Guernica Remakings in South Africa, 2017

Dr Nicola Ashmore first visited South Africa in 2015, to meet the Keiskamma Art Project, where she interviewed those involved in the creation of the 2010 Keiskamma Guernica. Two years on the fifth, small scale Keiskamma Guernica was commissioned in 2017 and its creation documented, featuring the makers.

This phase of the project was focused on the Eastern Cape, within the Peddie District. The Keiskamma Art Project was begun in 2000/01 in this region in the village of Hamburg with the aim of raising self-esteem and contributing to poverty alleviation. The Keiskamma Art Project has a history of translating iconic artworks to speak to South African experience including the Bayeux Tapestry and Picasso’s Guernica. They have developed an empowering practice that actively decolonises iconic artworks, shifting the focus from the history of countries in the Northern hemisphere to the Southern hemisphere.

Keiskamma Guernica, 2010. Grahamstown, South Africa. Courtesy of Robert Hofmeyr.
Keiskamma Guernica, 2010. Grahamstown, South Africa. Courtesy of Robert Hofmeyr.

This research investigated the practice of translation through making, and commissioned the Keiskamma Art Project to create their fifth Kesikamma Guernica and asked why Guernica? Exploring what it is about this artwork that lends itself to being adapted. Their translation of Picasso’s iconic anti-fascist artwork transforms its geography, time and narrative from: Spain to South Africa, from the early 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, from anti-fascism to the HIV/AIDS crisis. See the trailer below:

A series of twelve short documentary films show the creation of this artwork featuring interviews with the makers discussing their role in the making process and their insights regarding the visual translation of Guernica to comment on the HIV / AIDS crisis in South Africa. The makers ideas and desire for change are also included in the videos creating their vision of the future. The videos are available to watch and share below and via a dedicated Vimeo channel Guernica Remakings, South Africa.

The fifth Keiskamma Guernica (2017) was exhibited for the first time in the Guernica Remakings 2017 exhibition held in Brighton, UK (Jul-Aug 2017). The exhibition was timely it marked the 80th year from the bombing of the town of Gernika and showed the transnational relevance of the messages held within the remakings of Guernica. This is particularly poignant in a period when the UK is withdrawing from Europe, in part, motivated it seems by fear around the freedom of movement of ‘others’, once again Guernica’s humanitarian message becomes relevant calling for solidarity and compassion to transcend borders.

This research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through their Global Challenges Research Fund between 2016 and 2018.