City Press chats to Zimbabwean artist Gerald Machona

2017-03-19 06:02
Gerald Machona

Johannesburg - When celebrated young Zimbabwean artist Gerald Machona first arrived in South Africa in 2006 to study at the University of Cape Town, he felt at home. As he told City Press in a previous interview, “We had Afrikaans-speaking South Africans at my school. South African music was a big part of Zimbabwe’s pop culture.”

He began making sculptural objects using Zim dollars, investigating the collapse of the economy and what it took to buy a loaf of bread at home.

“I wanted people to understand why Zimbabweans were migrating. I became obsessed with telling the story of the migrant.”

Then the first xenophobic attacks happened. “That blew my entire project into the air. Even though I was in Cape Town, I became cautious. I actually changed how I dressed so I could blend in. I picked up isiXhosa lingo...”

Here's a picture of Gerald Machona in Cape Town:

Jacket: Lerato Nkosi #slaythursdays #umhlangano2016

A post shared by Gerald Machona (@da_afronaut) on

With a particular political elegance, Machona began bringing his sculptures to life by creating tribal masks of currency and wearing them. “I titled each performance with the prefix ndiri, which means ‘I am’.”

Ndiri Cross-border Trader stood above a bus port in Harare and the wind scattered the banknotes from his head.

“I started looking at the occupations African foreign nationals take up in South Africa.” Ndiri Barman, Ndiri Deejay and Ndiri Bouncer were born. “As Ndiri Barber, I shaved everyone’s head the same style – chiskop.” This was partly about trying to pass as a South African – who generally keep their hair shorter.

“For me, it started a discourse about Afrophobia. African nationals were targeted, but white foreign nationals were seen as tourists or business investors. I wanted to look at the process of how we are profiled.”

For his master’s degree, he created a spacesuit out of currency. “For me, the spacesuit is a metaphor about having to adapt to a foreign space that is not designed for you. South Africa is not designed for foreign nationals from Africa.”

Chatting to #Trending this week about recent events, he said: “In response to the recent violence, the National Association of Nigerian Students gave a 48-hour ultimatum to all South African companies in Nigeria to relocate over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. While I do not condone retaliation as a response, there must be a realisation that we live in a global community and that the ripple effect is much wider than just South African society.”

Read more on:    art  |  city press publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.