Author: Stefanie (page 1 of 7)

Manyaku Mashilo – Studio visit video

Recently visited Cape Town-based Manyaku Mashilo at her studio where I shot a short video profile and chatted to the artist about inspiration and creating gawdly art ahead of her exhibition.

Edited by: George Kwambiri

On Cape Town (Art Fair), Zuma and ‘rooting for everybody black’

This article appeared on on 23 February 2018.

Image: Variety

Missing a flight to Cape Town from Joburg on the opening day of art fair wasn’t the best idea. The timing was off. Zuma had just resigned as president and everything stopped. Then simultaneously went ballistic. The airport was chaotic and airliner counter tops dressed with signs: “ATT: Flights to CPT are fully booked”, as people made their way to Parliament as the next president was ushered in.

There was a fresh pandemonium about the space. But a plead and a prayer later, with ticket in hand, we were all being transported to the Cape on a turbulent political zephyr (even people like myself, who were just attending the opening of an art fair).

Last Thursday was a reminder of how art festivals are often times the site for political mayhem and other times, the backdrop to climatic social events. (Remember those burning cars outside the opening of Joburg Art Fair last year that could’ve been art installations but instead marked the ongoing taxi/uber violence? Or years prior when Ayanda Mabulu’s artwork depicting a penis flashing Zuma was removed to much debate. Or farther afield to the Whitney Biennale in 2017, where artists demanded the removal of Dana Schutz – a white painter’s –depiction of Emmett Till, titled Open Casket.)

In the case of Cape Town Art Fair, it’s mostly a bit of both. The very nature of the city, with its violent past and present, renders it inherently a site of political mayhem.

Before attending the art fair, I had already planned to do a round-up of highlights. But a tweet by Nomonde Tshomi as I disembarked the plane, about the lack of love that Cape Town’s creative scene has for black women, encouraged a piece on the Black women creatives presenting at the fair.

The piece, in celebration of our expression and in defiance to the city’s legacy of othering, marginalising and erasing of us, through spatial planning, suffering, racial discrimination, economic exclusion and more.

“Identity politics of Cape Town have their origins in slavery. If we are going to make sense of this piece of earth called South Africa, we have to make sense of the Cape colony and what happened to the people here,” poet-activist Lebo Mashile tells me at Design Indaba, a day before she premieres her collaborative production, Saartjie vs. Venus.

The theatre piece is on the life of Sarah Baartman, a Khoi woman brought to the Cape as a slave, and who in 1810 travelled to Europe where her body was exhibited, while alive and dead. Sarah’s voice was taken from the pages of history and her body physically removed from the Western Cape until her remains were repatriated almost 200 years later. (“As visible as Baartman was, her voice has been erased,” Lebo says in this interview.)

“[Engaging with this trauma] is where art becomes important because artists have vision, artists are the custodians of story,” the poet shares with me. “Art and creativity is that site of transformation, where we develop a language for dealing with these things that are so much bigger than us. Things that swallow us.”

Days after the closing of the art fair, seated in the Artscape auditorium, I listened to the inspiring presentation by Thomas Heatherwick. The British architect spoke passionately on the importance of retaining heritage and reconstructing as opposed to deconstructing, and unpacked how he looked to the history of Cape Town to recreate what is now regarded as the first African Art Museum in the country.

Looking around the room, one might expect — due to geographical location — a crowd of representative faces eager to arm themselves with the words of Zeitz designer. Instead, I was engulfed by a sea of whiteness, in a region reeling from drought. (The crisis in city clearly goes far beyond water.)

So in the vain of “rooting for everybody black” — Issa Rae’s reaction to a journalist who asked her on the Emmy Awards red carpet who she was there to support – as a response to our invisibility in the audience at Artscape, and under-representation in the city and its history. This piece is rooting for our presence, for Black women making art, which showed at the fair, and for women like Kwezi (Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo), Gladys Mgudlandlu and Sarah Baartman who they’ve tried to remove from our collective memory but have failed.

*Time and word constraints has limited the full survey of black women creatives at Cape Town Art Fair. So here’s a look at 10 artists at CTIJF2018.

Turiya Magadlela

Turiya Magadlela’s work has a quiet potency to it. Presented alongside Lungiswa Gqunta and Sethembile Msezane as part of the Unframed section, Turiya’s art — made of the frills and pantyhose –might appear dainty until you look closer at the weight and seriousness of it. Using materials like pantyhose and correctional service uniforms in her art, Turiya’s works have explored Black South African history and the Black woman experience.

Alka Dass

Winner of the 2017 Young Female Residency Award, Durban-based artist and curator presented thoughtful pieces of needle work. According to the Project Space, where Dass is spending six months in residency, her interest lies in female identity and gender equality, as well as the relationships women have with their bodies.

Nontobeko Ntombela

Nontobeko Ntombela is the guest curator of the fair’s new section, SOLO, which featured the works of solo presentations by artists that include Buhlebezwe Siwani (South Africa), Parul Thacker (India), Keyezua (Angola) and other important women artists. According to the curator, the works on exhibit are about “upsetting the norm and upsetting the image of women”.

