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PATHWAYS & FOOTPRINTS (article first published : 2006-09-12)

Collectively inspired by the philosophy and life teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, a proud delegation of South Africans was in India recently to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the political leader's peaceful protest movement. Kizo Gallery Directors Craig Mark and Natalie Bradfield were among those who flew to India for the launch of the Satyagraha Indo-South African Art Collaboration on September 1. The exhibition was opened by the President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam at the Travancore Gallery in New Delhi.

One of South Africa's leading privately-owned contemporary art spaces, Kizo is extremely proud to be involved in the centenary commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha (meaning 'force of truth') movement, which advocates non-violent resistance as a means of pressing for political reform. The commemorative exhibition is the brainchild of Afrikhadi-India, an NGO with representation in India and South Africa, and is supported by the Travancore Gallery of New Delhi, Kizo Art Consultants, The Gateway Theatre of Shopping and International Bank Vaults.

The relevance of Gandhi's message of peaceful resistance continues to challenge and inspire individuals and society as a whole even today, as a positive and relevant action against encroachments into individual freedom and personal dignity. The same is certainly true of free and unhindered artistic expression in a democratic and modern society.

It is with this in mind that Kizo Art Consultants eagerly took up the opportunity to participate in the Indo-South African art exhibition as an artistic tribute to the philosophy and life teachings of this great leader. The 20 South African artists who have been selected by Kizo to showcase their works come from vastly different backgrounds, each boasting an instilled pride in their own tradition and culture, of which Gandhi himself would have been proud.

Key contributor and patron to Afrikhadi-South Africa, respected and acclaimed artist Andrew Verster comments, "The world needs Gandhi now, more so than ever before. The amount of violence and terror in the world is spiralling and what is needed, most urgently and critically, is for the world's leaders to sit and talk about their conflicts and come to a resolution in the manner that Gandhi advocated. Isn't it ironic that the movement of peaceful resistance was activated some one hundred years ago on the date 9-11-1906?" He continues saying, "Gandhi didn't talk to high-powered politicians or social influencers, rather he activated his movement of peaceful protest through the people at grassroots level and look at the impact this approach had on both South African and Indian societies."

Equally fitting is the fact that, eleven years after emancipation from apartheid, South Africa now enjoys the social and political freedom which Gandhi and others like him fought so tirelessly to bring about in their struggle against colonialism and racism. The Satyagraha movement is close to the heart of South Africans and the launch of the exhibition in Kizo's home province of KwaZulu-Natal has much significance, considering that the first stirrings of the movement took place right here one hundred years ago.

The exhibition will run from October 2 to 15 and will consist of two sections: Pathways and Footprints.

Pathways will include a selection of photographs, cartoons and critiques depicting Gandhian ideology and the Satyagraha, collected from various collections and museums, as well as from South African sources. This section of the exhibition will give viewers an insight into the concept of Satyagraha and the history of the Satyagraha movement, and contains many pieces that have as yet never been publicly displayed.

Footprints will explore Satyagraha's relevance within modern-day society as a positive action against oppression. It will include a collection of paintings, sculptures, and graphic prints by the 66 leading contemporary artists from Gandhi's two home nations.

Some of the South African pieces to be featured include work from artists as diverse in artistic style as Andrew Verster, Anthony Wakaba Mutheki, Simmi Dullay, Ignatius Marx, Sam Nhlengethwa, Lene' Pienaar, Sfiso Ka Mkame, Paul Lawrenson . Lindelani Ngwenya, Vanessa Berlein; Philip Briel, Hildegard, Gabisile Nkosi, Langa Magwa and Vulindlela Nyoni.

Each artist was invited to provide insight into their understanding of Satyagraha in modern society, and to create artworks that embodied the principles of Satyagraha. Kizo Gallery owners Craig Mark and Natalie Bradfield have taken due care to select works that not only commemorate this historically significant movement, but to use the exhibition to mobilise communities, government and society at large.

Through art that provokes thought, raises questions, challenges preconceptions and spurs the beholder into action, the pair hopes to bring to the fore the importance of the principle of Satyagraha and to encourage a renewed embracing of the philosophy through the emotive connection of art that moves, activates and speaks to the heart.

In the words of a poem dear to Gandhi, Satyagraha - like a beautifully created piece of art - is: "a movement from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to deathlessness".




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