archive - issue 14

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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
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Saturday, 03 September 2011 02:00

Of my abstract gods and I

By  Pascal Mailu
The small Bible study sessions at work really amuse me. The mainly conservative and smartly dressed officers meet at the board room every morning at seven for a praise and worship session. They are fond of holding hands around the table in most sessions, projecting their blame to god (or is it God?) for everything from the slow pace of project implementation to the recurrent power black-outs and galloping inflation. At some point in their prayers or preaching, they always remember to plead with him/her to have mercy on them for crimes they have no direct hand in. Once in a while I have overheard them pray that I see the light, leave my earthly path and join them on the narrow path to heaven. On the rare occasions I have considered joining them, I realized how little I know about their god, and feel the need to provoke and relate with a more authentic god before embroiling myself with the other more global and complicated ones.

The other evening as they said their evening prayers, I reflected on the first time I heard my dad confront god. He had lost his job and mum within the span of three months. Mum, I vividly recollect, moved out and back to her parents at dusk, ranting all the way there (for anyone who cared to listen) that she was not to blame for the separation. She loudly wondered how god expected her to live in poverty when her parents were quite well off. The night she left, my dad locked himself in his bedroom, cursed in vernacular for hours on end, and in between chanted the chorus "Why me, god?". Since then I always wondered whether and why mum and dad were dealing with different gods, and I strengthened my resolve to identify and cultivate a god to be confronting when things got tough in school or at the estate playground. In the meantime, I decided to keep a respectable distance from the multiple gods peeping into my existence as I shuffled along with life.

As I grew up, dad got not only another job, but another wife, to whom I assigned the duties and rights of motherhood whenever I deemed it convenient. She moved in with a bang, installing a giant size sculpture of Jesus in our sitting room and pinning colorful rosaries on every available nail on the walls in all bedrooms. However, what puzzled me most was the big Coca Cola bottle that contained what she claimed was holy water. From the day she moved in, she always sprinkled me with the water before I went out to school or to play with my friends. The ritual was accompanied by loud pleas to god to protect her only step child from all the natural and man made disasters that posed a threat to me outside the house. In my small bed at night, I wondered why her god seemed to be more aggressive and present than mum's and dad's.

During school holidays, I interacted a lot with my aging grand mother in the village. Her narratives on the multiple types of gods were as thrilling as they were confusing. Through her I realized that there was a cluster of community gods, each with very elaborate and specialized tasks, ranging from rain generation to protecting the tribe from the blood thirsty Maasai cattle rustlers. In my grandmother's opinion, those gods were more effective and efficient in responding to prayers from clan elders as compared to the contemporary gods whose crusaders always crowded television screens marketing them like capitalists selling beauty products. The more I explored the concept of divinities, the more I wanted to surface spiritually and help in defining god even as s/he sought to define me. And the more I try to disentangle from the idea of one god, the more I got convinced that I want to deal with only one, or none at all. Like my village ancestors and other religious personalities in the Bible, Quran and other religious texts, I wish to address him/her directly and negotiate clear terms for this relationship. T

hus I address you, god - in whatever form you exist. I wonder why we are so intertwined, for the Christians say that I am created in your image, and by extension I am your representative here on earth. You probably represent me up there and everywhere else I am absent. The other day, my eldest son, who converted to Islam at the expense of his relationship with the mother, came home and pinned a large painting of the Ka'aba, surrounded by a multitude of pilgrims from all walks of life seeking to get close to you. I will not take the trip to Mecca to seek you, neither will I go to the village to get more lessons from my grand mother about you and your competitors. I am tired and wish to either disentangle from you totally unless you speak to me directly and give an account of yourself. Like you, I have no brother or sister, so I bear my anxieties, fears and joys with a high degree of autonomy. And I expect the same from you. Let us have an even playing ground - away from the subjective perceptions of a dad who was so non-committal he could only chant your name in the confines of his bedroom; away from a step-mum who over-stressed your role even in sectors that were very safe in secular hands; and away from a son who, confused by numerous divinities, absconds school in your name and seems to obey you more than he does his earthly father.

Tomorrow is Friday. Let's meet and reason together. I have considered an appropriate venue and ruled out Jamia mosque, as the building is much too white and pure for my tainted lifestyle. I thought of St. Peter Clavers' chapel but it might be too cold for you depending on where you will be arriving from - and there is no way the caretaker will allow us to take any drinks within the premises. As for the few synagogues and other oriental temples scattered across town, a friend informs me that they rarely open on Fridays. So I propose the Sheraton, as there is always ample parking and not so many twilight girls to distract us. Since the drinks are quite costly there, we will try to maximize on the happy hour, and not stay for longer than necessary. I will sit at the counter in the bar on the far end of the lawn where they have a Rhumba live band every weekend. I will wait for you between seven and ten in the evening. My blue tie will hang loosely from the white, sleeveless shirt I love so much, slowly sipping Johnie Walker in neat double tots. If you recognize me, I will recognize you and there will be no need for a formal introduction. But if you do not turn up, I will assume that you have decided to chain me to you through dad, step mum and my juvenile son, and I will surrender to fate though unwillingly. However, if you turn up, we will candidly discuss whatever links we have, analyze the entire relationship and either cement it or dismantle the abstract chains that bind us.
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