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Title in Transgression – The Beloved Departed and Symbolic Death

Fragrant tendrils of smoke and echoes of musical melodies emit through an otherwise unmarked address. A corrugated iron door opens into an intimate space of symbolic death. Sliver flags catch glimmers of the florescent lights upon arrival. A space of mourning marked by corner-bound shrines – memorializing moments of a collective life. Freshly plucked roses adorn the metaphorical grave. Commemorating a moment, as Title in Transgression is laid to rest in this funeral procession.

The collective initially was born out of a frustration and desire to engage with the political moment, articulated in the form of Fees Must Fall. The month-long micro-residency at project space, NGO (Nothing Gets Organised), allowed the young artists to engage with omnipresent issues outside of the confines of the institution. During this time Boitumelo Motau, Dineo Diphofa, Malebona Maphutse, Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Nyasha Nyandoro, Robyn Kater and Kyle Song were able to explore notions of access and the ‘role of the artist’ in moments of protest.

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The thoughts and processes located in this space of production, were poignantly represented by the printed slogans lining the walls:

Teacher don’t teach me nonsense

Who polices the police

Aluta continua

The silk-screened printed white t-shirts donning bold font and bolder sentiments illustrated the immense sense of urgency felt and acted upon by the artists. In a myriad of ways, the creative process and mechanisms of exchange were used as strategies to think through the contextual crisis. The two-fold system of working with and simultaneously against socially symbolic conventions – as a form of critique – was present in the funeral service.

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The congregation was nestled in make-shift pews of pine fold-up chairs while sounds of plucking percussion echoed in the background. The highly esteemed ‘pastor’ Motau was slightly late to the service. However, upon arrival, donning a paisley-esque bathrobe and bright orange sunglasses, he addressed those gathered with evangelical fervor. Motau expounded in poetic verse – speaking to the “metaphysical transformations” that this day of death brought with it. “Let your tears heal”, as he suggested to “stop looking up and starting looking within” as a means to deal with “this painful reality”.

A proclamation – “[this] death is attributed to white supremacy” – was in some ways the crux of the sermon. An unapologetic calling-out of the over-arching system – imbedded in institutional spaces and beyond. “[This is] also our death”. The levels of profundity were layered and nuanced. After the service, multiple prayers, a witness of character and the rounds of a collection plate clinging with silver, a buffet of sustenance was served. The moment of mourning, for the loss of the collective, shifted during After Tears as celebratory clinks of Black Label bottles marked the birth of a new potential.

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