People relate more through social media platforms in our progressively technological society. We at ART AFRICA are extending an invitation to artists from the African diaspora to use our Instagram account as a platform to give us their viewpoint as an artist, showcase their work, art-making process, studios and current exhibitions.
Dan Halter is a Zimbabwean born artist whose work blends political controversy with expression of creation, as he now resides in South Africa, he amalgamates South African concerns with Zimbabwean issues to create spectacular pieces.
ART AFRICA: Being born in Zimbabwe, but now based in South Africa, do you find your subject matter becomes influenced by South African issues along with those of Zimbabwe when conceptualising new work?
Dan Halter: Yes, my work does look increasingly at issues here in South Africa as well as those faced by Zimbabweans here and at home, along with aspects of migration. Works such as The Freedom Charter (2013), New Identity (2013) and more recently Umlungu (2016) are some examples.
Your work has a strong political presence referring to both pre and post colonialism, would you say it’s important for you as an artist to maintain such a strong political presence within your work?
In a way my work is a self-education about issues that matter to me. I was born in Rhodesia to first generation immigrants from Switzerland at the height of the Zimbabwe War of Liberation.
There were very different perceptions of this war at the time. With Cold War politics playing into the conflict the government at the time painted a picture of fighting foreign insurgents bent on making the country communist. These fears did not materialize and I enjoyed a comfortable childhood in the newly independent country of Zimbabwe.
Later, after I had moved here to study art, my parents were attacked in their home and they now live in a form of self-imposed exile. I am fascinated by this history, the colonial past of Southern Africa and how it continues to haunt us to this day. It is like researching a gripping tragedy only to find out that you are in fact the villain.
Out of all the materials you have used in the past, which medium has had an immense impact on you as an artist and why?
I must say that I enjoy working with different materials and it excites me to try new things. I suppose weaving paper would be the most signature and prolific medium in my artistic output. This is largely because I have a full-time assistant, Bienco Ikete, who specializes in this technique.
You have stated that “fabric and fabrication” really describes your work. Could you please elaborate on what exactly these words mean to you and your work both past and present?
The finished woven works no longer have the feel of paper – they feel more like a fabric. There is also a distortion that occurs to the image or text. I like the word ‘fabricate’ as it can mean to make something, or to make-up something in order to distort the truth. I like this ambiguity and think it applies to most forms of representation. Put another way: “The original is unfaithful to the translation” – Jorge Luis Borges.
- invent (something) in order to deceive.
- construct or manufacture (an industrial product), especially from prepared components.
Social media is prominent in the spreading of art to a global audience in a short amount of time. Do you find the internet to be a welcoming change of pace in contrast to traditional print media?
Yes, I do enjoy the immediacy of the internet and the fact that almost anyone with a computer can put themselves out there (in the virtual world) in ways that were impossible before. I am still learning how to make use of it.