Artist tackles SA’s violence head on

South Africans should talk about violence at the dinner table, in their cars, on buses and around the braai — not just in political forums.

This is the view of fine arts PhD candidate Thembalakhe Shibase, who believes that: "South Africa has moments of peace, with violence waiting just around the corner, and when we talk about this we usually talk about it as a political matter, like 'government is not doing enough'. 

"But it's a problem that needs to be dealt with at an individual level because it's a problem within us. We need to confront our insecurities and deal with them — especially men," said Shibase, who is studying towards a doctorate in masculinity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Shibase registered as a PhD student in the gender studies department at the university this year, after completing his master's degree in fine art at Durban University of Technology.

Through paintings and interviews with artists, as well as people he thinks "are in a better position [than politicians]" to help us understand the problem, Shibase's thesis aims to research the relationship between '"Africanness', violence and masculinity".

His choice of topic was "a long time coming", he said, and is rooted in his earlier work as an artist. His paintings focus on African leaders with a history of dictatorship who had committed atrocities — people such as former president of Uganda Idi Amin and former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo Mobutu Sese Seko.

He wanted "to try [to] understand more about this common problem with African leaders and their reliance on violence to control their subjects, which leads to Africa's slow development".

Shibase's solo exhibition, titled Paint, Masculinity, Power and Violence, ran at the Erdmann Contemporary and the Photographers Gallery in Cape Town from February 27 to March 23.

The work that was on display was "confrontational with undertones of violence" and his handling of the physical body "overt", he said.

"Some of the work is quite explicit. The viewer will be confronted with images that will make you think: 'What is wrong with this image?'"

One of the paintings was of a man who at first glance was portrayed as bold and confident, yet harmless. "But there is underlying sense of threat and insecurity in the image," he said. 

There were also images of beautiful women shown in a way that might be seen as unacceptably explicit by conservative people, he said.

"The manifestation of people's discomfort with how a woman portrays herself often results in the woman being violated. Look at the miniskirt case where a woman was physically violated by taxi drivers for showing too much skin."

The dynamic in this kind of gender violence seems to be that "if you feel uncomfortable by how I present myself I am the one that must be violated somehow", Shibase said.

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


In East Africa, the locusts are coming back for more

In February the devastating locust swarms were the biggest seen in East Africa for 70 years. Now they’re even bigger

Western Cape Judge Mushtak Parker faces second misconduct complaint

The Cape Bar Council says his conduct is ‘unbecoming the holding of judicial office’

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories