Uhanga Dihangara, 2001 / Edition of 30 / Artist Proof Studio, Johannesburg & Dobbin Books NY / In collaboration with 14 artists, Johannesburg, South Africa / Mixed media & printing, metal clothes hangers, copper tube, commercial & Dobbin Mill papers
Size:10” x 18.5” x 6.75” (box)
Dihangara Uhanga is the second group collaboration that I organized at Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg. Artists were contacted in advance of my arrival and asked to design a portion of the edition, consisting of visual material put on a readymade hanger as the structure for their artwork.
The starting point was the fairytale “The Emperor’s Clothes” as well as a line from a Carl Sandburg poem “Paper”: “I write what I know on one side of the paper and what I don’t know on the other.” Both story and quotation seemed apt metaphors for the transitional nature of the “world of appearances”, as experienced by these artists in post-Apartheid South Africa. I was curious to explore with them a blend of reflections on what we can know, do know, and want to know.
Participants: Kim Berman, András Böröcz, Paul Emmanuel, Terence Fenn, Robert Hodgins, Osiah Maskoameng, Nhlanhla Mbatha, Paul Molete, Simon Mthimjhulu, Usha Prajapat, John Roome, Mmakgabo Sebidi, Durant Sihlali, Robbin Ami Silverberg, and Diane Victor.
I was invited to return to Artist Proof Studio to undertake a second artist book collaboration (after "Emandulo Re-Creation" in 1997). Each artist was responsible for the production of their ‘hanger’ art, with the support of Artist Proof Studio printers and director, Kim Berman, and myself.
Upon my return to the States, I made paper with hanger patterns & produced the boxes for the 7 copies that were to be exhibited and sold in the US. (postscript: Artist Proof Studio burnt down in 2003 and many of the copies of Dihangara were lost).
The stories behind each of the artists’ choices were wonderful and varied.
Durant Sihlali (1935 – 2004) designed a hanger that depicted a hanging 'bok' (antelope). He explained that at family feasts, they used a hanger to fashion the tool to hang the animal over a barbecue pit (called a 'braai'). As a result, hangers reminded him more of these feasts than something used to hold clothing. As one of the first artist/papermakers in South Africa, Durant chose to make his hanger in stenciled paper pulp, using local fibers.
The triangular shape of the hanger spoke to Diane Victor, who chose to design the pediment frieze of a building – one side in blind embossing that depicted the heroic image of the new South Africa; the other side, a richly pigmented etching, depicted the harsher reality.
Dikwele Paul Molete’s work addresses social concerns. He presented 2 views of present South Africa in his linoleum printed hanger: one side refers to the results of alcoholism with fetal alcohol syndrome; and the other side, an abortion.
Nhlanhla Mbatha made two different hangers: one is a large organic-form papier-maché box: ‘this is how we hid dagga’; the other had a slingshot and hanger pieces attached: ‘in the uprising, we kids used to make slingshots from hangers and tire rubber, and used them to fight’.