BLACK TIE - MISSIONARY POSSESSION

Durational site-specific performance
Originally performed by Lesiba Mabitsela, Godfrey De Sylva, Michael Jacobs, Sizo Mahlangu and Abdul Dube

 

In a continent built on competing patriarchal cultures and traditions, the current Eurocentric perspective is the dominant power. The suit/blazer is a symbol of Christian morality, power and class that has made its way there through the violent legacy of colonialism and slavery or as Edward Said would suggest, “Cultural
imperialism.

 

Black Tie - An Alternative Store Opening (2016) explores embodied performances of African male masculine behaviours in the everyday. For this particular inquiry the gendered and military associations inherent in the suit are seen to be ironically connected to contemporary masculine embodied behaviours in Africa which
are expressed through public display and contradictory African cultural practices.

 

Monica L. Miller’s book titled Slaves to Fashion details the importance of the idea of respectable attire in resisting racist ideologies synonymous with Jim Crow and Apartheid. Yet the ramifications of this has seen cultural mixing which has questioned and blurred the meaning around African authenticity and cultural
appropriation. Further more, the introduction of social media has alerted multi-national fashion brands (mostly of European decent) to the global market, with seemingly cultural references to blankets and prints being used as fashionable trend on Parisian catwalks and Hollywood movie screens.

 

The resulting confusion is further exacerbated by adoring young African men and their
ambitions of affluence and power. As an adaptation of what art historian Anne Hollander describes
as ‘undress’ the models, whom all have their own conflicted battles with cultural identities, originate from contested South African backgrounds and identify themselves on a spectrum of masculinities that lie between homosexuality and heterosexuality;symbolically displayed here through their black African bodies
whilst methodically performing methods of undress in re-imagining alternative embodied masculine experiences in the everyday and rejecting the accepted ideas of the suit as we know it. These accepted ideas are the ones the general society take for granted for example; the way the suit looks, the way the suit is made, the way
the suit is padded, cut, stitched and put together, the way the suit is marketed, what the wearing of the suit is meant to represent and eventually the way the suit makes African men feel.
 

By pre-dominantly working with the tools of costume, fashion, photography, video, virtual reality and performance, garments are brought to life and are given a haunting characteristic when their location is site-specific or staged as ‘fashion show’ which is not only explored as a pseudo-stage for performance but used as a tool for audience engagement and the thrill of collective participation.
 

Exhibitions:
2018: Afrovibes Festival
(Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam)
2017: Museum Night
(Slave Lodge, Cape Town
2016: Live Arts Festival
(6 Spin Street, Cape Town)