Durant Sihlali tells the story of meeting a white manager whose task it was to oversee the demolition of houses in Pimville. The sight of Sihlali and his paints infuriated the township manager, and he became determined to destroy the house before the artist could depict it.
“This house was partly occupied. When he saw me I think something sparked in him…. [he] ordered the man with the bulldozer to do his job. There was no time for me even to prepare a sketch. It was a race against time. I just exploded with my brushes on the surface of the paper. By the time the bulldozer had finished its job, only dust was billowing out. He came by to get a glimpse of what I was doing. To his amazement the painting was already finished. He scoffed and walked away. I enjoyed this because I knew I had won! [But] these were not happy days. I enjoyed the challenges, but again it was a painful thing to see people treated in this way. It was my job to record all that because it was part and parcel of our history. The dark one.”
Talk About This
Durant Sihlali says: “It was my job to record all that because it was part and parcel of our history.”
Do you agree with him? Should it be part of an artist’s responsibility to be a “witness” in this way – to document things that others might not see happening, or for the sake of recording history?
What might a painting communicate about a scene like this one, that a photograph cannot capture?
“In Arlene Amaler-Raviv’s paintings, images are not just themselves. They are not symbols either, but open metaphors. A bed is not just a bed: it becomes a field of violation, dispossession and exposed intimacy.” Gabriella Kaplan