Jan 14 2014
Umshini wam II

Umshini wam II

Umshini wam (weapon of choice) by Khaya Witbooi
Oil and spray paint on canvas, 120cm X 100cm, 2013

In a previous painting titled Songs of freedom, I discussed my view pertaining to the misreading of the song Umshini Wam and what I thought to be the source of that misconception. In this follow-up work, my approach is broader as it encompasses more than our immediate dilemma as a nation but also an experience of humanity at large. The colonization of poorer communities has taken a new guise that sweetens
its taste to our tongue, whereby even though we can taste the flavour of the old order, we find reason to tolerate the new.

Companies like Walt Disney, Wal-Mart, JC Penney and K-Mart are complicit in the exploitation of poorer communities. Walt Disney is contracting L.V. Miles, an assembly plant in Port Au Prince in Haiti, for the production of Pocahontas pajamas sold by Wal-Mart and other retail stores, for an average wage of $3.33 per day per worker. One can clearly see the kind of war we are engaged in. Under the guise of creating employment and welfare to the third world, it does little more than exploiting poor and desperate people for cheap labour.

The use of sewing machines to conquer the devastated is equivalent to the use of guns to submit people and force them into slavery. In this painting I draw attention to the fact that a weapon is not necessarily something that shoots bullets. Any machine is a weapon when used as means to submit. The sewing machine is an iconic metaphor for the sweatshop, which no different from the sugar plantation or the cotton field where slavery was practiced for centuries. The result remains the same. The one who sweats it out with his or her cheap labour grows poorer while the other grows richer.

Khaya Witbooi
Cape Town
January 2014

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