Interview written by Valeria Geselev
What role do you play in the Cape Town arts world?
I am a visual artist in the creative arts world. I see my role as inspiration for those trying to get into the industry, inspiration to those who make work based on critical thinking. My work engages in conversations that we are trying to hide or ignore – issues of identity, blackness, migration and belonging.
Which artwork tells the story of contemporary Cape Town?
Maybe my artwork Fishing in Llittle Mogadishu. The work portrays the suburb of Bellville. There are a lot of people going to the market there to buy stuff: shopping as fishing. This suburb is a point of distribution in the greater Cape Town. The goods are later sold in spaza shops in the townships, many times by Somali traders, hence the reference to the capital of Somalia in the title.
Where would you take a visitor, if you had one place to choose?
I would take them to my studio in the heart of Bo-Kaap, mainly Muslim area with rich history. It’s a colourful area and many pictures are taken here – for fashion shoots and tourists. As a Christian, I am confronted by working in a Muslim area – this clash of spirituality makes me feel alienated sometimes. Once inside the studio, my visitors often feel moved.
How do you see the role of arts in the social life of Cape Town?
We are constantly trying to fight the status quo, which seems to cohabit a space of rebellion and privilege.
Cape Town is a tourist driven city, designed to look good as a first world image for visitors. It’s difficult to find places that provide peace of mind to artists, places that cater for us and not only for the wealthy. Since Tagore’s jazz cub closed we are left with listening sessions to vinyl records by DJs like Future Nostalgia collective.
Artists address the politics of gentrification in suburbs like Woodstock and Salt River, where ‘development’ happens rapidly. Rather than merely thinking of it as a business opportunity, artists reflect on the cries of the average man on the street. We have to manoeuvre between sustaining ourselves and rebelling against what is wrong.
Was there anything interesting that happened in the local art world recently?
The opening of my solo show, The Great Exodus at the AVA gallery was the most recent thing that excited me. I felt a lot of support, love and compassion. It’s one of the best exhibitions that came out this year. Those are not pretty pictures, but a state of mind from an intimate point of view by the artist. You see many shows in Cape Town that supply a specific narrative to appeal to financial groups of people for sales. My show has a brave take on what is going on in Africa.