Exhibition 2016: Plough Back the Fruits

VivaSpiritMarikanaWidowsWidows of Marikana: Viva the Spirit of the Marikana Widows! Oil pastels & Food colouring on paper, 280 x 150cm, May 2014

The Struggle for Justice and Restitution. The Bodymaps of the Widows of Marikana

Opening: 20 April 2016, 6:00 pm
with: Bishop Jo Seoka: representative of the Marikana mine workers, Bench Marks Foundation; Ntombizolile Mosebetsane & Agnes Makopano Thelejane: representative of relatives of the killed mine workers; Nomarussia Bonase & Judy Seidman: Khulumani Support Group
The opening will be followed by a buffet, invited by the VÖGB.
Location: ÖGB, Johann-Böhm-Platz 1, 1020 Wien (U2 Donaumarina)
Radio-Broadcast, Ö1, First Austrian Radio Station (Kristina Pfoser, 2016/4/20), with Interviews with Agnes Makopano Thelejane, Ntombizolile Mosebetsane and Bishop Jo Seoka.

The Marikana Massacre
16 August 2012, Marikana/South Africa: 34 striking miners of the world´s third-largest platinum mining company LONMIN are shot by the police. It is the worst massacre of South African citizens since Sharpeville in 1960 and the SASOL massacre 1987, it is a turning point in the history of South Africa. But, however, the state, LONMIN’s management and the international community left the families and the survivors largely alone with their desperation. The widows of the killed mine workers wer treated, as they have stated, “like stones”, with no voice to tell what they feel and know and hope.

Bodymaps: empowerment, documentation, intervention, art
This situation led some relatives of the miners murdered in Marikana to ask the Khulumani Support Group for help. Since it was founded in 1995, this civil society organisation has provided support to (groups of) victims and aims to strengthen and represent communities that are committed to political, social and economic justice and restitution in post-apartheid South Africa.
Khulumani began by providing the relatives with a specific platform to meet and to share their experiences; this is linked to traditions that were established during the struggle against apartheid. Similarly, the paintings they produced during the workshop are connected to concepts of ‘art for (national) liberation’.
These workshops led to the establishment of a collective, which increasingly began to develop a common voice. However, four years after the massacre, the struggle by the relatives of the workers shot in Marikana – known as the Widows of Marikana – for just and fair compensation is anything but over. Up to now, no reparations were offered to the relatives of the killed mine workers.

The ‘bodymaps’, which form the core of the exhibition, are a powerful pictorial expression of the Widows’ collective struggle. The paintings use sketches of the Widow’s bodies as a starting point with which to focus on their own constitution and perspective. The body speaks – through facial expressions, and through composure (while standing, lying, kneeling or running), and through the way in which the arms are positioned (held together over the head, stretched out, gesturing at something, or pressed onto the chest). The colours provide a further level of narration as does their material intensity, which results from a combination of oil paints, watercolours and rippled paper. The body and its setting provide further visualisations of the Widows’ experiences and environments: often the massacre itself moves into the picture; sometimes references are made to the hard reality of life, to existential difficulties and to concerns about the future of – now fatherless – children. However, the images also address the Widows’ hopes, aspirations, key concerns and the demands they are making of Lonmin, the South African state and the police – in other words, those who are responsible for the massacre. The bodymaps are testimony to an analysis conducted from the perspective of people who were directly affected by it. The fact that this perspective has been, and continues to be, marginalised, makes these images all the more valuable. This context and the self-confident manner in which the Widows position themselves result in images that intervene in existing power relations.

European Entanglement
The Widows confidently address the criminalisation of their relatives, point to the people who are responsible, name the guilty, and highlight their own marginalisation. They comment on the events that occurred, and on their causes and consequences, and they do so full of anger, at times with irony, sometimes directly, sometimes subtly. It is not only the demands made by the Widows of Marikana and the interventionist nature of their work that deserves our respect and solidarity. Although the paintings make sense as testimony and analysis, it is the force and originality of the work that impresses, amazes and leaves us breathless. This makes in-depth, repeated engagement with the paintings and focused observation particularly rewarding. Finally, the Widows’ work provides visual metaphors that illustrate the consequences of neoliberal and neocolonial resource policy in all of its scandalous normality. These paintings are sovereign counter-images to the polished Potemkin corporate surfaces that seek to normalise, legitimise and perpetuate the scandal.

The Struggle for Justice and Restitution. The Bodymaps of the Widows of Marikana
Opening: Wednesday, 20 April 2016, 6:00 pm
The opening will be followed by a buffet, invited by the VÖGB.
Location: ÖGB, Johann-Böhm-Platz 1, 1020 Wien (U2 Donaumarina)

Guided Tour by the curators: 3 May, 5.30pm; 6.30pm: Screening followed by Q&A: Miners Shot Down (Rehad Desai, RSA 2013, 84min., OmdtU)

The exhibtion runs from 21 April to 25 Mai  2016 (Mo-Fr from  7:00 am to 7:00 pm), admission is free.

with contributions by
Mary Fundzama, Betty Lomasontfo Gadlela, Ezekiel Galawe, Maren Grimm, Daniel Letebele, Jakob Krameritsch, Pauline Matabane, Ntombizolile Mosebetsane, Xolelwa Mpumza, Thembani Mthinti, Songstress Notukile Nkonyeni, Nombulelo Ntonga, Zameka Nungu, Asanda Phakathi, Judy Seidman, Ntombiluelile Sependu, Makopane Sompeta, Agnes Makopane Thelejane, Nolundi Tukuza, Nokuthula Evelyn Zibambela

curated by

NomaRussia Bonase & Judy Seidman, Khulumani Support Group
Simone Knapp & Boniface Mabanza, Kirchliche Arbeitsstelle Südliches Afrika, KASA
Maren Grimm & Jakob Krameritsch, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien