In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Colours of Wakefulness by Ashraf Jamal

Colour as palette has peremptorily served its aesthetic demands in South African art but, substantialy, remained peripheral. The reason for this is that South African art has consciously or unconsciously been mired in responsibility. As a consequence SA art has damagingly deviated itself from the reckonings of art expression. So much so that SA art has come to define itself according to the received dictates of “justice,” “rightness,” “propriety.” SA art, therefore, has been declamatory.

While the process made sense as an idea it bizarrely failed to access that protest and outrage in the realm of colour. Why this was the case was perhaps because SA art was driven by the will to make a statement. The need was precise. But the need in the context of this debate was not sufficient. Why, because the monochromatic dominated SA aesthetics. By this I suggest that an overdetermined morality consumed the complexities of living here, and, as a consequence, how we have told our stories has damagingly inhibited the very rub of complexity. Aesthetics as a reactive and preordained energy has diverted the concern with colour-as-palette in this country. This has everything to do with how the perceptual register has been constructed, how we as South Africans have been tutored to see the world.

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