Die Deng Ga se diFarm Killings

In this, his first solo exhibition with Origin Art, Frans Thoka offers a body of mixed media/painting works, and soft sculpture, which centre around the theme of unresolved trauma in the postcolonial and post-apartheid South African landscape.

Die Deng Ga se diFarm Killings (translated: “That thing is not farm killings”) analyses the impact of unhealed colonial trauma on the previously marginalized in black communities. In the post-apartheid landscape, the collective trauma of these communities, Thoka proposes, has gone unresolved and has metamorphosed into other forms of trauma, for instance, the much-publicized and debated upsurge in farm killings, usually perpetrated on white landowners and farmers.

Thoka’s mixed media/painting work has previously, in various solo and group shows, focused on the use of the Basotho, and the prison blanket. In his work, the Basotho blanket represents the colonial impact on the Basotho (Origin: Batho Baso. Literal translation: Black people), through becoming a kind of currency and a visual marker for the Sotho people. It is the stuff of legend that the first such blanket was a gift from a colonial trader to King Moshoeshoe in the 19th Century, and it has been
used since as a cultural market and against the Lesotho cold weather ever since. But it is also proximal to Thoka’s other motif, the prison blanket. This represents how unhealed past traumas keep people in a ‘refugee’ state. For example, during crises, humanitarian organisations will distribute such blankets to refugees. In essence, South Africa is in state of internal dislocation and migration because of its fragmented and apartheid past. The use of wool as material in his work also represents the fragility of memory, land and humanity.

In this new body of work Thoka also prominently uses stitching and beading, as well as paint and different fabrics, to present his own view of South Africa’s damaged landscapes. The trope of
landscape painting features prominently in South Africa’s art history as a colonial means of control, of envisioning the ‘terra nullius’, the empty land that can be occupied and owned. Here Thoka hints at the bodies and the hidden histories in those landscapes, in his use of textures, stitched outlines and shadowy figurations. In so doing he augments his modus operandi of revealing the trauma
beneath the surface. The soft sculptures on show extend this set of metaphors, using shapes reminiscent of seeds to suggest a rewilding or rejuvenation of the landscape.