In Conversation - Bronwyn Katz
In Conversation - Bronwyn Katz
For the second instalment of our spotlight series featuring interviews with African artists on the continent and in the diaspora, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview the South African artist Bronwyn Katz. She talked to me about her work and inspiration, the South African art scene and her fave Solange track.
For those who might not be familiar, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a visual artist based in South Africa. I practice predominantly in sculpture and installation.
How long have you been making art and who or what inspires you to create?
I have been making art for as long as I can remember. I suppose I am inspired by an inner need to tell stories, to make sense of the things around me through stories.
What are some of the themes that you like to explore in your work and is there any particular message or feeling you want to convey through your work?
Material, within the framework of my artistic practice, acts as a repository of memory. I am interested in the notion of objects, people and spaces as lived and often attempt to create imagined stories and histories of objects, people and spaces.
Can you talk a little about the art scene in South Africa? What are some of the things you like about it in comparison to other art scenes you may have experienced?
At this stage of my career, I have only been based in South Africa. I have been moving and working between Cape Town and Johannesburg, two cities with similar but different art scenes. Most of the commercial galleries that operate in Cape town operate in Johannesburg. Johannesburg however, in relation to Cape Town, has a strong culture of artist communities, in the form of artist studios such as August House, the Bag Factory, Assemblage etc. I think that these artist communities create more opportunities for artist-run project spaces and initiatives.
Due to the history of colonialism and the fact that international art galleries are mostly owned and run by white Europeans (particularly white men) I feel like 1) contemporary African art is still judged through Western art paradigms and 2) These same white people often get to decide what is and isn't authentically ‘African’. Would you agree with this, or do you think from your experience that Africans have more autonomy over their work?
Yes, galleries are white-owned, yes capital in the art world is white, yes patriarchy is rife, so yes currently white people have an overwhelming influence on which artists and narratives get to be know/ promoted inside and outside of the continent. At the same time, I believe that black art writers, artists and curators from the continent have a lot of agency and are active in creating their own knowledge making about the continent.
In addition, how do you think your identity as a black woman, in South Africa, positions you and your work in creative spaces? Have you ever felt like you had to incorporate the latest styles, trends and techniques of contemporary Western art in your work in order to be taken seriously?
The institutions I have had to function in have definitely placed my experiences and identities at the margin while placing white patriarchal eurocentric thought at the centre. For example the university I did my studies at perpetuated eurocentric knowledge making. I am however able to realise, that the potency/ agency in my work lies in my own personal and collective experiences and identities.
You are a founding member of iQhiya Collective; could you talk a little about what it is and the reason for its creation? Could you tell us a bit about the name ‘iQhiya’ itself and what it stands for?
iQhiya is a collective of 11 Black Women artists based in South Africa and Botswana. The collective was formed in 2015 in Cape Town. We create work together but more importantly we function as a support network. We formed iQhiya due to shared experiences of exclusion and marginalisation as black women artists.The word iQhiya translated into English means head wrap, each of the founding members felt a certain connection to the word in relation to black womanhood.
Who are your favourite artists, both locally and internationally?
Dineo Seshee Bopape and Otobong Nkanga
As someone with an African parent and African relatives, I know that there is often a lot of pressure put on us to follow more conventional career paths. Would you say that pressure is something you have experienced? If so, how did you overcome it?
Yes, this is something I have experienced! I had to have numerous conservations with my parents about why it was important for me to be an artist despite the common misconception that the profession is reserved for privileged white people.
What are your plans for the future? Artistically speaking, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I look forward to participating in residencies outside of South Africa, I am interested in exposing my practice to spaces outside of my contexts.
Lastly, we talk a lot about pop-culture and things that we are fans of on the zine, what would someone have to read, watch, or listen to in order to understand you? Alternatively, what are some things you are into lately?
Listen to Junie by Solange!
REBECCA IS A MULTIFACETED HISTORY GRADUATE, PHOTOGRAPHER, IMAGE MAKER AND ARCHIVIST. SHE IS OF SCOTTISH-CAMEROONIAN HERITAGE AND HAS DOCUMENTED VARIOUS COMMUNITIES IN BAMENDA/LIMBE-CAMEROON, CHICAGO, MINNEAPOLIS, AS WELL AS THE RACIAL CLIMATE OF SCOTLAND. SHE FOUNDED THIS MAGAZINE IN 2015 OUT OF A DIRE NEED TO SEE + HEAR MORE REALIST EXPERIENCES FROM THE AFRICAN DIASPORA AS THIS IS SOMETHING SHE SELDOM SAW IN OTHER MAGAZINES. SHE IS CURRENTLY BASED IN SOUTH EAST LONDON.