––defunct context: Ambivalence to Important Work

‘—defunct context: Ambivalence to important work’ explores the artist book and its assembly as a process of inscribing Mahashe's archive of practice as a physical dreamscape. As a monograph publication, it emanates out of Mahashe's practice over the last 15 years, focusing on his current project 'Pavilion Prototype I and II'. These projects draw from his work as convenor of the Anthropology Museum at Wits University (2018-2019) and his occupation of Iziko Museums of South Africa's  Bertram House Parking lot (2021–). Mahashe is accompanied by Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Sumayya Vally, Ilze Wolf, MADEYOULOOK and Oluremi Onabanjo who contribute texts and intervene in the book’s form. The publication includes process work from the installation Camera Obscura #0 Thabana ya Dafida (2019-2020) at Ga-Sekgopo.  It also features images from installations like  Gae Lebowa (2010); Modjadji le Dikolobjana (2018-2022), Makhalaka (2021), Mabarebare (2012-2018); Camera Obscura #1-6 (2016-2018); and Photodump No.3. (2023). As well as images drawn from science institutions like ESO and NASA, including the famous image of a distant planet earth  'Pale Blue Dot' (1990) captured by the Hubble space telescope.


 Book description

The monograph boasts a mix of digital and Risograph printed material on a multitude of papers, spanning many different colours, sizes and texture. Image wise, it brings together personal iPhone photographs; scanned archival documents; exhibition documentations; science images, screen grabs from social media; process documentation; oral invocations and different modes of architectural plans. While the wider project presents different iterations and versions on my project and is clearly presented with my name, it also hosts other contributors, collaborators, and several years of student engagement with the wider project, establishing me as a convener of this defunct context. The convened protagonists are peers who are engaged in similar practices, who share not just overlapping research areas, but also a thirst for independence in publishing and presentation forms. They also reinforce the gaps in my own practices as I do theirs, allowing for a better picture of our collective practice to emerge. To a degree these functions as a form of peer review built into the publication in a way that a group exhibition might do.
The written texts that dot this image heavy publications also cuts across different popular and scholarly genres like conversation; to direto’; personal journal entries; incantations; and an academic essay. What these texts have in common, is that they are all interested in the question of what type of text brings out which aspect of my subjectivities or academic sensibility.
Language wise, the text engages Khutatso Seshayi’s orthography, reinforcing Khelobedu as a distinct language with specific knowledge practices encoded in the language and worthy of preservation. I use his orthography and dictionary to render my Direto, incantations and my musings around the figure of Modjadji –Matsharara–held as the principal preoccupation of the book––a famed overseer of rain doctors and a skilled astronomer––Makuapis, Ngaga ya di nanedi.
As a project the book develops out from a dream I had in 2018, that led to me spending time with some astronomers in Geneva hunting exoplanets. This was a dream misheard, or perhaps over read, because such dreams usually signal to a visit to ZZC’s Moria where a meteorite fell in the 1940s–– as site of great spiritual power. Similarly, during my time at the observatories, I immersed in Credo Mutwa’s corpus while exploring my own fascination with the medium of the camera obscura, and consequently the question of how do I get it to my home town. All in all, the publication is my 3rd attempt at mobilising a material form of holding many disparate conversations, insights, musings, and preoccupation in play, where most try to impose some order. It is meant to overwhelm or draw you in. Images and motifs recur and overlap. Different states of the same object recur. Perhaps it is a premonition, but as I conclude in the Acknowledgements: “here I lodge my dreams so that I am reminded of them when they come to pass.


Contributors:  Simnikiwe Buhlungu, MADEYOULOOK, Oluremi Onabanjo and Sumayya Vally

Risograph printing by Dream Press

The publication opened with an edition of 25 copies distributed privately. A further 75 copies will be available for general distribution shortly.  Please email info@defunctcontext.com for enquiries.


The publication is supported through the NIHSS Catalytic research programme.



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