African mi­grants’ map to South Africa

African Independent - - ART -

ques­tion marks in­stead of names of towns or town­ships. The ques­tion marks are ask­ing: “Where are they go­ing?” Muchatuta’s peo­ple, Jah Peo­ple, are all go­ing in the same di­rec­tion, but the des­ti­na­tion is un­known to them.

“When we come here – So­ma­lis, Nige­ri­ans, Con­golese, Zim­bab­weans – as African im­mi­grants we take on our pre­scribed po­si­tions in the South African econ­omy. Who is re­spon­si­ble to say to each group where they can ex­ist eco­nom­i­cally? It feels like a planned dis­tri­bu­tion of forces. I’m in­ves­ti­gat­ing in the work who is re­spon­si­ble for that, and who ben­e­fits” Muchatuta says.

He adds play­ful­ness to the heavy topic – pat­terns of squares and cir­cles are float­ing in the back­ground like a cheer­ful Sh­weshwe pat­tern; the black and white pal­let is spiced up with of­f­cuts of colour­ful draw­ings in blue and red. They re­fer to the Chi­nese bags as­so­ci­ated with mi­gra­tion.

The work bor­rows its ti­tle from Bob Mar­ley’s reg­gae hit, but the ref­er­ence is deeper than a mere cliché. Peo­ple of god are echo­ing also in The Great Ex­o­dus, which is as­so­ci­ated with bib­li­cal mi­gra­tion of Jews and with the Great Trek. Ron­ald does not limit his re­search to black his­tory. In­stead he sug­gests a more uni­ver­sal an­gle.

“Hu­man be­ings have al­ways been mi­grat­ing”, he says, “I’m try­ing to con­nect the past to the now. I see the sim­i­lar­i­ties of what hap­pened to dif­fer­ent groups of peo­ple in dif­fer­ent ge­o­graph­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal con­texts. I see a link.”

The sub­ject of women is dom­i­nant in an­other map – that of a mi­grant’s ro­man­tic/sex­ual re­la­tion­ships. Pre­sented un­der the ti­tle Bond(age) it was in­spired by a work­shop on sex work­ers that he at­tended in Johannesburg earlier this year. Bare fe­male bod­ies are drawn with snake/rope around them. Only one of them has a face. Icons of hearts with num­bers rep­re­sent the so­cial me­dia pop­u­lar­ity in­di­ca­tor of “Likes”. Cup­cakes and sharp-toothed jaws are float­ing in the back­ground.

“As men, we are killing the emo­tions of women,” he says.

The cre­ative at­las of roads in­cludes a spe­cial map for an artist’s mi­gra­tion, based on Muchatuta’s ex­pe­ri­ence of nav­i­gat­ing the art-scene, un­der the Shona ti­tle Kwatabva Kwakure (We have come a long way). The highs and lows of the artist’s jour­ney are de­picted in what looks like hills and val­leys, con­nected by a bro­ken bridge.

An im­age of a cof­fin sur­faces with birds fly­ing out and the word “art” re­peat­edly writ­ten on its cover.

“It is sym­bolic to how you are al­ways dis­cour­aged from do­ing art,” he says. “Once a friend made a joke, say­ing: ‘You will never be re­spected as an artist in South Africa be­cause you are a f ****** for­eigner’, so I made a paint­ing with that ti­tle.”

Muchatuta once said he drew since he wasn’t good at ex­press­ing him­self in writ­ing. His texts are of bro­ken words and sen­tences, things he heard be­ing told to him or to oth­ers. An ex­am­ple of his use of texts can be found on the out­side wall of the AVA gallery. It is the one art­work that is not for sale – a mu­ral that he drew on a black sur­face. The most strik­ing fea­ture is tex­tual: “This is not Africa. This is Cape Town” is writ­ten again and again as a mantra.

“Cape Town is a white en­vi­ron­ment. There is al­ways the is­sue of how you carry your­self when mov­ing into a white space. You are sen­si­tive of the place you walk in. “As a black man, when en­ter­ing a restau­rant I al­ways have to fig­ure out – should I be well dressed? Must I comb my hair? There are so many ques­tions, be­cause there is this stereo­type, so­ci­ety puts so much weight on peo­ple of colour, in terms of pre­sen­ta­tion and roles”.

The Great Ex­o­dus, by Ron­ald Muchatuta, is on show at AVA gallery in Cape Town un­til Septem­ber 23. He will do a walk­a­bout of the ex­hi­bi­tion on Satur­day, 16 Septem­ber.

ex­plores the mi­grant’s ro­man­tic/sex­ual re­la­tion­ships.

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