Explore! Awesome South African Artists
by Cobi Labuschagne
R195 recommended selling price (releases in September)
Explore! Awesome South African Artists is a new book that does just what it says – profiles our local visual artists. With punchy write-ups accompanied by beautiful illustrations, it’s the perfect 101 guide on our country’s artistic landscape. #Trending will be running extracts from the book. Here is the first:
“Sometimes something happens in your life that makes you see the world in a new way. This happened to Buhlebezwe Siwani when she was still in university. She realised that she had “the calling” to become a sangoma. A sangoma is a spiritual person and traditional healer.
Before this moment, Siwani had been studying art. Growing up she wanted to be a pilot. She noticed that the pilots’ voices that spoke over the intercom were mostly male. She thought she could do that job, but art won her ambitions. She later received a scholarship for law and engineering, but she wanted to study art instead.
Growing up Siwani split her time between her mother in Soweto and her father in the Eastern Cape. Her great-grandmother was jailed at Constitutional Hill in Joburg for marching for women’s rights. So Siwani grew up very aware of the political situation in South Africa. She can even remember her grandmother playing pretend voting with her where she had to draw her own ballots.
That might be how she developed the strong impression that artists have an important job to do. Art should help people heal from the difficult situations that life has brought them.
Siwani mostly does performance art, which is a form of art where you use your own or other people’s bodies in a space and an audience watches it. She has also made many artworks with a kind of soap from the Eastern Cape that her family used for washing everything from clothes, to hair, to dishes.
She carved a figure of herself out of this soap, moulding the soap into the shape of the dish that they washed in. This art work was shown in Paris as part of a celebration of South African contemporary artists.
After receiving her calling, Siwani started seeing her art as part of her spirituality. She thinks people respond to her work because it is very honest.”