Hats off to men’s ex­hi­bi­tion We have a cri­sis but we have missed the point of the hash­tag

Pos­i­tive as­pects of mas­culin­ity hailed to fight vi­o­lence, writes Gil­lian McAinsh

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Arts & Entertainment -

A young artist from King Wil­liam’s Town is push­ing back against the #MenAreTrash hash­tag in an all-male ex­hi­bi­tion con­demn­ing vi­o­lence to­wards women and chil­dren.

Than­dol­wethu Mt­shat­sha opened the ex­hi­bi­tion, Isankwane, at the start of the an­nual 16 Days of Ac­tivism at artEC art gallery in Cen­tral, Port Elizabeth and it will run un­til De­cem­ber 14.

The ti­tle refers to the woollen hat, called isankwane , tra­di­tion­ally worn by older African men.

“It isn’t worn by any man, it is worn by some­one who de­serves to be called a man, who shows good lead­er­ship, a real man who knows the way to solve problems is by talk­ing and not by beat­ing women or chil­dren,” Mt­shat­sha said.

Hence most of the work on show in the small ex­hi­bi­tion up­stairs at artEc are by town­ship men who want to present pos­i­tive as­pects of Xhosa mas­culin­ity.

“The #MenAreTrash hash­tag is em­bed­ded with deep pain, fear and dis­gust be­cause it seems as though we are con­stantly wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen to our loved ones,” Mt­shat­sha says.

“There is no em­pa­thy in this world, we no longer seem to care. It pains be­cause we are not im­ple­ment­ing the hu­man­ity we preach day in, day out.

“We have moth­ers, sis­ters and daugh­ters but we still over­look all the so­cial ills that are harm­ful to them and get of­fended by a hash­tag that is raising quite crit­i­cal is­sues.”

As some­one who sees how women of­ten are badly treated in SA, he un­der­stands why the hash­tag #MenAreTrash has taken such a grip.

“We have a cri­sis but we have missed the point of the hash­tag – this has got noth­ing to do with us be­ing cheaters be­cause, in all hon­esty, women cheat too.

“We have to look deeper into the roots of the prob­lem and why we con­tinue dis­re­gard­ing what we are do­ing wrong in­stead of chang­ing our ways.

“Hon­estly, we do not have to be abusers or rapists to be trash. The mere fact that we con­done cer­tain ut­ter­ances and acts among our friends make us trash. That is where the trash we are starts, by not show­ing one an­other [as men] the way.”

In ad­di­tion to the for­mal work, vis­i­tors also have a chance to put their stamp on the ex­hi­bi­tion by adding their com­ments or im­ages on Mt­shat­sha’s mixed-me­dia work In­doda (Man) Share Your View. He en­cour­ages vis­i­tors to write words or sketch on the blank canvas around this self-por­tait.

Mt­shat­sha chose to fo­cus on men rather than women as he feels they are the gen­der which needs to adapt.

“We need to change and not just talk, we need to walk the talk and show the world that not all men are trash by ac­tions,” he said.

“There are plenty of good men that can teach and show the ‘trashy men’ how a real man be­haves.”

Artists Banele Nja­dayi, Buntu Fihla, Siyabonga Ngaki, Ba­manye Ngxale, Mthetheleli Wil­liams, Ludwe Mdolom­bane, Msin­disi Nyend­wana and Sakumzi Nyend­wana join Mt­shathsa in show­ing just that.

His favourite im­age on the ex­hi­bi­tion is a char­coal por­trait of an older man ac­com­pa­nied by words like power, wis­dom, strength and love by Nja­dayi called Uphawu Lom­bz­a­bal­azo – A Sign of Strug­gle.

“I love the fa­cial ex­pres­sion and the hat and the words, you can see that he has been through so much and yet he is still wear­ing the isankwane . It rep­re­sents the whole ex­hi­bi­tion.”

Oom­ahlalela is an­other Nja- dayi work, with the word “oom­ahlelela” re­fer­ring to the un­em­ployed men who sit around on town­ship streets with ap­par­ently noth­ing to do.

Yet, says Mt­shat­sha, this group has an im­por­tant role.

“They sit around but they also guide the com­mu­nity and they are the first peo­ple to re­act and to help if some­thing is hap­pen­ing. Some peo­ple do not even know there are peo­ple like that in town­ships.”

Mt­shat­sha knows bet­ter, and these are the men whose faces he would like to show to the world.

● artEC gallery hours are 9am to 4pm on week­days. Inquiries: 041-585-3641.

Pho­to­graph: GIL­LIAN McAINSH

HOW TO BE A MAN: Ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Than­dol­wethu Mt­shat­sha is ask­ing gallery vis­i­tors to add to his art­work ‘In­doda (Man) Share Your View’

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