Lhola Amira

Featuring photography and video, Lhola Amira’s evocative series Sinking: Xa Sinqamla Unxubo – shown as part of the SOLO section of the fair — draws from the sinking of the SS Mendi in 1917 and will be exhibited again at Smac Gallery in March.

Stacey Gillian Abe

Kampala-based conceptual artist Stacey Gillian Abe is a finalist of The Project Space’s Young Female Residency Award. Her work – surreal, experimental and enigmatic — draws from past experiences and attempts to to critique stereotypical depictions of black womanhood.

Kimathi Mafafo

TBH this was my first time seeing the work of Kimathi Mafafo in person. And I’m near healed. Textured and peaceful, her canvases are filled with lush greenery and featured black women prominently. This self-taught artist once said, “If I produce artwork, I feel like I’m healing the people, the black people, who are scarred from apartheid, and black women who have been scarred and put down.”


A booth of beautiful installation work and photography that features a lone masked person in an immaculate red gown and standing before different settings comprises Keyezua’s Fortia. A celebration of her Dutch-Angolan identity, Fortia was part of the show’s SOLO section.

Renee Cox

US artist Renee Cox’s photography on exhibition merges performance, photography and activism, and confront womanhood, racism and sexism. Renee self-describes as “one of the most controversial African-American artists working today using her own body, both nude and clothed to celebrate black womanhood and criticise a society she often views as racist and sexist”.

Bronwyn Katz

Salvaged bed springs and wool make up the talented Bronwyn Katz haunting piece, aptly titled Spookasem. The award-winning artist and founding member of iQhiya, an 11-women artist collective, presents this harrowing work days before her exhibition.

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

The space of physics and ancient mythology is an important one in our creative society, and the Motswana-South African-Canadian artist is intrepid about her artistic exploration of natural science, identity and self. Pamela’s works presented are small in scale but expansive in subject and landscapes, and characters.

Stefanie Jason x Mushroomhour: ‘VN Music Vol #1 – Mombasa🌴’

I dropped a mix ‘VN Music Vol #1 – Mombasa🌴’ for your ears and mind via experimental music imprint Mushroomhour.

VN Music is the first of a series of mixes featuring some of the voice notes I’ve received (sometimes forwarded) and beats I’m obsessing over. This mix – a mélange of sounds from Makeba to a jazzed out Gucci – is a sonic trip I curated after traveling specifically to Mombasa Island. Check out the rest and listen to the mix.


Guest edit: Chicago publication MADE’s Global Issue

Got the opportunity to guest edit up and coming Chicago publication MADE’s Global Issue (November 2017) featuring Spike Lee. In it – and with the help of writers Esinako Ndabeni and Tiger Maremela (who catalog house music over the years and its migration) – we connect our cities and countries through history, culture and craft, and bridge any oceanic divide. 🌍

Thank you team Made (esp Kris Christian and my bro Todd I. Walton) for this wonderful opportunity. 

Read the issue.

Go newd! Our faves show why inclusive underwear matters in our new body positive campaign

This post originally appeared on in October 2017.

You never know how ill-fitting something is until you find your size (or your colour). This is more apparent after attending the recent launch of underwear brand Gugu Intimates, and trying on the “first African premium skin coloured underwear brand for brown skin tones”. With a newfound awareness of why we need more inclusive basics like underwear; I looked down at my chest, through my white shirt, to my brown skin unintentionally unmatched against my pale “nude” bra. And the revelation was real.

Despite us actively being instrumental in creating our environment and the products in it, it’s absurd to think that not much in this manmade world was made for us. Only now, after centuries of work put into developing fashion, the entertainment industry, beauty products and more, are our needs as black people (hell, pretty much all marginalised groups) included and catered for — still only to certain extents — in these markets.

“For many years, the beauty and hair space has treated women of colour and our specific beauty needs as an afterthought and a special case to be handled when it suits the needs for sales,” Afrobella founder Patrice Grell Yursik was quoted as saying in an article about Rihanna’s new make-up line Fenty, lauded for catering to all shades, particularly dark brown skin tones often neglected by beauty brands.

Fenty isn’t the only “experience” creating breakthroughs for us in 2017. Hit TV show Insecure was praised for its “inclusive lighting” techniques correcting a tech-sophisticated world that has and still mis-lights us. I digress. So, to celebrate our diverse skin tones and body shapes, plus the products that complement them, such as brands like Gugu Intimates and its empowering New Naked range, we invited some of our favourite creatives (Nkulsey Masemola, Lisa Ally, Boitumelo Rametsi, Nolwazi Tusini and Elle Rose van der Burg) to our Glow Up party. This is not an ad, this is appreciation. — Stefanie Jason, ed-in-chief



Photography: Lauren Mulligan
Production: Stefanie Jason
Creative direction: Lee-Ann Orton
Assistant: Aimee-Claire Smith
Make-up artist: Alex Botha of Lampost (using Dermalogica products)
Graphics: Tiger Maremela
Models: Nkulsey Masemola, Lisa Ally, Boitumelo Rametsi, Nolwazi Tusini and Elle Rose van der Burg

*Special thanks to Gugu Intimates

*This article has been edited to reflect model Elle Rose van der Burg’s name change – she was previously known as Luke van der Burg*

Older posts

© 2018 Stefanie Jason

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