The contestants' take

Spier Contemporary 2010 is as much about the exhibition and the rewarding of some of South Africa’s stellar artists as it is about creating a platform for practitioners who are marginalised, either economically or because geographic situation stymies access to workshops and galleries. The Mail & Guardian spoke to two individuals who have turned from other professions to the arts.

Dawood Petersen
Petersen is a 33-year-old attorney whose five pieces included in the exhibition “seek to greet, rejoice and lament the advent and exodus of the first African World Cup”.

He admited to “enjoying, engaging with and buying art”, but only “really started making art about three years ago”.
The results are trenchant, humorous critiques of South Africa and its relationship with Fifa, the Bafana Bafana coach and the beautiful game.

“With Ball and Chain [an installation including a ball on a satin cushion, a vuvuzela and plastic chains] I wanted to touch on the relationship between Safa [the South African Football Association], South Africa and Fifa. As a country we appear so beholden to Fifa for allowing us to host the tournament, but the truth is we are just the hosts.
Whatever revenue comes from the tournament will bypass us,” he said.

Other pieces included in the final selection are Fong Kong World Cup Trophy, Watch the space ... too ... wishful thinking, Jimmy Choo’s Golden Boot Award and The Crucifiction of ...

As someone with a day job but who, “given the choice, would much rather be making art full-time”, he said he is disappointed with the government’s approach to the arts.

Commenting on Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana storming out of a recent exhibition that contained images of same-sex love, he said: “i’m shocked and ashamed of the minister’s attitude. Her point of view displays a lack of tolerance and an inability to engage with the art. That someone like this was made minister of arts and culture is a reflection of government not prioritising the arts or understanding its value in our society.”

Daniel Maggs
A 41-year-old Cape Town-based architect, Maggs’s Shack Rise imagines a half-completed upper-class skyscraper where construction is stopped because of the recession and a lack of funding. Squatters take over the uncompleted building and an organic community develops in a new space, reminiscent of a cross between personalised in situ favela upgrades in Brazil and an urban Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

He said the piece, which will take the form of a sketch on a 3m ceiling-to-floor scroll, was inspired by a doodling session with his young son, Alexander. “I love drawing with my son—it’s really lovely to have access to children’s imaginations because they are so fresh and uncontaminated,” he said.

“We sat down drawing a houseboat one day but it evolved into a skyscraper—very much a Mad Max type of building—and we nicknamed it Shack Rise,” said Maggs, who entered the piece on a whim.

“I think there is a serious problem with government and low-cost housing in this country. There seems to be no recognition that houses are actually about communities and people’s lives,” said Maggs.

“Instead of thinking out of the box when it comes to low-cost housing, there is a pervasive sense of mediocrity—which also exists in elite housing developments—which just leads to faceless, humanless housing estates. This piece addressed this, as well as the human potential for people to better their lives, if given a chance,” said Maggs.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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