GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

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Posted: 18 September 2013
Category: Features
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Light and dark, both literally and metaphorically, mix effortlessly in a new anthology of graphic work that was launched recently to showcase contemporary work by both professional South African illustrators and writers and up-and-coming talent.

GrafLit: Graveyard Literature In Black & White is a new anthology of graphic literature, all in black and white, by artists, writers, and cartoonists from all over South Africa. It was launched, along with a related exhibition of work, at the Youngblood Gallery in Bree Street, Cape Town, just before the start of this year's Open Book Festival. It was held in conjunction with the Open Book Comics Festival and it kicked off a week of comics-related festivities in the city.

GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

GrafLit, which is edited by Andy Mason and Roberto Millan, is published by the Centre For Comic, Illustrative And Book Arts (CCIBA) at Stellenbosch University, in association with the Youngblood Arts And Culture Foundation, Mamba Media, and PreZanian Comix. Its purpose is to highlight graphic literature produced in the past few years, most of which has a stark, gritty quality about it, although there are lighter moments too, such as in the works of cartoonist Dorrance and the one-page story by Sonwabile Maqwatini.

I was honoured to have been invited to attend the workshops that were held as part of the GrafLit project, where I got to see much of the work first hand, and I was asked to contribute to part of an essay that appears at the back of the book that rounds up some of the great work that has been accomplished in the past few years by local comics artists, writers, and creators, as well as the progress that has been made internationally to highlight South African talent to a global audience.

The following is a showcase of some of the work that's on display in the exhibition, or is available in the book, but it's not comprehensive. Instead, think of it as a teaser - there is much more to be discovered in the pages of GrafLit.


The Launch Of GrafLit
GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

On the opening night the crowd was welcomed with speeches by Mamba Media founder Craig Nadelman, Andy Mason, and Art South Africa's editor Ashraf Jamal (pictured above) and then was welcome to peruse the exhibition and buy copies of the book. Some of the artwork was for sale as digital prints but most of the work is original art that was used in the book and which was framed and mounted specifically for the exhibition so that the public could take a closer look at the pencil, pen, and ink work that went into making various pieces.


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

Mogorosi Motshumi has been working on his autobiographical comic for years, which now spans three books' worth of work. It has yet to be published but every now and then a few pages appear in anthologies, such as GrafLit, helping to build the bigger picture, but many people are waiting very patiently to be able to read the entire story.

Part of the GrafLit project included workshops that were held in August and I was incredibly privileged to have been able to see the bulk of his original pages during this time, which he was lugging around in a giant bag. They are all A3 pages, such as the original page above that was framed for the exhibition, and the work is impressive. I scanned through as much of it as I could, while trying to be both quick yet treating the pages with extreme care, but I am really looking forward to being able to sit down one day to read the full story from start to finish.

It is epic in scope - love, loss, drama, racial tension, township life, boxing, sex, happiness, despair - and is one of the most important bodies of illustrated work that has been produced in this country.


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

Besides being an excuse for as many of the contributors as possible to meet and share their work with each other, the purpose of the workshops was to mentor young artists that the CCIBA has identified as being talented, motivated, and ready to be published so that they could get guidance from industry professionals and mentors to improve their work and learn how to develop their craft. Once they have completed a suitable piece GrafLit then gives them a platform to showcase their work professionally for the first time.

One of these artists is Sonwabile Maqwatini, whose Love In The 1st Sight (above) is a sweet tale that's a wonderful counterbalance to some of the very dark themes in the rest of the book.


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

Political cartoonists Chip Snaddon (part of his Kill (The Secrecy) Bill series pictured above) and Brandon Reynolds (part of his Setting A Bad President series pictured below) also contributed work to GrafLit.

GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

Little Star (panel, printed on a banner, pictured above) is a beautiful, haunting two-page story written by Ryan Ross Jales and illustrated by Lwazi Kunene. It was very interesting to hear it discussed during the workshop as different readers interpret the almost wordless story in different ways, yet each perspective is a valid interpretation of the story.


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

GrafLit's editor Andy Mason, who publishes as N.D. Mazin, contributed a number of recent Azaniamania comic stories to the publication (an original page is pictured above). His work is an entertaining, occasionally naughty, pun-filled frenetic exploration of life, love, and politics that's accomplished through a variety of quirky characters and is always a pleasure to read.


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

One of my favourite parrts of the exhibition are two pencil works by Saaid Rahbeeni. They were behind glass and were impossible to photograph but they are absolutely beautiful. They are from a work in progress, an illustrated epic poem called The Fall Of Baghdad (one of his other panels is pictured above).


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition

One of the most shocking stories in the book is Tale Of An Aardvark, by Daniël Hugo (panel pictured above). At the workshops he handed round his original art, which is A3 in size and ink on paper, and talked us through the story and why he drew it. Having read it once it's something I have struggled to read again, because of how painful it is to get through, but it's an amazing piece of visual work that he produced as a cathartic way to process the story, which had been haunting him for years. As hard as it is to read, it really is a highlight in the book.


GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition



GrafLit: The Official Launch And Exhibition


The exhibition is an absolute treat for people who are especially interested in comics work that has been done by hand and if you haven't seen it yet it's worth stopping by the gallery, at 70 Bree Street, Cape Town, in your lunch hour in the next day or two to catch it before it closes.


GrafLit is intended to be an annual anthology that will showcase contemporary work by established professionals, as well as provide a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work for the first time. Copies of this year's publication are available via Mamba Media, which is on the third floor of the Youngblood Building, 70 Bree Street, Cape Town. You can also find it at the book stores in this list.


Tags: #arts_and_culture, #books, #cape_town, #comics, #horror, #open_book, #speculative_fiction, #vampires





On The Internet
Mamba Media: Official Site
Open Book Comics Festival: Official Site



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