A Demonstration of Craziness By Ofentse Seshabela Documentary filmed by Thuli Jadezweni of BlaqNWhytePictures

Synopsis – This film explores the life and process of Ofentse Seshabela’s(25) artistic project, titled DEMOCRAZY. Set in areas such as Roodeport, Johannesburg CBD and Soweto, we get to see how his life and experiences help him create a series of artworks which speak to a various number of Socio-political issues that question the powers that be in our developing nation. Using the ‘Smoking’ Technique, Ofentse shows us a bold display of how, ‘going through the fire’ sometimes helps create something well refined/formed, such is Life, life is crazy…but it’s just a Demo. Right?

Premise – What message do we receive from the effects and processes of art-making and the connotations expressed about our society?

Logline – Contemporary Art has taken many shapes and forms in the modern day African society and with the ever-growing phenomenon which of Digital Mixed Media, various avenues have opened up for artists to express themselves. This film investigates and displays the effects and sometimes ‘unconventional’ steps taken within this concept, and how it may be expressed to the world even when perceived to be ‘CRAZY’. It’s just a DEMO—-

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Artist BIO Ofentse Seshabela (+27) 61 452 1890 ogseshabela@gmail.com Ofentse Seshabela Studio 1 Buitekant Street, Roodepoort

Ofentse is a visual artist from Pretoria whose skills lie in a variety of mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, video and photography.

Seshabela claims inspiration from the ideologies and theories that shape his surroundings, and says his interest in local and global politics informs his art content.

This body of work references Seshabela’s intrigue with the military, it’s traditions, and the metaphor for how we as individuals fight our own life’s battles.

“The battles that I am trying to reflect on are issues that still haunt society to date; issues such as racism, inequality, land restitution, gender roles and classism,” explains Seshabela.

However, central to this body of work is the systematic, political structure of authority and power, Democracy. Seshabela predominantly uses smoke (fumage) as his primary medium. This is metaphoric of the burning of history, and references how in rural communities, old items that were no longer valued would be burned every season in order to make room for the new.

Seshabela has participated in a number of group exhibitions between Johannesburg and Cape Town. He has exhibited with Assemblage at Turbine Art Fair and was hosted by Eclectica Contemporary in a solo booth at FNB Art Fair, both which took place in 2018. He holds a National Diploma in Visual Art from the University of Johannesburg. Seshabela is currently based in Johannesburg, working with Eclectica Contemporary

Artist BIO Thuli Jadezweni (+27) 72 947 4999 thuli.jade@gmail.com @BlaqNWhytePictures

A Multimedia Design Graduate(2016) from Pretoria, studying the University of Johannesburg. Thuli started his own Visual Content Production house, BlaqNWhyte Pictures, where he embarked on a journey of producing independent films that question the dynamics of modern culture as well as socio political issues experienced by the youth. He has since worked with many artists and entrepreneurs that work within the media industry which has further influenced his growth as a video editor. He always learns from his surroundings because he is aware that in order to create a story that is visually interesting, it requires a great deal of knowledge and a good sense of one’s environment.

“I believe my artistic style of using multiple layered effects and vibrant transitions offers a fresh way of experiencing the stories portrayed in each film. Engaging with people in the streets of Johannesburg has been one of the biggest influences in the raw and somewhat unconventional ways in which the videos are presented.

His debut work, BoundLess Society(2015), serves as testament to this style of filmmaking. He has worked on a documentary film called LaVoyage ( Levoy Dlamini Paragon Art) which follows the life and art of this young artist from Soweto. The film was screened at various locations in Gauteng.

Thuli  works in different industries such as Fashion|Corporate, Retail|Events and will be exploring more in the future.

Artist Statement By Ofentse Seshabela

Democrazy: A Demonstration of Craziness is the title of the body of work I have been working on for most of 2019. The title of the exhibition is inspired by the late Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti in his song titled: Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense.

As a Democratic (South Africa) nation which is still in its development, I figure that it is important to reflect on the “progress” of Democratic system post-apartheid, and how it has impacted on people and spaces. However, I pay special attention to the effect of such a Western originated system unto those found in the lower bracket of the economy, whom are mainly black.

As Democracy is the central theme of this body of work, I think that it is fitting to include the term into the title of the entire show, one way or the other. Fela Kuti, whom inspires me and my work, in the ideals of politics and society, came to mind in the process of putting the artworks together. I remembered his song titled: Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense. I find a very interesting play of words in the term “Democrazy,”which is found in the lyrics of the song. It is a classic juxtaposition which best describes the socio-political system that we are living in as South Africans. It is crazy that we are still dealing and fighting against issues that were constructed to make black  people suffer in society.

