Runner Up Q&A - Dalli Weyers

Congratulations on being announced as one of the 7 winners in the Sasol New Signatures Competition 2021.


Congratulations on being announced as one of the 7 winners in the Sasol New Signatures Competition 2021. Tell us what your reaction was when you received the news.

Surprised and elated. I really wasn’t expecting to make it into the winners’ circle. Having received the news first thing on a Monday morning was an added benefit in that it set a work week off on an exceedingly good note.

Is this the first time you have entered the competition?

No, it would appear that third time's a charm.

Tell us a little about your artistic journey up until the point of entering Sasol New Signatures 2021?  

To date my professional career can be characterised by a tension between my creative impulses and my commitment to social justice and progressive activism. I’ve consistently looked to find ways in which to bring these seemingly disparate elements together and to further my appreciation of, and to make concrete, the role and contributions creative voices and my own creativity can make to society. In the words of James Baldwin I am at this point in my artistic journey because I believe  “... the role of the artist [activist] is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.”

Who has had the biggest influence on your career as an artist to date? 

The works submitted would not have been possible without support from my remarkable, generous and patient partner, Mlulami Nxele. My parents, Faans and Delina Weyers, have also had an outside influence on my art because they instilled an appreciation of a considered modernist aesthetic in me from a young age. My mom and two of my aunts, Marlene Israel and Mariza Broodryk, furthered this aesthetic sensibility through the art of crafts. My preferred process in creating my submissions most closely resembles embroidery, a historically gendered and as a result often sidelined artistic process that these remarkable women instilled an appreciation of in me.

Further outsized influence can be attributed to my political and informal art history mentors and friends, Zackie Achmat and Jack Lewis. My art is also inextricably linked to my politics and so mention of Gavin Silber, Phumeza Mlungwana, Axolile Notywala, Chumile Sali, Nathanial Roloff, Nathan Geffen, Fatima Hassan and countless other activists in the Treatment Action Campaign, in the Community Media Trust, in Equal Education, in the Social Justice Coalition, in Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City amongst others is needed.

Beyond these individuals my two brothers, Stefan and Wessel, and their families - Cathy and Zachary, Jade and Jude, along with my friends Xany Janse Van Vuuren and her husband Marius, Lesley Odendal and her husband Gerrit Giebel, Alexandra Jongens, Sarah Franc Summers, Zimkita Booi, Anushka Kempken and The Fuller Life collective, and the self-styled Socially Conscious Gays of Cape Town WhatsApp group have all been sources of emotional and creative support at some point.

Tell us a little about why you created the piece you submitted? 

My politics rails against the crass individualism that has come to define so much of our politics over the last few decades and the concomitant loss of community of intent, purpose and inclusion. My politics appreciates the need for commonality to be found and fostered in order to rally progressive causes. The pieces I created and submitted then serve to start a dialogue around a clear set of principles that a community of creative voices needs to articulate in order to chart a course to a more just and equal society.

How have you navigated the past 18 months of this pandemic?  Has it affected the way you work or the messaging in your work?

By using unconventional materials, readily available at home, my art practise under lockdown likely resembled a cottage industry. That said these two pieces, that both emerged in their current iterations during the lockdown, were also intent on not perpetuating an idealised, romanticised picture of scarcity and of individual, privileged domestic idyll. My anxieties often manifest in visions of apocalyptic doom. These pieces are in response to a world that was already on fire prior to the pandemic and to which the pandemic has simply been fuel to fire.

Tell us about your preferred medium/s ...and why? 

The use of plastic bags can be traced back to previous works in ceramics where the relative fragility of ceramics was highlighted through the use of various plastics to bind cracked and broken ceramic pieces - in a sense the inverse of the Japanese practise of kintsugi.

In both the ceramic and plastic and plastic-only pieces my choice of medium aims to critique our half-hearted attempts to maintain the whole and to draw attention to the complexity of the mess we find ourselves in. I’m weary of using mediums in my work that on their own do not convey a sense of the moment we find ourselves in. In my mind, ubiquitous plastic bags stitched together, fragile and in a way impermanent (they disintegrate but do not decompose), are illustrative of the real world and the social conditions we live in that are a product of history and our intent in this moment.

When people view your work – what reaction/response  are you hoping to create?

Probably a sense of unease somewhat muted by a message of hope, a message that the reality that we are confronted with can change and can change for the better.

Why do you think your work was chosen as a top 7?

Although not a theme, I suspect my work was chosen because it touches on the notion of the art of innovation both in the cultural sphere and in broader society. I believe my use of plastic bags as the sole medium is innovative and that the innovation is furthered because the plastic is essentially enlisted to embroider. I also believe that my work occupies a space between art and activism and makes a contribution to both.

And if you are chosen as the overall winner?  How would you feel? Have you already got an idea or vision for your solo exhibition?

Being chosen as the overall winner would be a powerful validation of my voice and what I have to say and contribute both in terms of my art and my activism. It’ll allow me to further explore the role that art can and must play in shifting our understanding of the state of the world and what it could be.

As for a vision for a solo exhibition, an idea that uses Forward: A Manifesto as a departure point has been emerging through my practise for some time. Various pieces in the solo exhibition will all ultimately be in conversation with various aspects of the manifesto and, in keeping with the metatextual nature of the manifesto, will also be in conversation with art and art history itself.

What are you currently working on? What is next for you as an artist? 

I’m currently working on another piece entitled We think of our future selves as strangers that also makes use of the medium of plastic bags only.

As for next steps, I’m hoping that having been identified as one of seven winners of the Sasol New Signatures 2021 competition I will be able to build creative and artistic relationships with galleries and curators and with other progressive artists and activists, and in so doing be able to take both my work and theirs forward.    

Which South African artists do you admire and why?  

I grew up in a home with multiple pieces, including a huge lumbering front door, created by Martin Wessels - a high school friend of my father’s. His pieces, including two wooden sculptures, were often placed in conversation with a large and impactful work by Hannetjie De Clercq. A piece that is by far my favourite of hers. Ready access to these works was formative.

More recently I’ve become a huge admirer of Peter Clarke’s works and the subtle homoeroticism many of his works invoke for me. Some invoke Cezzane’s The Bather (which is a favourite of mine), but unlike Cezzane’s bather, Clarke’s bathers hold greater tension for me because he places the bather/bathers in relation to other bodies in a landscape I’m familiar with.

I also have immense respect for Athi-Patra Ruga. It goes without saying that I love his work but I’d especially like to mention him here, alongside Anelisa Mangcu, for their work around the Victory of the Word platform aimed at serving independent artists and encouraging them to enter into dialogue with the Lovedale Press. This work is of immense import and will hopefully ensure the preservation of the Lovedale Press and its unique archive.

Although, while not intentional, I can appreciate that my work has likely subconsciously been informed by that of the inimitable Willem Boshoff, who I was first exposed to thanks to the impressive and moving Constitutional Court Art Collective. This same collection also introduced me to Judith Mason’s immensely moving and impactful The Man Who Sang and the Woman Who Kept Silent, 1998. (This work and its necessary subsequent iterations underscored the fragility of works in plastic and informed my treatment of my works with a clear UV protective spray).  

Further, in exploring abstraction a very recent discovery, by me at least, of Olaff Bisschoff’s work has been welcome and inspiring. Although Bisschoff maintains that his work isn’t abstract I’m appreciative of the depth of field and colour he is able to achieve through harmony of shapes.