On Thursday, staff at the Brundyn+ gallery in Buitengracht found that their building had been graffiti bombed by one of the art collectives, tokolos-stencils, invited to exhibit work at the gallery this month.
The words “Bourgeois Gallery” and a familiar tokolos tag were spray painted on the gallery’s exterior wall in the early hours of Thursday.
Tokolos-stencils are an anonymous group of graffiti artists and activists operating in Cape Town and sporadically in other parts of South Africa. The group’s trade mark tags “Remember Marikana” and “Dehumanisation Zone” (accompanied by a parody of the City of Cape Town’s emblem) can be viewed on walls and signposts throughout the city.
Last month, artists affiliated with the group spray painted the words “disown this heritage” on statues in the Cape Town CBD commemorating colonial and white-minority leaders from South Africa’s past. Among those targeted was the statue of Cecil John Rhodes in the Company Gardens.
The Brundyn+ gallery invited tokolos to partake in the Plakkers exhibition which opens on Thursday evening. A press statement on the gallery’s website explains that the group exhibition brings “voices of visual dissent taking place in the city” into conversation.
Other artists featured include Xcollective, Khaya Witbooi, Ashley Walters, Chad Rossouw, Atang Tshikare and Haroon Gunn-Salie.
Tokolos tags have already been spraypainted on the interior walls as part of the exhibition.
In explaining their act of sabotage on the night before the exhibition opening, tokolos released a statement:
“(The Brundyn+ gallery) has asked us for a short artist statement which, we feel, could be about many things which we normally speak to in our work:
The predatory capitalist state which exploits and murders miners, farmworkers and poor blacks in general. Remember Marikana; it happens again and again, everyday, across the country.
The neoliberal South African city, which works for a few, and evicts the rest to dehumanisation zones such as Blikkiesdorp and Happy Valley.
The slave-master tradition of the white farmer and the black farmworker to which one can exclaim: Larney Jou Poes!
Eye-Wie! The South African state, mimicking its militarised big brother, the United States, is concocting a ubiquitous surveillance state. We are yet to take note of the CCTV cameras lining every corner, the establishment of RICA, or the expansion of our corrupt police and unaccountable intelligence services.
But we’d rather, right now, speak about how all the above, the domination, the exclusion, and the systems of control, are being reified in the space of the traditional bourgeois art gallery.”
Speaking on behalf of the gallery, Justin Davy said that he “respected” tokolos’ statement and that he has included it in the official text accompanying the exhibition.
“Furthermore, the work they have put up in and outside the gallery forms part of the conversation we are hoping to facilitate,” he said.
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