On March 19th, 2017, I wen to go see Meleko Mokgosi’s Pax Kaffraria Gallery in Rochester at the Memorial Art Gallery. This gallery showed a series of art stories he painted.
“Kaffraria” is an Aribic word for Kafir (infidel) which is a derogatory word for African Americans. This term was first used by the British in the 18th century. It was mostly used along the settlement of the Southeast coast of Africa where they force the Xhosa to live. “Pax” is latin for peace.
Melee combines traditional and contemporary elements in his work using oil and charcoal on canvas. He also used confusing and complication concepts, making fun of events to confer exceptional power on an individual. Showing the Southern African experiences, the rise of African nationalist movements during the 1950’s, and the Xhosa castle killings.
Each piece tells a story. They are placed in a specific order throughout the gallery. None of his stories have a beginning, middle, or end. They all represent themselves all at once.
There are a few symbols that are consistent throughout the gallery. The mastiff, which symbolizes the brutal history of colonialism and the struggle for territorial control. Cattle are also common in his work.
Chapter1 “Lekgowa” [white/light-skinned person-also meaning a person in a position of power]
Chapter2 “Fully Belly 2”
Chapter3 “Terra Pericolosa” [Dangerous Land]
Chapter4 “Sikuselo Sembumbulu” [Bullet Proof]
Chapter5 “Graase-Mans” [Frontiersman]
Chapter6 “Fully Belly”
Chapter 8 “Ruse of Disavowal”
When applying Meleko Mokgosi’s contest to DM&A, by using our experiences as an inspiration, others will see how we are feeling and what we want to say in our work. It is important to tell stories as artist because that they are what make us who we are and what shapes us.