Live: The artwork has reportedly been sold for R89K. Was this expected?
Ayanda: It’s never about money my brother, my aim is to inspire change and for the painting to find place in the hearts of those who view it but if we talking about money, whose painting is suppose to fetch more and whose painting is suppose to fetch less? What is more, what is less?
Live: In general, your work is politically charged and provocative and usually doesn’t go down well with the people depicted on them. In general, what are you trying to achieve with your pieces?
Ayanda: Simple: to bring change and to inspire change my brother, and to eliminate those who abuse power and to open up a dialogue.
Live: “I understood this sort of thing in Cape Town when the AWB was after me (for your depiction of Eugene Terre’Blanche) but I did not expect this in Joburg, which is supposed to be black.” you were quoted saying. So you do really feel this is about race. Please expand on that.
Ayanda: The issue of racism is still one that deserve to be taken to the high courts, Cape Town is so racist. When you deprive people of their basic human rights, when you deprive them of simple things (for instance clean water), when you still expose them to the bucket system, when poor people are thrown in front of the toilets opposite city hall at the parade during World Cup 2010, just because they are ” dirty and smelling” and you telling them that they are interrupting with achieving the world class city status that Cape Town want to archive,what is that?
When I’m being searched at the beach by security ’cause I don’t look like I’m driving a car, and I’m black, what is that? When I’m was called a K***r in Cape Town what is that? Racism! And you would sit and think that eish! this Hellen Zille government, but you go to Jo’burg and at least it’s very multi-cultural, at least one would feel at home.
Not that we gonna run away from Hellen Zille like running off the sea cause we can’t swim and we scared of this whale or a shark called Zille, no we will fight her till she realises her position which is to serve the poor, the rich, black or white, coloreds and Indians, blue or purple people. Now that they have color coded us. F**k racism! Those in power are the ones who are racists even today. Look at the community of art lovers and those who don’t follow art were united as one; black, white blue or green, we’re united in fight of what happened in Jo’burg.
So we now we know who’s the problem, politics is the problem and they are making us blame each other, labeling us and we’re falling in a trap. That should be taken off with its roots now. Politicians,guys like Ross Douglas and his bosses are like worms that eat and are decaying our society and I think such a worm needs a strong pesticide and they should be reminded of their position in the community that we love the most. They are slowing the process of archiving unity, love and respect in society.
Live: In your opinion, do we have enough artists in SA doing the kind of provocative art you do? And is that a bad or good thing?
Ayanda: Reality is, some art spaces and some art institutions end up shaping artists in such a fashion that they only do art that fits their own standard. If you do art that questions, they tell you to f**k off and go to school so sometimes they are to blame too, my brother.
I have been through that too but I refuse you know, because I’m the maker of my art and my comments reflect the structure of our society, and sometimes an institution can only answer as far as the depth of a nail that hung my work and I will answer for my work . So what happens is that many of the artists with such work are locked outside, left to be destitute and that bring us to the issue of space, and that needs another chapter, hahahahha.
Live: And what’s next for Ayanda?
Ayanda: Time will tell, nature will play its role.
Live: Could you please add anything I didn’t ask you about but you feel should like sharing.
Ayanda: Artists need to be respected my brother, simple and plain. Until they realise that a brush is mightier than a bullet, we will keep on pushing the boundaries.
Images provided by Ayanda