uMageza, Jo Anke Gallery’s next exhibition, comes wrapped up in double layers of nostalgia. Every taxi commuter experiences that moment: they jump into a Quantum or the infamous ‘Isikwele’– a descendant of the legendary Zola Bud – and they look for an empty seat where they can plonk their overburden behind, and wonder, “How can someone manage to wake up so early in the morning only to ferry around a load of people who reek of overestimated opinions of themselves, wearing misery like cosmetics, and all the while whining about the wreck and its captain carting them to their pathetic nine to five?”
The taxi industry is known for being a hotbed of insult-laden bickers between drivers and passengers – a breeding ground for intolerance. With your job requiring you to daily transport thousands of impatient passengers dashing off to work, sometimes it seems like the pertinent question would be, “How much can uMageza take before he snaps like a frayed fan belt?”
uMageza seeks to magnify and explore in greater detail – the pompous assumptions that passengers hold about themselves opposed to their taxi driver counterparts. The term uMageza eMpompini was coined to mock the personal hygiene of our beloved taxi drivers. It is, most likely, a label conceived by passengers, who, during that rare moment of creativity, had soared the socioeconomic levels, demoting taxi drivers to a lower rank – unclean, dirty suggesting a lack of civility and education. This relationship between passenger and driver (change flinging master and rickshaw) is a miniature of modern society – a lopsided scale of wealth, privilege and assumed self-worth. This conversation about the dynamics of our society intends to make the passengers, question their implicit role in perpetuating stereotypes, and in deepening the class divide, all the while creating a fractured community of people who do not understand each other, who are suspicious of each other, who cannot tolerate each other and subsequently cannot respect each other. The decision to use the taxi industry – and the sometimes toxic relationship between driver and commuter – as an example to best illustrate the seeming fall of African values is based on the fact that a majority of South Africans have and continue to depend on this mode of transportation. Therefore, this means a majority of South Africans have and continue to experience the rather concerning dilution of these values. The ultimate goal of the exhibition is to spark a conversation that will, in the end, seek solutions geared towards restoring African values.
Insecurities, sentiments and quirky, the new exhibition confronts a very tender South African national concern in the views and perspectives of a group of young artists influenced by a spectrum of communities that colour the South African landscape.
uMageza opens on Saturday 12 November at 5pm and runs through December. Artworks will also be available on sale online.