Apartheid, in both its ideological and administrative manifestations, made one’s place in the world quite clear; social roles were narrowly defined. For many South Africans, both white and black, it seemed the world had turned upside-down in the post-apartheid era. Even during Nelson Mandela’s presidency people across the colour divide were struggling to come to terms with a Constitution that gave women equal rights and increased protection for children and minors.
The Alphabet of Democracy is an ongoing project and is one set of alphabets that are not going to make it to the Foundation Phase classrooms of the Department of Education. These prints refer to local, South African events and some of the definitions are from dictionaries used in schools; but the meanings extend way beyond South African borders and pick up on prejudices and social issues across the globe. "N is for nightmare" and "B is for black" and "W is for white" resonate as quickly in the USA and Europe as they do here on the southern tip of Africa.
Kannemeyer is well known for his work, under the alias Joe Dog, in Bitterkomix, a South African satirical magazine. Many of the works in the exhibition are these Joe Dog style cartoon prints and paintings on paper, all of which are infused with cynicism and humour that comment on the state of a postcolonial African society. He sees our society, especially with regards to race, politics and sex, as hypocritical and depraved. However, he is careful not to condemn the society, for if he moralised then he himself would be a hypocrite, as many of his pieces mock the moralists for their unreflective hypocrisy. He avoids the position of a judge and instead assumes the role of an aloof anthropologist who is amused by the follies of the cultures he studies. Many of the images assume colonial iconographies and styles, from etchings akin to those found in Victorian travelogues to illustrations which show a Tintin-like figure. However, all these artworks are contemporary, intended for a contemporary audience and meant to comment on postcolonial cultures. The overarching message is that colonial attitudes have been inherited by the postcolonial society. The postcolonial society does not supplant the colonial one, but instead is just a sophisticated version of the colonial society, with all its bigotry, hypocrisy, greed and other negative traits.
Anton Kannemeyer is a South African comic artist who makes images imbued with black humor, subversive thinking, and satire. He approaches his complicated, emotional topics with a deceptive simplicity. Kannemeyer said “I think that a comic style allows one to easily access stereotypes, which is important if you’re a satirist. The simpler the image becomes, the clearer it is for the viewer to read the image. The problem, however, is that the image may look simple, but the message is often complex. It so happens that a lot of people, especially visual illiterates, may think they understand the image because it’s drawn in an accessible comic style, but the meaning may be ambiguous or hidden. This often leads to misinterpretations and controversy...” (2011 Interview with Doug Haddow)
Images from his Alphabet of Democracy series have appeared regularly over the years. The first were done in 2005, "J is for Jack Russell" and "D is for dancing ministers". The initial reference is to childhood primers and illustrated alphabets, Letter-land gets political...The text on the prints reflects his obsession with hand typography and the style of the prints recalls his earlier silk-screens with the backgrounds of flat colour. The appealing primer like text is deceptive; on closer inspection the images are not so innocent.
In " Birth, the first and direst of all disasters" and "Say, if you speak English we must be getting near civilization", Kannemeyer combines historical references to seemingly mundane photographic records with just a slight manipulation of the imagery and addition of biting humorous text.
In many of his prints Kannemeyer continues to investigate racism in Africa. It is the continued existence of racism and double standards in Africa that Kannemeyer is looking at. What has always been prominent in his work is his interest in exposing the hypocrisy of the white liberal in South Africa. With his confrontational images and humour he brings to attention prejudices and worldviews that can then be dealt with and hopefully be done away with. His "Papa in Afrika" work was well received when it was exhibited in Kinshasa, a city that he reports has a vibrant art scene. The "Moulinsart Lawyers" comment on Europe's propensity to exploit and criminalise Africa at the same time.
Kannemeyer's recent prints relate more to South Africa and the specifics of sport, suburban life and politics. In “E is for the Enemy of Democracy” quotes spanning almost forty years are contrasted suggesting that the more things change the more they stay the same. “Soccer” and “Rugby” pick up the endless political debates relating to sports, whether it is from men roasting meat on open flames or officials discussing policies in boardrooms. Whatever happened to the games?
ANTON KANNEMEYER / In Heaven
This item is on order from the Studio in South Africa. Please be aware that the delivery date is estimated to be roughly 6 weeks from order. Please be aware that due to the fact that this item is On Order it is offered ONLY in a frameless version.