Seen on July 3, 2015 @ National Arts Festival, Grahamstown
Cape Mongo documents the journey that artist Francois Knoetze made. From 6 different waste materials he made enormous sculptures that explored the city of Cape Town. Those sculptures serve as costumes to wander through different parts of the city, looking for places where they belong, where they come from and where they do not belong. Over a period of 2 years these journey and performances were filmed and the exhibition shows the video montage as well as the mythical sculptures in full ornament. But it is not merely the abundance of waste that pollutes the city, other challenges that face South Africa are depicted as well.
A monster made out of video tapes (I had to explain my 5 year old son what a video tape was for) greets you as you enter the exhibition space. A medium that was used to records the events of daily life (think home recordings) becomes a message of what life has become now. It wanders off into video shops and scares people on the streets, a collage of home videos and recorded films and documentaries questions the whole consumer culture.
A giant bird made of cool drinks lids in many colours spreads its wings, reminding of the famous pictures of birds that are no longer able to use their feathers after an oil eruption when an oil container ship leaked. Images of oil platforms, burning of plastic, … challenge the failure of education as the strange bird follows the origin of its material to ever present waste that kills the sea.
A huge forest animal like a deer made of carton wonders about the use of space, deforestation and the pressing need to house the nation’s population, Bambi chased away for land developers, protest signs for the lack of housing, dispossession and homelessness.
A giant robot made of scrap metal cans looks at revolution, industrialisation, the loss of farmers and the fast food monopolies, food security, disturbing violence and those that are remembered as farmer-warrior-statesman. The irony is clear when the robots goes for a hike in the most beautiful natural environment.
A budding tree made out of broken glass bottles interacts with the collective loss of memory, glass blazing in hot fire and the burning of community. And alcohol abuse.
Through the interaction with the public as documented in the video and the wandering through the installations one gets a disturbing picture of what damage wandering waste does and how often the most poor are the most vulnerable of over-consumption, garbage dumps and the many other ills in society addressed.
It is not unimportant that the venue for the exhibition is at Commemoration Church Hall at Bathurst street, the unspoken border that separated Grahamstown West from Grahamstown East, hoping that both communities might interact with the documented challenges.