Money Loves Money
Historically weaving paved the way for the first automated loom by JM Jacquard, and this in turn led Charles Babbage to create the basis for the modern computer. This play between analogue and digital is the technical backbone of a lot of my weaving work. Text, textile and texture are integral components. Language, history and patterns inform my artistic practice, especially those relating to southern Africa. This includes cultural phenomena such as racism, migration and the lingering aftermath of colonialism. I work with skilled African crafts-people to realize labour-intensive concepts.
Since my first exhibition, I have been dealing with texts that resonate for me. Classic books such as Animal Farm by George Orwell and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad inspire me. Ideological texts such as The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau also interest me. The idea versus the translation that inevitably occurs when it is put into practice fascinates me.
‘The original is unfaithful to the translation’ – Jorge Luis Borges.
And money, I love money. Money loves money. I have seen money corrupt and I have seen money become completely worthless in my home country of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean dollar was the name of 4 official currencies in Zimbabwe from 1980 to 2009. In 2009 after hyper-inflation hit Z$300 trillion to US$1 on the blackmarket, it was abandoned in favour of the US dollar. In 2014, the Zimbabwe central bank announced that the US dollar, South African rand, Botswana pula, pound sterling, Euro, Australian dollar, Chinese yuan (renminbi), Indian rupee, and Japanese yen would all be accepted as legal currency within the country.
The US dollar was by far the favourite until it began to run out. In 2016 Zimbabwe began to offer bond notes as a form of legal tender pegged to the US dollar. Despite the notes being notionally pegged to the US dollar, their value, like the former Zimbabwean dollar, is collapsing, with everyday transactions using a rate of $3 bond notes to 1 US dollar in January 2019 and over $90 bond notes to 1 US dollar as of November 2020.
In February 2019, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor announced that the bond notes would be part of the “values” that make up the new currency to be added into the Zimbabwean market, the RTGS dollar along with the bond coins and electronic balances. The Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) dollar or RTG (Zimdollar or zollar, now abbreviated as ZWL or ZWL$) was the only official currency in Zimbabwe from June 2019 to March 2020, after which foreign currency was allowed again. (Wikipedia)
This exhibition looks at past and present realities in southern Africa. It is an area that has been and continues to be exploited both by foreign powers and also those in control of government. We cannot seem to shake off the past, perhaps because it has never been properly addressed and dealt with accordingly. The legacy of colonialism and lack of appropriate reparations has left a deeply divided and highly unequal society. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small minority and poverty is widespread. Land stolen during the years of colonial conquest is to a large extent still being inherited by the privileged descendants of those colonial masters.
‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ – William Faulkner
This monopoly on wealth is also reflected in the controversial South African phrase ‘White Monopoly Capital’ used to describe the continued economic dominance of Whites in post-Apartheid South Africa.
The origin of the term, the exact meaning of the term, and even the existence of what the term is thought to mean is disputed. The term is thought to mean everything from an oligopoly owned by a super wealthy white elite that dominates large sectors of the economy consisting of colluding monopolies to business groups that are critical of corruption and alleged state capture within the administration of former South African president Jacob Zuma.
The phrase gained contemporary notoriety when it gained widespread use in 2016. Former president Jacob Zuma used the term to reject calls for him to step down as president amidst corruption allegations against him involving his relationship with the controversial Gupta family.
The British public relations agency Bell Pottinger used the term to describe opposition to the Zuptas (Zuma and the Guptas) and sow racial division in South Africa. The aim of the campaign was to portray the Zuptas as victims of a conspiracy involving ‘white monopoly capital’ to deflect accusations and evidence of their client’s involvement in corruption and state capture, and to suggest that ‘white monopoly capital’ is actively blocking transformation in South Africa. In 2017 Bell Pottinger went bankrupt as a result of this scandal in South Africa. (Wikipedia)
Lately we have been seeing the expansion of Chinese interests in Africa and there are some fears that this might constitute a form of neo-colonialism. Only time will tell. As George Orwell stated in his book 1984:
‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”