The Past Is Still Unfolding

Cape Town-born artist and activist Haroon Gunn-Salie has been announced as the 2018 recipient of the highly coveted FNB Art Prize at the 11th installment of the FNB Joburg Art Fair.

Gunn-Salie’s riveting work Senzeni na, takes the viewer to the site of the Marikana killings. It attempts to bring home and make visible the moments before that fateful event. He uses this dramatic imagery to reveal where memory has fallen short. His work is a reminder that the past is still unfolding.

The sculptures depict haunting images of striking Marikana mineworkers crouching vulnerably on the ground, before police shot dead 34 and wounded at least 78 in a highly publicised massacre on August 16, 2012.  Seventeen figures crouch, headless and handless. There’s singing. Sounds of gunshots usher in expressions of mourning and memory. Upon looking at this work, one feels something akin to sorrow. Your heart breaks — heavily, sharply. 

Gunn-Salie’s work remains important, with his artistic formations casting light on cycles of histories and unthinkable events. He allows us to reflect on the different architectures of dominance linked to entrenched powers of colonialism, racism and relentless capitalism. In his work, we experience a sense of time frozen — always post-event, but not past our own mourning.

Currently based between Johannesburg and Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Gunn-Salie completed his BA Hons in sculpture at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2012. Best known for his interventions and installations dissecting and articulating history and memory, his works have been exhibited around the world, including at the Venice Biennale and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain in 2015.

Senzeni na, capturing the ghosts of those slain in the Marikana Massacre, will be among an elite group of work displayed in London’s Regent’s Park next month, ironically the base of Marikana platinum mine operator Lonmin.

Acknowledgement Nkgopoleng Moloi: Mail & Guardian and image courtesy Scott Rudd: Visi  

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