The Con is busy conducting an email interview with the Tokolos Stencil Crew. Naturally as news broke on social media of their intervention at Michael Elion’s Madiba Ray Bans in Cape Town, our line of questioning turned to this latest action of theirs. Here is what they had to say. Our full interview will be published when complete.
Asked to comment on their intervention with the Madiba Ray-Ban sunglasses last night, the Tokolos Stencil Crew said it found the piece of public art offensive.
It’s just completely offensive. It’s corporate, it lacks conceptual depth, it promotes this white supremacist concept of the rainbow nation. But, most of all, it is straight-up vandalism. We find it telling, though unsurprising, that our actions around the glasses have generated such a storm. What is really unfortunate, though, is that what we believe are our most challenging and relevant interventions have gone mostly unnoticed by the mainstream and chattering classes. Much of our #remembermarikana artwork has had a huge impact in working class communities. Poor blacks recognise this iconic piece more and more. Many are mobilising and land occupations are happening in the name of remembering Marikana. We think this work of ours is more important than our defacement of the statue, but the media and chatterers ignore it.
We have also painted “This city works for a few” on toilets and people’s shacks (we got permission from these people) facing the N2. This was also ignored even though it was something on the mind of many people travelling in taxis on their way to work.
One of our less active tokolos even worked with the Marikana shack community in Philippi, and they requested that a tokolos spray “Remember Marikana” on each of their shacks. No one noticed except the community, but the community was proud and this was a way to bring them together through art.
We are more proud of these less visible actions than what we did to the glasses. We think it’s sad that those who profess to support the struggles of the working class, the black masses, ignore these more relevant interventions.
Commenting on the use of the words, “We broke your hearts”, the collective said:
Well, we find it interesting how many different people have been reading into this in so many ways. Our original reason for writing this is in reference to Elion’s conceptually myopic hearts that he has put up all over Cape Town.
The hearts have become a way to express white hipsters’ love for the oppressive city we live in: the segregation, the racism, the capitalist exploitation, which all becomes hidden when we are merely told to love and forgive and forget the injustice.
It is the artistic equivalent of the ANC’s sunshine journalism.
“We broke your hearts” refers to breaking this mirage of the rainbow nation that Elion is advocating. But it is also a threat that we will further deface his work.
Commenting on Michael Elion’s comments in City Press where he claimed to have few black friends because of his “environment”:
We don’t think much about it; it’s pretty standard white behaviour and rationalisation. But he is correct to say that he is merely a product of the white supremacist environment he lives in. He sees upholding white supremacy as “art”. We, however, see it as a copout.
Asked whether they had thoughts on the lighthouse being erected on Signal Hill, which opens tomorrow as part of the World Design Capital Cape Town 2014:
What? There is a lighthouse being put on Signal Hill? Perhaps someone else will fix it. There are many tokolos out there.
Further Reading: Sticking Art to Privilege