South African Art…on Television?

I can’t remember the last time I intentionally watched something on television. The fact that all of my favourite shows are sitting snugly on my hard drive (and sans the annoying one week waiting period between episodes) has rendered this aspect of the almighty box redundant. Anyway, yesterday as a means of ignoring the gaping void that is the interior of my fridge I resorted to the distracting sanctuary of the television set. And Lo and behold, who should pop up onscreen but Nadipha Mntambo. Art…on television? Or more specifically, art……on SABC 1?? Apparently SABC 1 has been running this show for a while now called ‘Headwrap’, wherein two “creative” individuals with some sort of opposing trait (be it gender, race, medium of work, style etc) are asked to collaborate on a work.

“An arts and culture show with a twist, SABC1’s Headwrap is based on a fresh, well thought-out concept. In an attempt to fuse artistic genres and bridge the looming chasm in South Africans’ cultural landscape, the programme brings together two artists who are disparate in more than just style and character. Headwrap is doing more than merely showcasing local talent; it’s exploiting an artistic platform to indirectly tackle SA’s social schisms — gulfs that transcend gender, race and class.” THE WEEKENDER – BUSINESS DAY

How has nobody mentioned this program before? Sure the end product of Mntambo and David Tlale’s (whoever he is, some fashion designer guy) collaboration was pretty hideous but the fact remains that here we have a show dealing directly with aspects of South African contemporary art production on mainstream TV and thus far everybody seems blissfully unaware of it. According to Plexus Film’s website, past collaborations have included Lionel Davis and Thando Mama, Mduduzi Nyembe and (Spier Contemporary People’s Choice Award winner) Justin Fiske and Malika Ndlovu and Peter van Heerden.

What seems completely unexploited here is actual personality clashes. For instance Mduduzi and Justin are hardly confrontational people, putting the two of them together is not exactly going to ignite the world with temper tantrums. The producers should exploit some already existing feuds. Imagine trying to force Peet Pienaar to make some kind of collaborative work with Thembinkosi Goniwe. Or Ed Young and David Robert Lewis (granted that he isn’t really an artist, but it would still have great entertainment value. Let’s call his self-written Wikipedia entry an artwork so that he can count). God, I hope that somebody has to collaborate with James Webb in a future episode. Now THAT would be entertainment.

Apologies if this comes across as some sort of PR puff piece, it just seems weird that, as far as I can tell, nothing has really been mentioned about this show. As organisations like VANSA and their “What does South African art writing need?” discussions have proven, South Africa’s arty folk love to bitch about the lack of media exposure to contemporary art production in South Africa. Yet when things turn up nobody ever seems to know about/ acknowledge them. Surely the best way to increase exposure is to prove that there’s an audience?

‘Headwrap’ airs on SABC One, Wednesdays at 18:30.

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