Karolina Sobel

Home / Essays / 2018

Gravity

GravitySouth Africa has gone from the symbol of white opulence
into democracy and era of postcolonialism. During Apartheid times, when there were exclusion and separateness, the power and status of human being was decided by race. That time the country was ruled by white minority. According to the rulers divided country created better opportunities for all citizens. The future of inhabitants and prosperity of the communities were excellent unless you were black. Every African was allocated to one of nine different tribes, each with a designated tribal authority situated in its homeland. Those black people who worked in cities were living outside in townships.
The Ponte Tower is icon of the architecture of Johannesburg and it reflects country’s history. Thefifty four floor building was originally built as any building in Johannesburg for the white privileged race since 1975. It was an icon of exuberance, wealth and decadence, however with time it became the symbol of decay and crime . Along with uprisings in Soweto, economy crash and process of suburbanisation which resulted in moving out to suburbs by the white and opposite, in settling down of the black in the centre. The districts were devastated and became a scene of criminal offences.
In the short film «Gravity» stands the blind Musician in foyer of Ponte Tower and sings a song in Venda language. The Musician performs without audience as like one of the survivor of catastrophe or as like a visionary prophet. His connection with the past seems very fluid , the line between fact and myth of the trauma vanishes.

South Africa has gone from the symbol of white opulence into democracy and era of post-colonialism. During Apartheid times, when there were exclusion and separateness, the power and status of human being was decided by race. That time the country was ruled by white minority. According to the rulers divided country created better opportunities for all citizens. The future of inhabitants and prosperity of the communities were excellent unless you were black. Every African was allocated to one of nine different tribes, each with a designated tribal authority situated in its homeland. Those black people who worked in cities were living outside in townships. The iconic site of Johannesburg is called the Ponte Towers which reflects rich country’s history. The fifty four floor concrete building was originally built as any other building in Johannesburg for the white privileged race. It was an icon of exuberance, wealth and decadence, however with time it became the symbol of decay and crime. Along with uprisings in Soweto, economy crash and process of suburbanisation which resulted in moving out to suburbs by the white and opposite, in settling down of the black in the centre. The districts in centre were devastated and became a scene of criminal offences.

Nowadays Ponte Towers symbolises the idea of destruction, although there are investors who try to restore the building to living standards. The performing musician was born blind at the area of Venda homeland. As many other Africans he moved with his family to Soweto to find better job after Apartheid system had collapsed in 1994. The word „Venda“ means „land“ or „country“ and it is one of 11 official languages in South Africa. My work shows a performance of a song in Venda language at the hall of Ponte Towers and on the street of the suburbs, reminding about the original ancestors of the land and constituting a debate about the colonial legacy.

The title "Gravity" is a metaphor, which stands for the tensions of racial division after the apartheid legacy in South Africa in present order of the postcolonial times. Gravity is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass are brought toward one another, in other words, it is the strength of mutual tension.

Exhibited at Orgel Fabrik on 22.04. -13.05.2018  in Karlsruhe
Städtische Klinikum Karlsruhe 4.05 - 8.06.2018 
HFG Karlsuruhe Rundgang 19-21.07.2018 

Johannesburg Braamfontein

Braamfontein is an neighbourhood in the city of Johannesburg that has attracted the attention and interest of investors, city officials and urban practitioners for being the only urban node in the city that appears to be integrated (in terms of race and class) and dense in a city where suburban living is the norm. Braamfontein is also the only neighbourhood in Johannesburg inner city that has overcome urban decay in a more or less organic manner. Home Braamfontein is a research project aimed at showing the very diverse group of people that coexist in Braamfontein in terms of race, age, household composition, cultural identity and economic class. The project interrogates who are the people that actually live in Braamfontein and how each of us has made a home in the neighbourhood. The project consists of a series of portraits of the residents and still pictures of the living spaces they inhabit.

With cooperation Urbanists for Equity u4e.org.za it was possibile to screen the images in Braamfontein