Unveiling The Casspir Project
Iziko South African National Gallery, until 27 February 2017
The Casspir Projectis an unprecedented and multifaceted undertaking from South African film director, Ralph Ziman. The work comprises installation, photography, oral history, and documentary. It debuts at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town, as part of the exhibition, Women’s Work:crafting stories, subverting narratives - an exploration of the historically gendered creative practices used by contemporary artists in South Africa.
The unveiling will take place at the entrance to the Iziko South African National Gallery at 11am on December 14th, 2016.
The Casspir Project charts the locus of the South African military vehicle’s legacy of institutional oppression — a legacy with which we are still reckoning. The central element of the project is one of reclamation. The restored and refitted Casspir vehicle, its surfaces fully covered in elaborate, brightly-colored panels of glass beadwork, arrayed in traditional patterns was completed by artisans from Zimbabwe and the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, including women of the Ndebele tribe, known for their craftsmanship.
The project will be showcased, as part of the exhibition, at the Iziko South African National Gallery until February 28th, 2017. Thereafter, it will travel South Africa, tour the United States and conclude its run at the SCOPE artfair in Miami.
The Casspir Project represents the first comprehensive consideration of apartheid-era South Africa seen through the lens of the Casspir instrument. Casspir is an anagram of the acronyms SAP (South African Police) and CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). Designed in South Africa in the late 1970s and brought into service in the early 80s, the Casspir was used extensively by the Apartheid-era South African Police, as well as by the South African Defense Force. Bulletproof and mine resistant, the Casspir was a military vehicle, extensively used in urban, township areas in South Africa against civilian populations. By the mid 1980s, the Casspir was the ubiquitous heavy hand of apartheid oppression in South African townships – its mere presence a form of terror.
Post-Apartheid, Casspirs were decommissioned in South Africa, their hulls left to rust, a relic of the past better forgotten. Except for the ones that were sold to the United States during the Iraq war years, and later, to local police forces. In the age of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, the Casspir has returned—a poltergeist from the past, one which continues to haunt us. The issue of over militarized police departments, which have purchased superfluous war equipment like one would buy worn LPs at a tag sale, has come to the forefront of the American debate on police tactics and aggression.
Anyone who has spent time in South Africa in the 1980s shares some history with the Casspir; it is as familiar as the smell of tear gas and burning tires. Nothing said “police intimidation” like the smell of diesel fuel and the roar of the 165 horsepower engine. Nothing was as potent as seeing one of these ironclad beasts flying through narrow township streets at 90 km/h. Ziman elected to leave South Africa in 1981 and has lived in the United States for 30 years.
“I remember columns of Casspirs, ten or fifteen, heading for the East Rand Townships of Daveyton and Katlehong,” Ziman says. “Heavily armed paramilitary police sitting casually on the roofs brandishing automatic weapons. I remember Casspirs flying at high speeds down the narrow, potholed streets of Soweto. I remember how the South African police would park two Casspirs in the road to form a blockade, forcing drivers to slow into an S-shaped route for tense inspection.”
The Casspir Project is a vibrant, visual illumination of this through line, as well as Ziman’s need to confront his own past and the country he left behind. It is an effort to reconcile a history of devastation and foster a dialogue of where we are going, and what kind of world we want to live in once.
Issued by: Melody Kleinsmith, Marketing Communications Manager
Institutional Advancement, Iziko Museums of South Africa
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 481 3861
Facsimile: +27 (0) 21 461 9620
On behalf of: Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa
Notes to editor:
About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)
Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town. The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage. Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure. The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium). Visit our webpage at http://www.iziko.org.za, join our online community on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/IzikoMuseums) or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions.
About the artist
Ralph Ziman (b. 1963, Johannesburg, South Africa) has directed over 400 videos for artists as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne, Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Shania Twain and Rick James, winning numerous MTV awards. His work in film includes over 6 features as a writer/director/producer including “Hearts and Minds,” the first independent South African feature film to be completed after apartheid, which premiered at the Berlin and Montreal International Film Festivals, and “Jerusalema” (“Gangster’s Paradise” in the US & UK), released to critical and box office acclaim and South Africa’s official entry to the 2008 Academy Awards Foreign Language section. His public art includes five murals in Venice Beach and a forthcoming private commission in Santa Monica. His series Ghosts debuted at C.A.V.E Gallery,
Venice Beach in February 2014. Ralph lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children. He has studios in California and in Johannesburg. He is represented by C.A.V.E Gallery in the USA and Sulger-Buel Lovell gallery in South Africa and the UK.
About the exhibition:
WOMEN’S WORK: crafting stories, subverting narratives, aims to trace the development of ideas, themes and techniques explored by - both male and female - artists through contrasting past and present, and pushing and interrogating the boundaries of their chosen techniques. The exhibition explores intimate and personal narratives: the effects of colonial histories and trauma on the body; issues of identity and its relation to land; religion and sexuality, as well as gendered power relations.
This ambitious group exhibition showcases rarely seen treasures spanning 300 years of history in conversation with contemporary works of art. Richly layered textures, multimedia installations, detailed intricacies of lace and tapestry create a larger-than-life visual feast designed to delight the senses.
WOMEN’S WORK: Crafting stories, subverting narratives, an exhibition co-curated by Ernestine White and Olga Speakes will run at the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa until 30April 2017