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OF TABLE MANNERS: amidst a terrestrial twilight highlights the interactions, protocols and accords that humans have unwittingly co-opted resulting in histories of often unquestioned behaviours of great consequence. Table manners refer to the etiquette of interactions founded on established customs and agreed-upon principles. For Phokela, this experience is always marked by “moments of hesitation, discord and anxiety, often interspersed by reassurance and mutual understanding.”

The set of customs and rituals offer an entry point into a body of work that considers various types of behavioural dispositions and inhibitions, often within uncertain environments. Using the table as a visual device, Phokela draws on histories and philosophies — the French Revolution, the fourth industrial revolution, Darwinism as well as the teachings of Nietzsche and Marx — as points of emergence and convergence, highlighting the manner in which ‘accepted’ practices and conventions affect human behaviour and how they change through time.

Monocle Sam (Sabot's Tough), 2021

Oil on cnvas

122.5 x 91 cm

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Monocle Sam (Sabot's Tough), 2021

Oil on cnvas

122.5 x 91 cm

Sales Enquiries

Through the fictional character, Monocle Sam, Phokela represents a possible history of shoemaking tied to the French Revolution. Monocle Sam represents the working class labourers who wore a kind of simple, hollowed-out shoe with a wooden sole known as the “sabot”. The shoe was worn to protect their feet against environmental harm and soon became a symbol linked to the struggles of the working class. The etymology of the word, sabotage, linked to the labour disputes between workers who wore sabots, often interfering with production through their brawls, sparks intrigue for Phokela.

 

 

Cult of Reason, 2021

Oil on canvas

122.5 x 91 cm

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Cult of Reason, 2021

Oil on canvas

122.5 x 91 cm

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Cult of Reason examines Europe’s imperial expansions and scramble for the world in the 19th century, examining the influences of systems of thought championed by Darwin, Nietzsche and Marx. Phokela locates these systems of thought to local histories such as The Great Trek of 1836 in Southern Africa, in which Dutch inhabitants migrated from the Cape colony, inland. As inhabitants in a new land, the farmers often entrapped what they referred to as “thieving baboons”, believed to be stealing crops and food supplies. Often allegorical, Phokela’s symbols highlight harmful attitudes of imperialism, conquer and expansion.

 

Scramble for Mars, 2021

Oil on canvas

91 x 122.5 cm

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Scramble for Mars, 2021

Oil on canvas

91 x 122.5 cm

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Inspired by current affairs in relation to recent International Space Missions, Phokela examines the parallels between the European scramble for Africa and the current scramble to explore and conquer Mars. Phokela compares the occurrence as a repetition of history as industrialists seek to explore beyond Earth with the same focus on commerce, capitalist intentions and civilising missions. For the artist, global industrialisation exists as a set of contested and complex conventions and principles, many of which have resulted in thedisplacement and oppression of many communities globally.

 

Porch Resolution, 2021

Oil on canvas

122.5 x 91 cm

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Porch Resolution, 2021

Oil on canvas

122.5 x 91 cm

Sales Enquiries

These forms of displacement are indicated in the current issues of food security resulting from an unequal distribution of resources and land ownership. Through the use of contradiction — a depiction of bountiful provisions — Porch Resolution highlights the struggle for survival and access to basic needs.