Johannesburg - Despite increasing access, Africa is still the most underrepresented continent on the internet, so it’s almost a radical act to be African and create digital content. Artists have come to understand the intersection between the memes, gifs and videos we digest for humour, and the strong representational importance they have. Here are three artists who are changing the status quo with their work:
1. Tabita Rezaire
French-born and Joburg-based Tabita Rezaire uses videos, Microsoft Paint collages, GIFs and social-media posts to enhance the representation of marginalised people in the online world.
In fact, Rezaire calls the internet “our oppressive white-supremacist-patriarchal-cis-hetero-globalised world screen”. As a self-styled cyber activist, her work proposes the idea that the internet is a colonised space.
Rezaire has exhibited dozens of times in galleries all over the world. Her most recent exhibit, called Exotic Trade, showed at the Goodman Gallery in Joburg.
* Check out her work here
(An image from Tabita Rezaire's Tumblr account)
2. Tiger Maremela
The founder of online zine Spectrum.za, writer behind newsletter Internet Treatz, producer of 6LMAFUTHA and managing editor at 10and5.com, 24-year old Tiger Maremela uses the internet as a tool to challenge the status quo.
Based in Joburg, their (Tiger goes by the their/them pronoun) early body of work called roygbiv was about investigating the hypocrisy of the 'Rainbow Nation' - laying bare the inequality, racism, sexism and homophobia that still exists post-1994. Maremela’s digital collages juxtaposed familiar local brands – like Ultra Mel custard and Castle beer – with images we rarely see, such as female anti-apartheid protest leaders, to raise questions about visibility and capitalism.
(An image from Tiger's roygbiv series)
Maremela is very aware of how memes can be tools of representation in South Africa – making the things black South Africans care about visible in a digital world – but can also perpetuate sexism and stereotypical beliefs.
“The weird thing with being represented on the internet is that the visibility hardly ever translates into safety, justice or access,” Maremela recently said in an article in the Mail & Guardian. Their most recent work tackles #FeesMustFall, being black in corporate South Africa, and male feminists.
Best friends Thato Ramaisa (Fela Gucci) and Buyani Duma (Desire Marea) are Faka – an art collective focused on expressing their identities as black queers living in South Africa.
Although they started out doing performance art, the pair have since created their own online platform that’s all about giving other black queer voices a space to be heard. Their mediums include sound, live performance, literature, video and photography.
Though not strictly digital artists, they have an extensive online presence that brings an awareness of black queer bodies to the internet that is sorely lacking.
* Check them out at felagucci on Instagram.