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Mining matter, (re)making history

Our latest screen print is the result of a collaboration with a collaboration: the Magolide Collective – a young, dynamic duo who work, and rework, their way through the weighted layers of history.

Inundated with centuries of multiple narratives as well as today’s information overwhelm, these artists endeavour to remake subject matter into something that simultaneously reveals and obscures: marginalised histories are brought to light, while paradoxically, the complexity inherent in this process – in navigating cycles of socio-political events and human experience – overwhelms the viewer, with messaging and symbology jostling for airtime. The composite image that gradually forms is subjected to a range of digital processes and actions, a relentless reworking that could cycle on endlessly.

For their 50ty/50ty artwork, Magolide added a masterful finish – a VR device that animates the screen print when viewed with the Artivive app, at once complicating the image and lightening the heavy subject matter with contemporary entertainment. It’s both an irreverent nod and unavoidable surrender to the sign of the times, disarming the viewer, disorienting the narrative, distracting from the weight of the work.

Q&A with Magolide Collective:

  • Where does the name “Magolide” come from?

Magolide is a Xhosa term that is used colloquially in the townships in reference to someone who has gold (gold teeth, chains, watches). It also refers to the socio-political histories of Johannesburg, and how this city was quite literally built upon the discovery of gold and, subsequently, through the labour of black bodies of multiple migrant workers.

We see ourselves as digital alchemists, concerned with the transformation of matter into visual information, attempting to convert academic writings, broader global histories and cultural events into a consolidated practice of artmaking.

  • What is the backstory to your 50ty/50ty screen print, “Mighty-Man Vanguard ’76”?

Layers and layers of disparate and allied references – narratives, histories, ideologies, semiotics – are accumulated and juxtaposed via digital collage as a reflection and commentary on our begotten histories and our resultant present-day zeitgeist. The goal is to re-contextualize iconic anti-colonial struggle heroes of the Global South – Steve Biko, Samora Machel and Thomas Sankara – and their vanguard ideologies, celebrating African liberation, and questioning the varied motivations behind revolution and the sustainability of each motivation.

Some of the references and motifs are explained below:

Mighty Man

Mighty Man, a state-funded comic book by the National Party propaganda machine followed the story of its protagonist, Danny Ndhlomo, in an effort to paint a picturesque image of blackness that was subservient to the white nationalist party. It was intended to model an “ideal” African man or woman, disseminated to challenge any struggle movements. The comic series, which expunged tens of millions of Rands of the National Party’s defense budget, came to its end after the Soweto uprising in 1976 as students set fire to copies of the comic in demonstration against the party’s philosophies of race politics.

Benin ivory mask of Queen Mother Idia

This mask replica of the original cultural artefact (housed in the British Museum) was created as the central symbol of FESTAC ’77 – and hints at the notion that this is not really the original artefact. In essence, this speaks of a larger issue of the art artefacts and mineral resources of the African continent which were pillaged and stolen under the guise of “anthropological and cultural preservation”, while enriching and benefitting only Western institutions (galleries, museums etc.) and their socio-political and economical standing in the global system.

The imprisonment of this bust and many others like it is still a contentious issue today; although various African countries seek to repatriate these cultural objects to their original locations within the continent, in relation to their indigenous cultures, efforts are met with great resistance from the West, which enforces the power dynamic of “safekeeping” of these stolen artefacts.

The boxing glove

Boxing is continuously referenced throughout our work, as it historically signified violence and emphasised racial dynamics and systematic power structures that were built on the notions of monetised masculine vehemence. We seek to define its representation as a source of contestation and “fight back” of the African body against the hegemonic, white, Western framework of history. It also alludes to a cultural insurgency of the violent, blood-soaked past (and ongoing) suppression, exploitation and violence enforced by the West on the African body.

Postage stamps

We love drawing from our collection of over 5000 colonial postage stamps, ranging from Portuguese origins to French. Their historical nuance is something that can be used to examine crucial socio-political ties between not only countries, but also the figures notable within popular culture frameworks. For example, we have a collection of Princess Diana stamps that were once purchasable across an array of African countries colonised by the British.

Aesthetically, stamps carry a visual language that needs to be concise, in some ways celebratory, and in many ways socially relevant to the zeitgeist of the countries they hailed from. To us, they are almost like tiny little propaganda posters.

  • Tell us about the technical attributes of the work.

Everything is created through a digital process. The image consists of multiple digital images collaged together in layers. Colonial postage stamps – ranging from Portuguese origins to French – form the background; they are then collaged over with numerous images sourced from decolonial propaganda from parties of the Global South (Frelimo, MPLA, African Independence Party, ANC). Additional layers of characters from the Magolide Collective universe are then added, collaged and re-interpreted.

Once this composite image is finalised, we run it through a number of Photoshop Actions – a feature of the programme that allows users to download or create a set of repeatable actions that can be repurposed over and over to edit an image in a very scrupulous way. In this case, we used a Photoshop Action that renders the drawing as something hand drawn, mimicking the labour of love that went into the original decolonial posters, paying homage to the collaborative movements that birthed African liberation aesthetics (e.g. the MEDU Art Ensemble).

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Buy Magolide’s 50ty/50ty screen print via our online gallery, and follow the collective on Instagram.

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