Bedazzled Weaponry and Mermaids for Unity: 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Opens in New York
BY Andy Battaglia POSTED 05/03/18 6:10 PM
Outside the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York—the fourth edition of which opened today at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn—is a disquieting military artifact bedazzled with some 70 million brilliantly colored beads. Beneath them all is a Casspir “mine protected vehicle” of a kind that was prevalent in apartheid-era South Africa, where, during the late 1970s and early ’80s, the streets were prowled by armored vehicles that were widely despised and feared.
“These were notorious in the townships as weapons of mass oppression,” said Ralph Ziman, the South African artist who transformed the Casspir into a more stirring sight for the sake of an artwork titled SPOEK 1. With a large gun up top and ports for more firearms on the side, the Casspir in its native form was imposing—and virtually indestructible thanks to impervious materials and a mine-resistant bottom, the artist said.
But this one has been transmuted into something else entirely. “We wanted to Africanize it,” Ziman said of the bursting bead work he did in collaboration with nearly 100 artists and craftsmen back at home. And lest the message be misconstrued as overly local, he noted that part of the impetus to tell the story of the Casspir owed to seeing the vehicles sold outside South Africa to oppressive governments everywhere. The American military used them during the Gulf War, and more recently, after a program handed them down to local police forces, Ziman said he had seen them in news reports about protests surrounding Black Lives Matter.
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Image credit: Ralph Ziman by SPOEK 1 at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Courtesey of the artist and Katherine McMahon
Dates & Times:
Preview Day (invitation only): Thursday 03 May 2018
Open to public: Friday 04 May 2018
Open to public: Saturday 05 May 2018
Open to public: Sunday 06 May 2018
Address: 159 Pioneer Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, United States of America
Telephone: +1 718-596-3001