WAM exhibition: An erectile dysfunction, makes sad boys worldwide   

Newly Wits PhD graduate uses art to explore the toxicity of fragile masculinity

Nicola Genovese has thrust the issues of fragile masculinity back in the public arena with his exhibition, Sad Boy —   which looks at the weight men carry as they are expected to perform being masculine.  

Genovese is an Italian/Swiss born artist that recently graduated with his PhD in Fine Arts at Wits. His work is mostly focused on videos, sculptural works, and performances in which he explores issues of masculinity, identity politics and power dynamics in relationships. 

The exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, which took place on August 1 was opened with a two-part performance. The first part of it was a reading of an excerpt from his research thesis on the working-class masculinity in the Northern parts of Italy, followed by a poem about the male body and erectile dysfunction. While the performance was taking place, audiences were surrounded by sculptures that attempted to showcase this fragility.  

Genovese reading his text on fragility and erectile dysfunction. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

One of the sculptures was placed on Genovese arm, which represented a male’s genital. He had his t-shirt tucked in and his belly sticking out, while flapping the object up and down as he spoke about the function of male genitals. 

Genovese told Wits Vuvuzela that the first part of his showcase focused on the representation of the “emo punk attitude from the 90s kids” where being sad and depressed looked cool; and the second one looked at the shame men carry when faced with genitals that are not working as they should.  

“We are talking about a part of the body that has to work…This was a way to show the ambivalence that it’s massive but also fragile and soft through the use of the metal sheet material that is metallic but also extremely soft that I used in the arm” Genovese said, when he was talking about what the arm represented in his performance. 

Christo Doherty, the supervisor of Genovese for his PhD thesis said that “It’s been quite a trip [working with him] because he is a very challenging artist that is working in the gender, sexuality area… he’s been exploring and critiquing masculinity but as a straight white male”.  

BA General student Hope Nesengane who was attending, said, “I appreciate how well rounded it was, the multimedia, the video element and sculptural pieces made the diversity of it interesting, and I thought the performance was also great.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: Genovese performing his text piece for the audience.Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


Braam crowd administers mob justice to suspected car thief

By: Phumi Ramalepe

Red traffic light stops suspect in his tracks.

‘Die, thief!’ The suspect was brought back to the scene of the alleged crime for more punishment.
Photo: Phumi Ramalepe

A MAN was attacked by a mob in Braamfontein after it was alleged that he had stolen a parked vehicle outside the construction site opposite the Wits Art Museum (WAM) on Thursday morning, January 31.

A Wits Campus Protection Service security guard at WAM who asked not to be named, said he had witnessed the crime and so did numerous construction workers.  

The suspect allegedly got into a white Nissan NP200 which was parked outside the South Point construction site at the corner of Jorissen and Bertha streets, while the owner was delivering documents to the site manager, and drove off. 

“[The construction workers] together with the owner, became hysterical. They saw him from above and they started screaming,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

The screams were heard by passers-by who saw the suspect driving off in the vehicle.

“The traffic lights closed and he (suspect) drove into an Uber. He then got out of the stationary car and ran away,” the security guard said. 

Spokesperson for the Hillbrow Police Station, detective Mduduzi Zondo, confirmed that a case of attempted theft had been opened.

“The owner was alerted by bystanders who saw the attempted vehicle robbery at around 11:00 and told him people were trying to steal his vehicle,” he said.

“There were three suspects all in all. Two were in a getaway car, a maroon [Renault] Clio. We are investigating and following leads that will lead us to the other two being arrested,” said Zondo.

The 43-year-old suspect was seen fleeing the scene by Wits Vuvuzela and running towards De Korte Street with a large crowd of people pursuing him.

Moments later, the man was brought back to the scene of the alleged crime by the crowd. He was bleeding from the head, arms and legs from the blows of the pursuers.  

“This beating is not enough. Pour petrol on him so we can burn him,” shouted some in the mob.

The beating continued outside WAM for some time until the police arrived some 30 minutes later, apprehended him and took him to the Hillbrow Clinic.  

FEATURED IMAGE: ‘Die, thief!’ The suspect was brought back to the scene of the alleged crime for more punishment. Photo: Phumi Ramalape

Young, black, female curators re-imagine WAM



ART APPRECIATION: A boozy young crowd wowed by the artwork on display.                                                                                                                                                                                       Photo: Lwandile Fikeni




An unlikely crowd of art-goers filled the foyer of the Wits Art Museum (WAM) during the opening of Overtime: representations, values and imagined futures of classical African art on Tuesday, February 21.

