Take Me to Your Leader
Take Me to Your Leader
Cape Town, South Africa, 2006.
Take Me to Your Leader accompanied Daniel Halter’s first solo exhibition of the same title, held at João Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town, in 2006. The booklet, which is the size and format of a passport, falls into the category of “democratic multiples”--an inexpensively produced, easily distributed book. While the booklet uses photographs of artworks in the exhibition, it is not a catalog, but rather a miniaturized take-away with commentary by Khwezi Gule, Andrew Lamprecht, Kathryn Smith, and Ed Young.
The title is a sarcastic reference to Robert Mugabe and his authoritarian regime in Zimbabwe. Halter’s art is openly political and critical of Mugabe’s rule. Using caustic humor and irony, he critiques both colonial and post-colonial Zimbabwe with works that reveal the fault lines in the fabric of Zimbabwean society and economy.
Mapping Agricultural and Economic Loss
In several photographs, woven maps of Zimbabwe pinpointing farms seized by the government are fabricated from shredded large-denomination bank notes or telephone directories.
In I Don’t Know What to Believe Anymore, shredded pages of Orwell’s Animal Farm are woven into a map of Zimbabwe that is printed over the names of farms seized by the government. Gold thread embroiders the saying No One is Perfect.
Never Say Never, another woven piece made from shredded (worthless) Zimbabwe high-denomination bank notes, maps farm land. Hyperinflation of the Zimbabwe dollar and the collapse of agriculture are both markers of the economy’s collapse. In more recent artworks, Halter uses the ubiquitous plaid, plastic mesh bags “Ghana must go”—another sign of refugees and displacement.
Culture as Kitch
With Zhingzhong Mother and Child multiple figures made of cheap, molded plastic depict black nannies and white children in the form of touristic “flow sculptures,” a genre of stylized figurative Zimbabwean stone sculpture characterized by abstract human forms with spherical heads, usually depicting mother and child or large family groupings. “Zhingzhong” is Zimbabwean slang for cheap articles, mainly Chinese imports that are flooding into Zimbabwe.
Stone Tablets/Bitter Pills is a set of carved stone tablets the size of land mines. The tablets refer to the “bitter pills” (Ecstasy) of Zimbabwe’s rave scene, which Halter took part in during his youth. Looking back with mordant irony, Halter fabricates stone pills that are too large to consume. Stone would not dissolve anyway.
About the Artist
Born in 1977, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Daniel Halter now lives in self-imposed exile in Cape Town, South Africa. He has a BFA from Michaelis School of Fine Art (2001). Ideas of displacement and migration inform his work, as do economic and social instability, political uncertainty, and lack of freedom in Zimbabwe and beyond. The tragedy that struck his family further alienated him. His parents, in Harare, were attacked by intruders and badly beaten. They left Zimbabwe permanently.
Halter is best known for installations, video, and intermedia. His fabrications use common materials such as matchsticks, plastic bags, shredded paper, and soapstone.
Daniel Halter. http://danhalter.com/
Halter, Daniel. Dan Halter: Never Say Never. Milano: Edizioni Derbylius, 2008.
Halter, Daniel. Dan Halter: Selected Works 2005-2012. Cape Town: Whatiftheworld Gallery, 2012.