Gallery MOMO is proud to present Cape to Tehran: Re-imaging and re-imagining personal history in post-Apartheid South Africa and post-revolutionary Iran. Curated by Sepideh Mehraban, this group exhibition features a diverse selection of artists, primarily from South Africa and Iran, who grapple with the complex histories and traumatic legacies of these two countries. Personal experiences of conflict and change are channeled through their work, presenting a multifaceted discussion about areas of commonality and divergence between post-Apartheid South Africa and post-revolutionary Iran.
The exhibition’s title, Cape to Tehran, references Cecil John Rhodes’ uncompleted Cape to Cairo Railway that was embarked upon during western colonial rule in South Africa at the end of the 19th century. The railway was an attempt to connect African colonies of the British Empire from South Africa to Egypt, and to enable trade and military movement. While the railway personified insidious colonial aspirations for conquest and exploitation of the continent, the shifting towards a connection between Cape Town and Tehran here is intended to highlight a conversation through art that reflects upon shared personal experiences of socio-political turmoil.
A central theme of the exhibition focuses on the complexities that are inherited by later generations from alleged political transformation. Despite the legal fall of Apartheid in 1994, the aftereffects of this institutionalised system of racial segregation are very much still felt in post-Apartheid South Africa. With Iran, the focus for this exhibition is on the consequences of the 1979 revolution. What began as a populist and nationalist movement – where many different opposition groups united to overthrow the monarchy and bring about democracy – instead resulted in an Islamic Fundamentalist theocracy when Ruhollah Khomeini and his supporters seized power. The collapse of the old political system caused a social and economic upheaval, which had dramatic effects on Iran’s international standing and politics for decades to follow, resulting in a weakened economy and military disarray.
Recently, both countries have seen the emergence of protest movements driven by students in response to the failings of previous democratic transitions and a continued need for political change and transformation. In South Africa, current student movements such as Rhodes Must Fall, Fees Must Fall and Open Stellenbosch, have brought discussions of inequality, access to higher education, and the decolonisation of education curriculum to the forefront of national discourse. In Iran, protests surrounding the state’s predetermination of the 2009 presidential election outcome – which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad come into power – led to protestors being violently apprehended by the Iranian government. In both countries, the student uprisings and protests were characterised by traumatic upheaval of ordinary lives.
Rather than presenting a singular narrative, Cape to Tehran is instead a robust conversation between artists from different generations and geographies. The exhibition serves to contrast these artists’ personal encounters of socio-political turmoil in their homelands, creating art as a means of reflecting, as opposed to simply representing, their experiences of conflict and change.
Kamran Adl | Shagha Ariannia | Patrick Bongoy | Stephanie Conradie | Rory Emmett | Thulile Gamedze | Black Hand | Svea Josephy | Francois Knoetze | Wonder Marthinus | Sepideh Mehraban | Emmanuel de Montbron | Sethembile Msezane | Neda Razavipour | Kathy Robins | Roderick Sauls | Berni Searle | Rowan Smith | Jo Voysey