November 20, 2020

There Are Mechanisms in Place on Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

Michaelis Galleries, University of Cape Town

Cover. Courtesy of Natal Collective.

Courtesy of Natal Collective

View of Makhosazana Xaba. Poetry. Courtesy of Natal Collective

View of Thulile Gamedze. Essay. Courtesy of Natal Collective

View of Nkule Mabaso. Visual essay. Courtesy of Natal Collective 

Bonolo Kavula. Editioned illustration. Courtesy of Natal Collective

View of Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum exhibition. Courtesy of Natal Collective

Courtesy of Natal Collective.

Nkule Mabaso, Michaelis Galleries Curator, and Nomusa Makhubu, Associate Professor at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, are pleased to announce There Are Mechanisms in Place—a creative book on Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s work. The book follows the artist’s solo exhibition of the same name presented at Michaelis Galleries from August 23 to September 21, 2018. The creative book, quite different from the usual catalogue, deliberately centres and collaborates with Black women cultural producers, responding to Sunstrum’s solo exhibition.

These responses include contributions in the form of poetic interpretations by accomplished poets, Makhosazana Xaba and Toni Stuart. Other contributions in the book include thought provoking essays by interdisciplinary art practitioners, Thulile Gamedze, Amie Soudien, Philiswa Lila and Refilwe Nkomo. Meanwhile, Bonolo Kavula’s contribution—an illustrated zine—teethes out Sunstrum’s themes of African creative practices such as science, science fiction and the political imaginary.

The creative book, like the exhibition probes social experiences of home, belonging and estrangement through the prisms of science and futurity, politics, economy and governance. Sunstrum explores parallels between ancient cosmology and advanced theories in science. Her creative research yields an assemblage of mythology, historical heroics, and speculations on the structure of the universe. She creates figures in her work that are time travelling, fantastical, and alternate selves, traversing a simultaneously futuristic and prehistoric. As such, Time, History, Space, Place and Self-Hood—whether actual or invented—are all significant narrative and conceptual concerns.

The title—There Are Mechanisms In Place—refers to a speech that South Africa’s former Minister of Higher Education and Training gave in October 2015 in response to student protests. In it, he stated: “It is a challenge, but I wouldn’t call it a crisis. A crisis implies that the situation is so bad that there are no mechanisms to deal with it. There are mechanisms in place.” From this speech, Sunstrum became interested in how this ominously delivered threat served to confirm that the historical mechanisms that were once in place to "deal with" student uprising are still, indeed, "in place" now.

The hand-crafted creative book provides a full view of the artist's approach, exploring the artist futurist and coded works on paper.

The book opens with essays from curators Mabaso and Makhubu situating the context of Sunstrum’s exhibition in a place that is so charged and directly linked to the exhibition’s critique of the university. The creative book also includes descriptions and photographs of all the work that was presented at the exhibition as well as installation shots.

The book is distributed by Natal Collective and is available to purchase here.

Authors: Nomusa Makhubu, Nkule Mabaso, Thulile Gamedze, Philiswa Lila, Amie Soudien, Toni Stuart, Makhosazana Xaba, Refilwe Nkomo, Bonolo Kavula.

Original Artwork: Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum
Book design: Simnikiwe Buhlungu
Publisher: Michaelis Galleries
Printer: Pulp Paperworks, Johannesburg
Content management and liaison: Amogelang Maledu

ISBN: 978-0-6399226-2-1 (print) / Publication date: 2019 / Format: hard cover / Number of pages: 99 / Run: 100 signed copies

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