Lizamore is thrilled to celebrate the opening of Khensani (giving thanks) exhibition – March 2019
Sizwe Khoza, Jan Tshikhuthula and Lindo Zwane
This body of work centres on the deep and fragile relationship South Africans have always had with water. The work depicts the literal rural scenes and landscapes of Venda, where my parents born and where I spent a lot of time in my youth. Apart form the literal depictions, the work also brings to life the emotions at play when a struggle for water is a central part of daily life.
I was born in Tzaneen, but I spent school holidays in Venda when I was young. Most mornings we would wake up early to go and collect water. This was an activity that brought me a lot of joy – it was a game I loved. The journey to the water took us through the forest and the richness and beauty of the landscape was exciting to me as a young boy. I was, of course, too young to be able to think about the people who lived there permanently. I had no way of knowing what a struggle fetching water was for them. For me, the young child, fetching water was such a common part of the life I knew then I couldn’t see anything unusual about it.
Now, living as an adult in Johannesburg, water is a big issue. People across the country cry about water shortages, and we know there are more shortages coming. This makes me think more and more of the people back in Limpopo. Their struggle with water today is the same as it has always been, since before I was born. In these areas, people have been crying about water, and facing the struggle of water, all their lives.
The windmills in this body of work depict the movement of people in the Venda and Limpopo areas when they go to collect water. The work shows the physical effort and struggle of the distances involved, but it also offers a sweet and kind mood. This is a reflection of the happy water memories of my youth. But the water journeys of my young memories is not reality. In reality, people in these areas really struggle with water. This struggle is depicted in all of my work, in one way or another. Some pieces, for example, show old water tanks in the process of physically breaking down. These images reflect a reality in rural areas where traditional water transport systems are breaking, and have been breaking for years, while little concern or pity is shown by society.
Yet the loss is real, and it doesn’t only concern the water and the people. For example, community cows used to come to so-called gwejo water tanks, which played a part in the hand pumping of water for collection. These tanks are broken and vanishing, and so the beautiful, traditional scenes of cows and people together around the water are no more.
Collectively, the work calls for all South Africans to work harder to protect the water resources we still have. We need to protect what we have right now, because we have already lost too much.
“I’m always intrigued by how kids live life, enjoy each moment without worry about tomorrow, living with joy and wonder for all the things that are around them, with so much to explore. My tittles come from a African name, for example in Nguni or Shona, when a child is born our parents take into consideration of the mood, conditions, the surrounding or the situation before giving a name to a new born”.
As an overall body of work, the pervading focus is on feeling of nostalgia and the process of catharsis. I am interested in everyday life and where it is headed, but also in how the past inextricably weaves itself into the present. The memory and influence of the past, and the reality of the present often pose deep psychological challenges that I express through the work. The challenges come from the difficulty of being able to accept the past and acknowledge the present, particularly the chasm that can exist between those two realities.
This gap is filled with things that we as young South Africans lacked, wished for and often imagined could have positively contributed to our young lives. This sense of loss, however, can contribute to vulnerability, honesty, grit and accountability if we are willing to recognise and build on both our hurt and our joy. The understanding of how we are responsible for the space we hold on earth regardless of our circumstances enables us to preserve and to be reminded that we have the power to make better choices everyday.
A constant inspiration to me comes from witnessing the resilience that people demonstrate in their daily lives, despite their circumstances. My process involves observing and documenting these moments through photography. I draw inspiration from the emotions I experience when the lens captures a second in time. I use the photographs as my inspiration. They vary from old to new photographs, which I either take myself, come from family albums or have been given to me by friends and associates. Each photo evokes a story for me, and I use them individually or collectively to recreate and recompose a narrative.
I focus mainly on the rural and township life in which I grew up in. My experience of these perspectives and realities are important to me when recreating the artwork through painting, drawing or printmaking mediums. These recreated moments are personal, yet universal in that we are all connected and have dreams and desires that are sometimes never met. I am continually challenged to make empowering choices in my life as opposed to remaining paralysed by an unwillingness to accept past and the present.
It is this space of vulnerability and loss and that I locate my truest work.