09 September 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Transitions Multiples

I interviewed Paul Emmanuel at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2004.

It was a long, long time ago, but his exhibition entitled The Lost Men made a lasting impression on me. I remember him describing the marks from the lead type he pressed into his body, spelling out the names of the men who died in the Makana Wars. These were unrecorded names, parts of names…

I remember the work which, in its complexity, was an exercise in the impermanence of memory, its message linked to the medium. It was art that enacted its meaning.

I thought he was pretty amazing then and I think he’s even more amazing now, which is why I’m really excited to see his work at the 2011 FNB Joburg Art Fair, where he is the featured artist.

Emmanuel, with partners and project managers Art Source South Africa, will be presenting Transitions Multiples. This exhibition forms part of Emmanuel’s critically acclaimed Transitions Project from 5 years ago. It explored how society constructs perceptions and performances of a masculine identity.

Transitions Multiples examines the rituals and rites of passage that mark the passing of one life phase into another. It consists of a suite of 5 new large-scale hand printed lithographs and his award-winning film, 3SAI: A Rite of Passage.

The 14-minute film, written and directed by the artist with an original soundtrack by Wilbert Schubel, explores the liminal moments of transition, when a young man - whether voluntarily or forced - lets go of one identity and takes on a new identity. The film has won a number of international film awards and was officially selected for nine international film festivals. You can read more about the lithographs and the film on the Joburg Art Fair website.

It prompted Emmanuel to ask what he was actually witnessing and how similar ‘rituals’ have helped to form and perpetuate identities and belief systems throughout history. These questions continue to inform his work and, fascinate audiences around the world.

The FNB Joburg Art Fair runs from 23 to 25 September at the Sandton Convention Centre.


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