The People’s Art: Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell
Orms and Iziko Museums of South Africa collaborate
Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell will be installed and showcased in the Orms’ Roeland Street-facing window as the next edition in the Iziko Museums of South Africa and Orms collaboration – The People’s Art.
The work was created by visual and performance artist, Sethembile Msezane, at the removal of the Rhodes monument from the University of Cape Town in 2015. In Shona beliefs, the Chapungu bird is thought to be a good omen, bringing good fortune to a community – Msezane embodied the spirit of the bird, and stood on a plinth behind the statue of Rhodes, raising and lowering her wings as the statue was taken down from its position overlooking Cape Town. In doing so, Msezane located her body – as a black female – within a public memorialized space, and operated as a mechanism of reclaiming and re-remembering the narratives of black women in South African and African histories.
Chapungubecame a way of evoking the symbolism of Great Zimbabwe and thereby animating the counter narratives against colonial histories.
Sethembile Msezane, Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell, 2015.
"Culture is embedded on the ground we walk on, the exchange of language, the adornment of the clothes we choose to wear on the streets in the everyday, it is a history, a heritage and a reflection.
A reminder of culture on the walls of the public, captivates our imagination and allows us to continue to exist."
Msezane, whose work subverts colonialist ideologies and highlights the history of black women in South Africa and Africa, came fully into the public eye after her performance, Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell. Inspired by intergenerational memory and the drive to conscientise viewers about the injustices caused through selective history, Sethembile Msezane performs her gendered body as inextricably linked to her racialised body – validating the body as a space loaded with history, identity and meaning.
Msezane states that “the performance of Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell captures the spirit of the time as embodied through myself as a millennial.It is in this time that I, a few years older than South Africa’s democracy, use performance as a societal response to the discontent with the ideal of the “Rainbow Nation”. Twenty-three years after apartheid, a generation of radicals has emerged. The presence of Chapungu and Rhodes in the same location and time asks questions related to power, gender, identity, space, history-making and self-representation.”
The People’s Art – the collaboration betweenIziko Museums of South Africa and Orms – was launched on Women’s Day in 2018, and seeks to promote art by women artists. This public showcase also makes art more accessible to the public, beyond the confines of the gallery space. Every three months, Orms showcases inspirational South African women artists’ work from the permanent collections of the Iziko South African National Gallery, and displays them on the street-facing shop front of the ORMS Print Room, on the corner of Roeland Street.
The initiative includes the work of four leading women artists, and began by showcasing a photographic work by Thania Petersen, titled Location 4: District Six. This was followed by Mmangwane o Tshwara Thipa ka Bohaleng (The Child’s Mother Holds the Sharp Edge of the Knife) – a painting by Mmakgabo Mapula Helen Sebidi.
Women in the development of art receive little recognition or access. In recent years there have been smatterings of evolution, yet the patriarchal rule still applies. This is doubly true for female artists of colour. Socio-economic factors may appear to have been solved with access to fellowships and scholarships being granted to many more artists of colour. Yet the brokerage of daily survival issues still remains arduous for too many. These factors, coupled with the fact that South African society does not regard the role of artists and the arts as vital to the development and transformation of a society and life.
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From its beginnings as a photography gear and printing shop, Cape Town photography leader Orms has become an extensive creative franchise. The Orms vision has always been to provide professional and amateur photographers alike with the best and latest gear at reasonable prices, and to stock the largest range of products. Orms strives to keep South African photographers at the forefront of technological advances and continues to live up to its own high standards. Today Orms has become more than the go-to photography shop for South Africans. It has evolved beyond just selling the best photographic gear and currently offers everything from professional printing and framing, to décor solutions and photobooks. The retail and service offerings cater to photographers, artists, graphic and interior designers to decorators; to photography enthusiasts, mobile photographers, keen parents and avid photobook makers.
About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)
Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium and Digital Dome, the Social History Centre and three collection specific libraries in Cape Town. The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage. Iziko is a public entity and public benefit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure. The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope, Groot Constantia and Planetarium and Digital Dome). Visit our webpage at www.iziko.org.za, join our online community on Facebook (www.facebook.com/IzikoMuseums) or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.
About Sethembile Msezane (the artist)
Sethembile Msezane (RSA b.1991) completed her Masters in Fine Art (2017) at the University of Cape Town.
Msezane explores issues around spirituality, commemoration and African knowledge systems. Her work has examined the processes of mythmaking which are used to construct history, calling attention to the absence of the black female body in narratives and physical spaces of historical commemoration.
She has been widely exhibited across South Africa and internationally, and was included in the inaugural exhibition of the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, as well as the closing exhibition of La Maison Rouge in Paris, at the Iziko South African National Gallery and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair London and New York.
Msezane is an OkayAfrica 100 women 2018 Honoree. She was a TEDGlobal speaker in Ausha, Tanzania (2017). Msezane is the first recipient of the Rising Light award at the Mbokodo Awards (2016). She is a Barclays L’Atelier Top 10 Finalist (2016).