They were young, black, hip and carried themselves around the space with absolute abandon as they clinked glasses of wine and shared a cigarette or two outside the venue.

This was not by accident, said the exhibition’s curators, Tetanda Magaisa and Katlego Shoro. In fact, it was the intention of the curators when they invited young artists, thinkers and intellectuals to engage with the African art collection held by the museum.

“The majority of the material in the collection belongs to various language groups across the continent, but what happens is that only a particular kind of people tend to handle that material,” said Magaisa.

This fact led the duo to consider new ways of re-imagining how the collection is seen, talked about and interpreted. Central to their curatorial considerations was the question of access.

“People regard this African art as something that young people do not appreciate,” said Magaisa.

“It’s like ‘oh, ja, they are millennials; they’ve completely and actively removed themselves from these cultures’, which is entirely untrue,” she added.

The exhibition was inspired by the responses and conversations that arose from the From The Heart: Personal Perspectives of the WAM Collection exhibition that took place last June.

“You have these conversations that have happened about accessibility and the kind of voices that can curatorially participate in exhibiting something like classical art,” said Shoro.

“And then you have young black people, young artists and young intellectuals who work at the museum. What are their experiences with the museum besides the job that they do?” she asked.

The answer lay in giving space to people who have different experiences within the museum, with the cultural material, with art, and with imagining how exhibitions can be curated and how a museum can be engaged, Shoro said.

The multiple contributors hold the exhibition together through highlighting the humanness invested in each piece on display.

“The contributors highlight not only their experiences with the museum, with the collection and with art but they also highlight that there’s humanness that should be considered when one looks at art and when one engages with the museum space,” said Shoro.

“How these objects are presented is very important,” she added.

Speaking of the novelty of having young black people at a WAM opening, Magaisa said, “What happened, inevitably, is that having young people participate in the show brought in a young audience and increased the engagement with the exhibition.”

Overtime: representations, values and imagined futures of classical African art will run until April 23.





Review: The Sound Of Silence at WAM

Alfredo 2

WALKING INTO DARKNESS: Attendees walk inside the large and dark aluminium installation piece by artist, filmmaker and architect Alfredo Jaar.                          Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

The second civil war in Sudan was from 1983 to 2005. Twenty-two years characterised by famine, disease and death. And as with any war situation, journalists and photographers were there, documenting the horrors of the war.

One of these photojournalists, Kevin Carter, became world famous after taking the iconic picture of a crouching baby girl being stalked by a vulture at a refugee camp.

Carter, who was part of the prominent Bang-bang club (a group of four white-male photographers who became known for taking pictures of apartheid violence in the late 80’s) and who won a Pulitzer Prize for the image, is said to have taken 20 minutes to take the picture. The question then has always been, why did Carter not go and help the little girl? A girl whose name, face and identity has now disappeared into the blank spaces of history where the most vulnerable (black bodies mostly) disappear into nothingness.

Bringing this picture taken in 1993 back into the spotlight is Chilean-born, New York-based artist, filmmaker and architect Alfredo Jaar. Showing at the Wits Art Museum, the installation work, called The Sound Of Silence, consists of a very large aluminium structure in the middle of the museum. On the side facing the entrance of the museum, the structure has large horizontal white lights. At the back of the box is an entrance to a pitch black cinema where a large black screen shows words written in white.

Kevin. Carter. Kevin Carter. The words read, going on to tell the story of the troubled photojournalist. In the silence and darkness of the room, one is absorbed into the screen. Towards the end of the display, four mounted cameras flash brightly to blind the audience, only to slowly reveal the picture in discussion.

Once the picture is revealed the words go on to examine the corporate ownership of such images and how such images are made to feed into capitalist consumption based on who owns them.

“For me this exhibition [in Johannesburg] is the most important exhibition of The Sound Of Silence,” said Jaar at the opening. “This is the 26th time that this work has been shown but finally for me The Sound Of Silence has come home. This is it’s home, this is the home of Kevin Carter, the protagonist of this work and I am very proud that it is being shown here.”

Following Jaar’s oeuvre, this installation challenges viewers to examine the problematic ways in which consumers and image makers partake in a process of giving or taking away power. Jaar indirectly asks, what is the responsibility of image makers (photographers, photojournalists)? And what is the responsibility of consumers and viewers? The ethical implications of capturing, owning and distributing such politically charged images are deeply questioned.


