"Real" lives and "ordinary" objects: Partisan strategies of art making with garment makers of the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

In this project, located in the Western Cape, I converge with local artists, Gerard Sekoto and Siona O'Connell, as well as international artists such as Ai Weiwei in China, Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba in Vietnam and Doris Salcedo in Colombia. We all deploy ordinary objects to work against a range of hegemonic paradigms, expressing the plight of marginal communities in varying but connected ways. These "ordinary" objects, through the unique vision of the artist, become more than mere instruments of labour, or even mere metaphors for the workers' plight: they become part of a partisan aesthetic. The manner in which Sekoto, Nguyen Hatsushiba, Weiwei, Salcedo and O'Connell use ordinary objects like the pick, the rickshaw, the sunflower seed, the table/shoe and the ball gown to address globalisation, modernisation, the plight of the worker, the consequences of colonialism and war and how we live in the aftermath of an oppressive regime inspired me to use ordinary objects to create political art and render the lived realities of garment workers in the Western Cape. Scholars like Paulo Freire, Achille Mbembe, Anthony Bogues and Jacques Rancière undergird these kinds of aesthetic projects, with their discourse on oppression, freedom and emancipation.