Currently at The Rendon Gallery, at a pop-up space on Palmetto Street, is Los Angeles based South African artist Ralph Ziman’s exhibition, The Casspir Project. The Casspir is a massive military vehicle that was used to terrorize the civilian population in South Africa during the apartheid-era. Sadly, they are still used by police forces in certain parts of the world, including in the United States. Ziman, with a team of artists from Zimbabwe and the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, have covered the Casspir in brightly colored beads in traditional patterns, making something beautiful out of what was once a symbol of horror.
Although the vehicle is the centerpiece, the exhibition also focuses on the arms trade and includes photos, a video, and additional beaded work. From the press release-
For this iteration of The Casspir Project, Ziman has designed the massive gallery space with a “macro and micro” experience in mind. Each room within the gallery space brings context to the next, informing the project as whole. The exhibition starts with an installation of brightly colored AK-47s leading into a room with large photographs taken in Soweto. For the photos, Ziman recreated scenes from newspapers during the apartheid, incorporating many of the elements found within the exhibition such as the beaded guns and SPOEK 1. A screening room shows a 20 minute documentary by Ziman which tells the history of the Casspir, from its design and conception to people’s personal experiences with it in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It chronicles Ziman’s reclaiming of the Casspir, detailing how he transformed and Africanized it. The exhibition culminates with the dramatic presentation of SPOEK 1, lit only by a spotlight in a dark room.
Opening a dialogue between those who remember and those too young to know, The Casspir Project is a profound attempt to reconcile history. Ziman has reclaimed the savagely violent brute—embellished and bedazzled, the Casspir has been made less threatening, its power and authority subverted.