In South Africa, before Apartheid, there was Colonialism. Another Western originated policy that has shaped our very world in a daunting manner. The repercussions of Colonialism and Globalization are witnessed in every corner of the world. In South Africa, and many Democratic nations, it is considered as multiculturalism. This idea of living is what informs the ideas of the “Rainbow Nation” as it was coined by the late statesman Nelson Mandela. To this day, Colonialism and Apartheid are foundations of a massively unequal society in South Africa. Privileged are those that have set up and built the set systems that provide law and order. Those that are considered as the demographics are left to suffer under such systems.

These are mostly black people and those that are considered as middle class and the poor. The Native Land Act was passed into law by the white minority government of South Africa in 1913. This law was set in order to disposes land from African people and segregation later of Coloured and Indian people.

The act prohibited members of the aboriginal race from buying or hiring land in 93% of South African land. Although Africans were, and still are, the majority population in the country, they were confined to only 7% of South Africa’s land. This act has resulted in such a catastrophic effect on present day South Africa.

To date, the majority of land still lies within the hands of the oppressor. I can say the same about the agricultural industry which has little or no impact on the lives of the Natives of this country. Land restitution continues to be a boiling issue that has not seen any resolution yet. The Natives Land Act remains at the core of the underdevelopment of South African townships and rural areas. Black people in Townships, week in week out, are engaged in violent protests due to the conditions of their environment. This is again fueled by the lack of service delivery from our Democratic government. The government is stricken by corruption without accountability and justice, which impacts very negatively on the economy and largely the middle class and poor masses of the country.

The above mentioned issues form the pillars to this body of work. My work aims to reflect on the fighting nature of black subjects against constructed systems and spaces that continue to undermine the value of black people. I tend to focus on the people and spaces into which blacks mostly occupy. Its characteristics, ethos, and the reasons why these spaces have been constructed the way they are.

In this same breathe I imagine people as soldiers, in what could be said, a war, spiritual warfare. Due to our unforgiving history, black people are often found at a disadvantaged end of society. It is difficult to get a job. It is difficult to start and maintain one’s own business. It is difficult to raise a family. In essence, it is difficult to survive as a black person in this world.

I have had my fair share of struggles in my upbringing. Struggles vary from family to community to society. It has not been a smooth ride for me to be where I am today. I had to fight. In fact I am still fighting and I have accepted my role as a fighter in this society. This is a characteristic I have noticed exists within most black people that I know and those I interact with and read about.

I find similarities in today’s world and the concept of war. Many things that were tried and tested during WW1 and WW2 have manifested into taking many roles in our everyday lives. For example, mass production and the anticipation of a high consumer culture. Mass production is a concept that thrived during WW2. Through this experimental act, global super powers realized the potential of mass production for civilians to buy. This quickly turned into a whole industry which is considered as the culture industry. Through the culture industry, masses are manipulated by media and advertising into buying stuff that they do not necessarily need. This phenomenon is deeply rooted in the ethos of capitalism. It is due to this factor that I grapple with war-like symbolism. Most of my figures in this body of work are seen wearing war helmets. This is metaphoric for the armour and protection one needs to equip ourselves in order to survive. Some of my figures are seen with elongated limbs. This gesture is inspired by surrealist imagery where artists such as Salvador Dali would often exaggerate and manipulate features of their subjects. The extended limbs is symbolic of the nature of classism in society.

Those that are seen with longer limbs than others are those that posses a higher power. This can be be a higher power due to a social status or political affiliation.

My work is a visual representation of a co-existence of parallel worlds of society and power. With Democracy being our adapted political and social system of existence, I ask these questions: Has Democracy lived up to its ideals of equality and equal opportunities and service delivery for all? Has the system been beneficial for the masses in its 25 years of existence in this country?

Have our rulers failed us in delivering development in areas that needs it most?

Has the government used this system as a catalyst for their own interests and enrichment?

And lastly, do we need to re-evaluate this system and possibly think of an alternative system which will be beneficial to the poor masses of the country and not only the elite? With that said, this body is more of a reflection of the economic and structural construction of the lives of people living in the townships, informal settlements and rural areas of the country.

This body of work does not necessarily tend to solve the mounting problems found in black communities, but aims to critic how our world is constructed and the type of aesthetic found in spaces and places that black people occupy.

Mr. Ofentse Seshabela 15 January 2020