The Sound of Silence is showing at the Wits Art Museum from 23 February to Sunday 10 April 2016.

Photographs celebrate hairy diversity

HOT SHOTS: Winners of the “Identity Through Hair” photographic competition, were announced last night at the John Moffat auditorium. From left: Junaid Sheik Hussein (public vote winner), Lanice Jegels (second place), Ntokozo Xaba (first place), Realeboga Lebogang Oagile (fifth place) and Lindiwe Gugushe (third place). Photo: Luke Matthews

HOT SHOTS: Winners of the “Identity Through Hair” photographic competition, were announced last night at the John Moffat auditorium. From left: Junaid Sheik Hussein (public vote winner), Lanice Jegels (second place), Ntokozo Xaba (first place), Realeboga Lebogang Oagile (fifth place) and Lindiwe Gugushe (third place). Photo: Luke Matthews

This year’s tranformation photography competition celebrated diversity and “identity through hair” at Wits University. Winners were announced last night at an exhibition at the John Moffat Building showcasing the best of the photographs submitted by students.

The competition, run by the Wits Transformation Office, was described by Prof Tawana Kupe (Wits deputy vice-chancellor), as “an important occasion that happens every year.”

“A picture shows a thousand words about identity… Art expresses transformation, it also feeds into identities,” he said.

Ntokozo Xaba, 3rd year BSc Urban Regional Planning won the competition with her photograph of a young woman standing on a rooftop in Hillbrow, overlooking the city.

Xaba said because she lives in Hillbrow, she can’t afford the luxury of taking a walk outside for fresh air. “So, I go to the rooftop to unwind and get inspired.”

Lanice Jegels, 3rd year BA Psychology took second place. The subjects in her photograph, all women, were of different races, body shapes and had different hairstyles. “The world informs us on how to express identity … In South Africa we see identity as colour,” she said.

Marcel Kutumela took 3rd place, Lindiwe Gugushe took 4th place and Realeboga Oagile was placed 5th. Junaid Sheik Hussein, 2nd year BSc Civil Eng, won on the public vote via Facebook, for the  second year in a row.

The theme, “identity through hair” was selected as people are discriminated against because of their different hair types. Instead, “we should use hair to celebrate diversity,” said Pura Mgolombane, manager of diversity, ethics & social justice at the Transformation Office.

Winning entries will be part of the new exhibition about hair and African art at the Wits Art Museum.


WITH VIDEO: Celebrated photographer Jodi Bieber brings her work to Johannesburg

by Zelmarie Goosen and Tracey Ruff

Jodi Bieber has travelled the world sharing her photojournalism work but has hardly exhibited in her native country. Tonight she opens an exhibition at the Wits Arts Museum in Johannesburg entitled Between Darkness and Light.

“I’ve hardly exhibited my work in South Africa, so it’s a real treat for me,” says Bieber in an exclusive interview with Wits Vuvuzela.

The photographer is internationally renowned for her photograph of Bibi Aisha – an Afghan woman who had her nose and ears severed off, and left for dead, by her husband and his family. Bieber won the World Press Photo Award in 2010 for that photograph.

VIDEO: Watch as Jodi Bieber speaks about her latest photographic exhibition in the Wits Arts Museum. 


Shedding light on the darkness

Between Darkness and Light is an exhibition of Bieber’s selected works from 1994 to 2011. She describes her collection, which includes 10 projects, as “moving between darkness and light”.

“My first body of works, are much darker than the recent bodies of work.”

She attributes this “psychological” darkness to a time of loss and sorrow in the early 1990s when she started working for The Star newspaper. This difficult period in her life led her to “delving into things that were a little bit dark, like the youth living on the fringes of society”.

Jodi speaks passionately about why she photographs the things she does. “I think the most important thing for me is that photography is something that I can communicate the way I feel about things in society,” she says.

“It’s [photography] a way I can tell you the way (sic) I’m thinking about the world”.

Bieber also has an exhibition on at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg which challenges conventional stereotypes of men linked to power, corruption and violence.

The Between Darkness and Light Exhibition runs from April, 16 to July, 20 at the Wits Arts Museum.

