Art & Design in South Africa Today

Mesuli Mamba, “Rolfe’s Environment”

Mesuli Mamba is prison warden and collage artist in Swaziland, South Africa.  That’s where he grew up.  Mamba first learned about art from his father’s collection of Reader’s Digest —  which he still mines for collage materials, along with drawings,  poetry texts,  and glossy magazines (which can be hard to  get).

The 34-year-old says: ” “Being a prison warden is tough. Real tough. But once you get used to it, you get to know the people in your community—we’re supposed to call them inmates but they’re just my machita [guys]. They don’t know about my collages yet.”

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Gift Guide for Collage Lovers

Screen shot 2013 09 25 at 4.07.31 PM DREAM MANDALA SCARVES BY ALEX & LEE: FALL 2013   The Sche Report / Margaret Sche

SHOP scrambled spells POSH————–and if your budget allows you to go really posh, then visit some galleries and actually buy collage art!

If not…I’ve collected a few collagey items which are mostly easy on the budget.

The exception is the Alex and Lee scarf above,  from the “Dream Mandala” collection based on their Rorschach collages.   There are nine different patterns (the one above is Turquoise Mosaic).

You can get these in square or rectangular in silk or modal/wool for $250 each at Cavalier Goods.

Now on to some more modest purchases and real steals.

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Installation Collage: CandyCoated

Children's costume,  "Martha Washington,"  Early 20th c.,

Children’s costume,
“Martha Washington,”
Early 20th c.,

Say you’re planning a show of antique children’s costumes.   You know, Little Red Riding Hood.  Martha Washington. A  Maltese water carrier.  But you want to jazz it up a little———–after all, this is 2013.  Who you gonna call?

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Serge Lutens: Scent Collage


Imagine these scents put together: cabbage,  tobacco, roses, and green tea.  If collage means, as Wangechi Mutu said, “to embrace…discord with ease,”  such a clash of scents qualifies.

Now free associate.  A restaurant in Paris. A secret garden. Gauloises. A beautiful Chinese girl.  There’s the beginning of a narrative:

During World War II, a man joins the French Resistance.   Soon he must quit his job as a waiter at Le Petit Chou to hide out in an abandoned rose garden.  Late at night. Liang Sha (hostess at Chou) brings him Gauloises, until …

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Mies van der Rohe, Shades of Grey?

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Georg Schaefer Museum Project, Schweinfurt, Germany, Interior perspective with view of site. 1960-1963

Mies van der Rohe “Ink and Photo Collage with Glass” 1960-3
Courtesy of MOMA

Yes, the iconic minimalist architect made collages.  You can see some of them in the current MOMA show Cut ‘n’ Paste.   Drawings of his spare building designs are collaged with cut-out art pasted in front, like a Maillot nude.

To me it looked like Mies trying to “sex up” his architecture because minimalism isn’t sexy.  A lean, stripped figure lying on the ground?  Well, okay, maybe some people would find this sexy.  In a Shades of Grey kind of way.  Maybe my initial reaction was too hasty.  I decided to do a Google exploring the question.

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Collage on the Threshold


Sohei Nishino, “New York,” from the series Diorama Maps, 2006

A certain Manhattan Street in the East 60’s always reminds me of Woody Allen movies.  Or, passing the Empire State Building, I look up, thinking of Cary Grant (I don’t do King Kong).  And at 5th Avenue and 57th—-fuggedaboudit. Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Cities like New York and Paris are mythic places. It’s not just the movie memories . It’s all the visual images that keep getting bigger and more ubiquitous.   I remember driving into Manhattan once and suddenly a new, giant photo of John Huston, about 12 stories high, loomed from across the river. I mean, I love Huston, but a person could start to feel like the images are more real than we are.

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