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The palms of hands, the small of the back, the nape of the neck, under the belly, the soles of the feet, (from Truth Veils) 1999, Five digital prints, five c o n t a c t prints. The sudden international spotlight that beamed its expository rays onto the "New South Africa" with the lifting of the boycott and the nascent promise of transformation and a cheery rainbow glare, initially, and not all that surprisingly , triggered some skepticism and anxiety amongst many artists still working there. A fair degree of defensiveness around what and who defined the nature of South African art made itself known in distinct ways, with counter arguments, suggestions of parochialism, and suspected xenophobia flinging themselves back by those exhausted and bored with their isolation. This temple-throbbing anxiety and not-so-mild territoriality has lessened. The degree to which South African artists interact within a global context, and engage in the international circuit is increasing rapidly. International art events, such as the Johannesburg Biennale, have been groundbreaking and decidedly career-boosting in this regard. Cultural stardom might not yet have convinced its way into the South African context just yet—South African heroes still tend to manifest themselves as sporting demigods rather than as cultural artisans. But similar cultural oblivion has, happily, not obscured the growing reputation of an impressively wellfledged posse of South African artists that are making their individual marks within the global art circuit—and significantly , beyond the novelty of their national "South African" labeling. The likes of (sometimes) Cape Town-based artist Berni Searle are a case in point. A glance at Searle's CV over the past two years hints at a frenetic schedule and the unquestionable waxing of her mover-shaker status. Searle received a UNESCO Award presented by the International Art Critics Association (AICA) at the 7 t n International Cairo Biennale in December 1998; she's been short listed for the Daimler Chrysler Award for South African Contemporary Artist 2000, last year; she was a finalist of the First National Bank Vita 2000 Award; she was awarded the Minister of Culture Award at DAK'ART 2000, the Dakar Biennale, Senegal; she has completed residencies at Gasworks, London and the South African National Gallery, Cape Town this year; she has participated in numerous exhibitions all over South Africa, including a solo show in Cape Town last year; she boasts a solo exhibition at INOVA (Institute of the Visual Arts) at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in the United States; she has group shows in Berlin, Zurich and New York, with further exhibitions pending in New York and elsewhere; and she has recently had her work acquired by the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. Moving and shaking indeed at a pace that would leave anyone watching her wobble very rapidly. Her lifestyle, ever since leaving her teaching post at Stellenbosch University last year, has been unrelentingly fast and a little furious. But then, Searle's art and commentary has never focused on bland existence. Her work is decisively centred upon a lived environment and a lived experience, both reflective of her South African home context, as well as self-reflexive of her personal cultural histories. And this focus might be cen7 6 - N k a Journal of Contemporary African Art tered, but it is proving to be by no means limited. Searle has become best known for an extensive series of work entitled, broadly, the Colour Me series, which continues to inform, although at different levels, much of her subsequent projects. The Colour Me series encompasses detailed variations on a set of images, usually presented as installations that Searle produces using spices in conjunction with images of her own body: incorporating both the physical substances and the traces of her physical being, as well as photographic renderings thereof. Searle features herself covered in spices, and removed from spices, reflecting within the infinite types of visual play that happen in these spaces upon the nature of representation; scrutinizing issues of race and racial naming. It specifically relates to the South African anomaly of the term "Coloured," but it also invokes questions and observations around the representation of gender and around the exoticism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2152-7792
Print ISSN
1075-7163
Pages
pp. 74-79
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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