See photos of the opening of the exhibition by clicking on the link below:



Artists collabo for LGBTI awareness

CRAFTY SYMBOLISM: Onlookers were drawn to the Faces and Faces wall, full of black and white photographs taken by visual artist  Zanele Muholi.                                                                                                  Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

CRAFTY SYMBOLISM: Onlookers were drawn to the Faces and Faces wall, full of black and white photographs taken by visual artist Zanele Muholi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Walking onto the eerily silent ramp that leads to the new exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, one is met by death. Small mounds of sand stand,holding up colourful wooden crosses that have dates of birth and death written on them.These graves that lie in glass containers are in the Zanele Muholi’s Mo(u)rning section of the exhibition.

The next piece of the collection, Faces and Faces catches the eye immediately as a wall of black and white portraits look one in the eye. There are some gaps between some of the photographs by Muholi which speak to the nameless but dated graves.

“The spaces were left there to show that they could have been a part of this section of the exhibition if they weren’t killed for being gay and lesbian,” explained facilitator Ace Kekana, whose face appears in one of Muholi’s portraits. Queer and Trans Art-iculations: Collaborative Art for Social Change is a collaborative exhibition by visual artists, Muholi and Gabrielle le Roux. [pullquote align=”right”]”…men who gang rape women, who murder lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.”[/pullquote]

Muholi’s work is on the ground floor of the museum with a focus on the LGBTI community in South Africa – their beauty, their struggle, their murders and more. Muholi is not only a photographer, so her work varies and in this exhibit includes some of her bead work and a documentary film.

The most elaborate display in Muholi’s section are rosaries that hang from the ceiling. The beads in the rosaries are tennis balls and kitchen utensils. The vertical end of the cross at the end of the rosary is made from a knife which represents the violent killings of members of the LGBTI community experience, and the horizontal end from braai forks to represent the supposed hell killers think they’ve sent their victims to, or perhaps the lived hell victims endure.

This is one of the rosaries that hang from the ceiling. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

This is one of the rosaries that hang from the ceiling. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

“When people kill based on gender they like to say it’s for religious reasons, these crosses represent how dangerous that kind of thinking can be,” said Kekana.

The most moving part of Muholi’s exhibited work is a wall with a number of written messages from victims and their family members about their experiences. One of the messages read: “Here in South Africa you have judges sending women to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her baby, but men who gang rape women, who murder  lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.”

In contrast to the quiet reception on entering Muholi’s floor of the exhibition, walking down the ramp into the basement area, sounds from the television screens set up with short documentaries by Le Roux lure attendees with their mixed up buzz.

Le Roux’s collection, Proudly African & Transgender and Proudly Trans in Turkey looks at the experiences “trans and intersex people in Turkey and Africa,” said Kekana. Another facilitator, Thekwane Mpisholo is in one of the portraits put on display by Le Roux.

The painted portraits are inclusive of their “subjects” and this can be seen in the quotes the artist let them scribble on their actual portraits.

The newly launched Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, helped to find the funding for this project. “They’re the ones who helped us with the planning and funding because they (Diversity Studies) study things that aren’t ordinarily studied by other faculties – that’s how they came on board,” said Mpisholo.

There is a lot to read, watch and see at this exhibition and people can do so until March 30 2014 at the Wits Art Museum.


WITH GALLERY: The 1913 Land Act realised through photos

A crowd of eager art lovers could not resist the magnetism of the historical photographic archive dating back to the 1800’s and commemorating the 1913 Land Act.

The exhibition Umhlaba 1913-2013: Commemorating the 1913 Land Act opened this week at the Gertrude Posel Core Gallery in the Wits Art Museum.

1913 Land Act

This year  marks 100 years since the 1913 Land Act was passed. The act helped to successfully disenfranchise indigenous South African’s in terms of land ownership and its repercussions are still felt today.

[pullquote align=”right”]”No single photographic exhibition could illustrate the full diversity of our complex realities”[/pullquote]

Curator of the Umhlaba Exhibiton, Bongi Dhlomo-Matloa said that the exhibition’s purpose was to help people remember their history. “Commemoration is a relative term here, we are remembering this act that left blacks with only 7% of the land,” she said. Dhlomo-Matloa coincidently wore a black and white ensemble matching the monochromatic nature of most of the photographs on display. She said it was merely a coincidence but nonetheless she carried the colours of our history around her neck and on her shoulders.

Remembering history

Next to the exhibition’s entrance was a plaque detailing the aims, limitations and history behind the curation. “No single photographic exhibition could illustrate the full diversity of our complex realities,” but this by no means, kept the artist/photographer from making an attempt  to illustrate those complex realities.

