This post has taken me a long time to pen because of the sheer discomfort that I felt at Constitution Hill‘s Prison Number 4 that served as the backdrop of Clint Strydom’s photography. My dis-ease is primarily because I am black and a white man made me feel things and created an opportunity for me to see black ghosts. This makes me mad, crazy, brings about a pyschosis and forced self-exploration. I hate it because I cannot separate the art from the source; I cannot separate black pain from the art; I cannot separate myself from the ghosts.
I love art because it arouses in me dormant emotions. It awakens my higher self. Clint Strydom has taken amazing pictures, which have been curated in their natural location – Prison Number 4. The opening night…ghosts come alive.
We started the journey in the dark haunting solitary prisons. Prisons that held black men in isolation for 23 hours a day. Inside the confined spaces (especially when you close the door) death and depression weigh down every nook and cranny. The etchings scratched by the prisoners on the grey steel doors remind you that “XX was here.” Death’s stench hangs in the air in memory of those who successfully committed suicide to escape their thoughts and inhumane conditions.
The art is evocative and it embodied all my black pain and all the instances that people have made me feel that I do not matter because of my skin colour. As I try to separate myself from the art, I get angry at myself that a white man has created this opportunity for me, through his photography where he embedded ghosts in photographs, to feel all this black pain. .
That within itself is the power of art. It is in the emotions, the anger, where life begins to imitate art. I am still affected. I do not have distance from this art and the genius of setting the work in Prison Number 4 allows you to step into the shoes of these black prisoners (ghosts).
- The exhibition launched at Constitution Hill on Thursday 18 May and will run until 27 August 2017.
- More details in this previous Post.
Photos: Clint Strydom