“Isizathu esihle singafihla ububi” (a good reason can hide bad intentions) showcases a series of works that deal directly with apartheid Bantustan history, using the Ciskei Coat of Arms as a tool to critique rural development. In 1981 the Ciskei opted for independence from apartheid South Africa. Contrary to popular support, this decision was made by a controversial minority, leading to a crisis in legitimacy. Essentially the task of nation building had to happen from scratch and without majority consent. The new nationalist ideology was informed by the history and symbology of the amaXhosa, amaMfengu, abaThembu and Basotho, which was reflected in its Coat of Arms. The Ciskei inherited large-scale socio-economic challenges from the apartheid government, which it was ill-equipped to deal with. Many of these challenges still face the region 18 years after the democratic transition. One of the physical markers of this history is a plethora of dilapidated and derelict municipal buildings, which became the canvas for Fihla’s work.
“Isizathu esihle singafihla ububi” unpacks the political stance of Ciskeian black publics towards their National Coat of Arms in pre-democratic South Africa, exploring notions around the displacement of citizens – an all too familiar African issue as Ciskei was not considered part of South Africa. It also critiques the ‘western’ visual language and symbolism of the Coat of Arms. This exhibition engages the traditional art of heraldry and the concept of an equally respected Nguni process of messaging and visual communication that has a history as decorated as that of heraldry. The exhibition includes documentation of the site-specific pieces created in derelict buildings that were once part of the grandiose plan of an artificial independent state in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Image rights: Photograph: Louis Grobler Artwork copyright holder: Buntu Fihla
Buntu Fihla is an Eastern Cape born graphic designer, photographer and graffiti artist (ND Graphic Design. CPUT-2006). Fihla's work stems from an interest in all of all these different practices and is mostly aimed at social commentary and/or community upheaval. He has been active in the advertising industry since 2006 and creating artworks since 1993. Much of his work uses graffiti as a hopeful strategy in contexts where mainstream development seems to have failed.