This history could not only be seen, but was also heard as  jazz, afro-soul and choral music ushered people up the ramp and along the walls of the gallery. It was quite jarring  to hear the juxtaposition between Miriam Makeba’s voice sing Gauteng and then immediately after, a choir sing Die Stem, while standing at the wall with all the apartheid-era photography on it.

Photographic reality

[pullquote]“Commemoration is a relative term here, we are remembering this act that left blacks with only 7% of the land”[/pullquote] Dlomo-Matloa went on to say that these photos were used as they “are very exact” and can therefore accurately depict the reality they captured. The first colour picture seen in the gallery was on the apartheid wall, a photograph by David Goldblatt. It was taken in 1987 at a resettlement camp in the Wittlesea district of the then Ciskei.

Fourth year photography student Melissa Bennett, said  she loved how the photos told a story of overcoming boundaries. She was also particularly intrigued by the way the photos had been arranged  according to a historical timeline.

Dhlomo-Matloa said that the exhibition  was displayed in chronological sequence laid out in a timeline to reflect how things and people changed as time went on. Although a huge amount of images were available, budget and space constraints restricted how many photographs could be exhibited.

The photography on display showcases some of the most talented photographers in the country, like Peter MagubanePaul Weinburg and Ingrid Hudson.

After a walk about the whole gallery, the reality of our history was more than apparent. The exhibition will be on display until January 2014.

Watch the video below in which curator Dhlomo-Matloa talks about the exhibition:




‘Art in Motion’ fascinates audiences

AN ALTERNATIVE way of viewing modern art is right on your doorstep after the Wits Art Museum launched their WAM After Hours event earlier this week.

The launch took place at WAM in Braamfontein and featured technological art called “Art in Motion”. Many art enthusiasts attended the event and were required to do a walk through the museum before arriving at the common area where drinks, live entertainment and doodling stations were set up.

The first piece by Nathaniel Stern about the distortion of communication. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

The first piece by Nathaniel Stern about the distortion of communication. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Laura de Harde, one of the tour guides, led people into the museum for their three stop tour. The first exhibition was held on the lower level of the museum and it showcased still art. The art on display was entered into the 2013 Martienssen Prize exhibition with Antonia Brown’s “I will tell him when he comes back” piece which won the award.

Brown’s ancient audio recording device demonstrated how language can be lost by showing that once a voice of a person travels over the magnet on the recorder, it is lost forever.

Other artists whose pieces were on display included Anathi Bukani and Madeleine Dymond.

The next exhibition was held on the second floor of the museum which was called by the guide as “ground zero” of the art museum. Here people were able to get involved with the art as it was technological art. Projector screens with sensors at the bottom caught images of people who walked past and subsequently displayed different images on the screen.

The first piece used sound and image to portray art. When a person walked past the screen an outline of the person appeared and surrounding images and words appeared around the outline in a confusing and distorting manner.

[pullquote]“Experience text with your body.”[/pullquote]

The piece was to demonstrate how image and sound can distort communication. The artist Nathaniel Stern seemed to be expressing a sort of frustration he had with communication.

The art pieces by Stern make audiences encounter complex relationships between bodies and language. His artworks forces people to grab text with their bodies, draw letters with our heads and listen with their bodies.

A piece by Tegan Bristow involved talking through a microphone and looking at your face on the screen which was replaced with Jacob Zuma’s face. Other pieces captured a person’s energy by representing colourful or dull flowers depending on the energy received by the sensor.

Tegan Bristow's microphone art piece. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Tegan Bristow’s microphone art piece. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Bristow’s pieces invite playfulness between images and interactive engagement with the art. People are able to relate with each other within the frame of the artworks.

The last stop of the exhibition was on the third level of the museum. Here people were meant to understand the meaning of words and letters. Another piece by Stern required someone to stand in front of the screen and catch the words flying around them.

Once you caught a word a speaker blurts out a non-conformist definition of the word.
According to Mpho Qhomane a ‘WAMbassador’, this is a “saturated” experience where words make one think deeper about text; Stern wants you to “experience text with your body.”

Bristow and Stern’s artwork asks us about the consequences of our movement and how these physical interactions change relationships we have with others.

The purpose of Art in Motion is to show how our actions reflect meaning.

People were intrigued and fascinated by motion art and the attendance was high in the ranks. People experienced as much as they could with the art standings around the museum.

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