Conditional by Khaya Witbooi
Two years ago Khaya Witbooi created an artwork for an organisation named Art For Humanity. The stencil he used at the time is the same one used for the painting shown above.
The following is what he wrote about the work at the time:
“I was once in a bar and the music playing hit me rather strong. I didn’t see it coming. You think you know something and then suddenly, out of the blue, it hits you. Leaves you reeling. On this occasion the jazz band playing did this to me.
It got me thinking. Sometimes we get so used to certain things, even our enjoyment of music, that we tend to develop a thick skin through which little penetrates. This makes it all the more striking when something does get through.
It bothers me that we are so entrenched in routines and that certain potential experiences become so distant or improbable because our senses are blunted and pre-occupied with other issues and pressures – mostly the ones that basic survival and our daily lives bestow onto us. This is a very interesting sociological phenomenon. As human beings, we need routine because it ensures that certain processes run smoothly. Unfortunately this also leads to monotony and a sense of numbness – not just in individuals, but in whole groups and communities.
In the same sense crowd control – by the introduction of mindless, repetitive chores to be performed at set intervals – has a similar effect. It is one that has purposely been utilised by regimes to maintain control. Once people have been turned into drones, it is easy to control them. This tends to also make people conservative. “Don’t rock the boat”, we are told, “don’t do anything untoward and don’t cause trouble”. If we continue to live in a society that prescribes machine-like action as medicine and proscribes anything that subverts, we will simply stagnate and life will remain meaningless.
The handles of the scissors is a metaphor for this mechanical existence that handcuffs us, and it has the potential, like its blades, to desensitize and ultimately destroy us.
There is a dangerously thin line between losing our freedom to be because we are too busy with life, and losing it because a government would not allow a bill of rights that protect those rights. Both are real dangers that need to be guarded against with every fibre in our bodies.” Khaya Witbooi Cape Town