TAF Emerging Artists Award

This residency programme is a collaboration with the Turbine Hall Art Fair in Johannesburg (TAF).

27years old emerging artist Setlamorago „Mash“ Mashilo from Pretoria, South Africa, is the
first time TASA Award winner, which is awarded together by the Sylt Foundation in Rantum
and the Turbine Hall Art Fair in Johannesburg. So the painter and sculptor is staying on
Sylt for two months now.

Setlamorago Mashilo sitting on Richard Tipping´s sculpture "Flood" which is part of the Sylt Foundation´s sculpture park in Rantum
© Rayka Kobiella

„Mabu a u Tswitswe“ is the name of the installation for which he won the Award: 500 black maize
cobs made out of fabric and concrete.

"It's literally translated to „the soil has been stolen“. Basically it's just the reference to the Natives
Land Act, which is also called the Black Land Act. It was probably one of the major policies, that
the government of South Africa put on to stop black people from acquiring land. The land which
was allocated to them was called Black Reserves. Which was one of the major strategies of the
government in trying to segregate the Blacks. It basically turned into Concentration Camps."

Setlamorago Mashilo and his sculpture Mabu a u tswitswe
©  Ivan Muller

In his artist residency at the Sylt Foundation the energetic young artist sits between his charcoal
drawings, which he worked on since he came to the northern german island. He met artist Michael
Struck, a local artist from Niebüll, who exhibited at The Sylt Quelle and opened up his studio for
him to work there. He developed a whole series out of large threatening drawings, with which he
continues the thoughts behind his „Mabu a u Tswitswe“. Birds and humans with angled red noses
and mouthes put on, standing on black painted fields. The red parts refer to birds which arrive in big
swarms devastating the fields and therefore are a farmer's „worst nightmare“.

„The Land was stolen from the indigenous people. Nowadays they're trying to reallocate the land.
You have debates with the government, because they're having problems with farmers, who aren't
willing to sell their land. People don't want to let go of their farms anyway. It's been in their family
for so long. And I don't know if we're really talking about that people actually want back physically
„land“. In contemporary society people of our generation talk about this topic, meaning: it's rather
about getting back equal rights.“

Setlamorago Mashilo during his residency on Sylt
© Rayka Kobiella

Setlamorago Mashilo during his residency on Sylt
© Rayka Kobiella

The quarrel with the political past is evident in Mashs art and also comes from feeling close to his
grand-father, who was activly fighting against the expropriation as a black farmer. His grand-father
is an important influence to him.

„I grew up with him, but not as much as I would have loved to. I think part of this process is to fill
the gap, to make the conversations I would have love to have had with him. He's 92 now and I think
I won't have the chance to have the conversations I would like to have with him. He said, this sort
of products raped our land. That I kept in my mind.“

But does he understand, that he influences Mashs art that much?
„No, not to that extend. (laughing) For instant my name Setlamorago – is also my grandfathers
name. So it's basically almost like I'm trying to channel everything through him to come to me.“

Reflecting the South African political situation on Sylt and drawing paintings refering to it, but
being 9000 km away from home, doesn't surprise him. Observing and comparing the different
behaviours and mentalities amazes him and leads him to observe even more. He pulls out a couple
of photos he shot while he was on one of his many wanderings by bike or foot across the island.
One shows a wet field with piles of sugar-beets.

„It's quite reminiscent to my installation with the maize. All these objects are just dumped in this
area. It almost has the meaning of the maize. Being exported to a certain place in piles, just
stocking it big up. It either will nurish the land or it'll become verbrucht.“

From July 16th - 19th he'll exhibit his drawings and photos developed during his time on Sylt at the
next Turbine Art Fair in Newtown, Johannesburg.
One piece of a tiny german island 9 000km away from home.