President Jacob Zuma would do well to thank the organisers of the Cape Town Art Fair for not inviting him to the three-day event.
Visitors to the fair, which features 75 exhibitors, including galleries from Africa and abroad featuring top contemporary artists, are greeted at the door by a big collage by Ayanda Mabulu, the young artist who tends to paint Number One with his pants down.
In this work, called Blame it on the Boer, there are images of buildings, must-falls and migration, topped by a painting of a suited and jacketed Zuma with his “spear” hanging out, with a black man hanging by his neck on a rope from Zuma’s dangling manhood.
On Thursday night, however, during the preview of this weekend’s fair, there were no politicians in sight, but the outfits of the artists, collectors, appreciators and hangers-on were wacky enough to rival the opening of Parliament.
Unlike in Parliament, there were air kisses aplenty.
Politics writers at an arts fair are bound to make mistakes equivalent to a fashion writer asking minister of two decades Jeff Radebe his name.
It was therefore some comfort to discover that the fair’s curator, Tumelo Mosaka, has tackled political themes such as racial injustice, migration and identity in his exhibitions.
Jay Pather, associate professor at the University of Cape Town, said: “It’s not a political statement as such, but he is developing a socially sensitive fair.”
Art fairs like these are aimed at the commercial market – which, judging by the R3 700 per bottle of Champagne on sale, has some cash to spend.
The big stars were the artists themselves, such as Soweto-based John Vusi Mfupi, who makes collages from pages he finds in magazines.
“Canvasses are bulky and difficult to store, so collages have always been easier and cheaper, and they are recyclable,” he says.
His favourite materials? “Bona and True Love magazines give me good colour, and I also use newspapers – really anything that is paper. Next, I want to explore coloured tissue paper,” he said.
Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey does recycling of a different kind. Bright yellow tapestries made of old plastic oil containers adorn his exhibition space.
“Cooking oil is imported in these containers from Europe or the US to Africa,” he said. These are later used for transporting water, until they crack and have to be discarded.
He said his work explored the environmental hazard these containers become, but also the way migration changes the value of objects – which, in Clottey’s case, amounts to a respectable $18 000 (R235 000) to $25 000 per tapestry.
Although the fair hadn’t officially opened by Thursday night, an American-based collector already declared he would be buying the lot.
Nigerian-born Marcia Kure was another notable artist on exhibit through Bloom Art Lagos gallery with a series of collages dubbed Of Saints and Vagabonds, and, facing it, the Grey Series, which was a series of private visual notes to herself while creating the collages.
“The marks in that reflect in the collages, such as the calligraphic marks made on the body. In these paintings, I was trying to resolve issues, whether it be a crisis at home or the kidnapping of the Chibok girls,” she said.
Other memorable stars of the show include Mary Sibande, whose work has hanging purple octopuses and black rocking horses, Katharine de Villiers, with her human car wash that you can actually walk into (because doesn’t everyone have a secret desire to be a car in a car wash?) and Michael Linders’ one-person jumping castle.
Despite all the wacky, none of these managed to come close to Zuma’s fire pool.