What I picked up at Lephephe…

Provocations on t-shirts: Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, Aluta Continua, Who Polices the Police?
Who no know go know
A small editioned publication by Simnikiwe Buhlungu titled The Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon’s guide to Shmoney. Flip through, it’s not easy to read, but it’s a gem! “We must halt this ludicrously lugubrious kakistocracy…shmoney brings again to focal hiceps and biceps the ephemerality of life…May we truly reflect on the quintessential modus vivendi of shmoney…”

Also by Buhlungu: FREE LETTERING TRANSLATIONISMS, , cuts through more formal ways of thinking about writing, and translating ideas. “These listings for things to be done…” takes a jab at the seemingly banal to do lists of the everyday, while simultaneously drawing attention to the farce of buzzfeed lists and must-have must-do well curated to-do lists: “Wearing the clothe of gym and be doing yogi yogas…be reads these electronicalism-mail and “ag, maybes you are not even in these existings.”

But lists also have a more subversive function.
T-shirts, a few small publications.
Another bold statement: ALL OUR SHIT IS IN EUROPE.
Another t-shirt.
”This Is The Year The £mpir£ Strikes Back” on a linocut on Danger Gevaar Ingozi’s print shelf. More things: questions on extraction, excavation, migration, export economies…Are we rich or scarce in precious resources, not just minerals and metals, but stories and histories…? Images: groups of little children sit on the floor, listen attentively as stories are recited while close by an artist tries to reassemble stories from fragments, attempting to make coherent that which has become disjointed. A story to be told over seven days.
A first draft version of the unbound book printed on the RISO, some of the pages in my version are upside down. A futile exercise? An attempt at making sense of…what exactly? Pathways to Free Education sold for R7
Alternative models for thinking through how to decolonize education.
A double trestle-table setup where 11 womxn artists, PXSSY ON A PLINTH, make zines with kids and parents and anyone really who feels like playing with paper. More questions: how do we interrogate complex ideas like intersectionality, breaking down society-upheld gender norms, how do we engage rape culture and misogyny in ways that draw people in…? The Marginalised, Marginalise? they ask?
Stickers. A handstitched A5 publication.

I pick up many things at Lephephe. I pick up ideas through zines and paper. I pick up questions, points of order and calls to action. Questions that question what we think we know. A day dedicated to paper, to print, to ink, to hand-made, hand-stitched, hand-printed paper things, prints, photographs, coloring books, big zines, small zines, books for children, books for everyone who loves books and words and paper. From the objects in themselves, to the conversations around the objects, Lephephe Print Gatherings generates a space for critical engagement with and celebration of forms of making, writing, and printing.

It started with a RISO machine. While working on a zine for the African Art Book Fair, Title in Transgression, a young collective fresh out of their fine arts degree (Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Malebona Maphutse, Dineo Diphofa and Boitumelo Motau) in collaboration with Rangoato Hlasane began to toy with ideas of a print fair, or more appropriately a marketplace for print material. The marketplace here is a site of trade and exchange, not necessarily of commodities, but ideas, knowledge, questions. Lephephe becomes a space for interrogating and therefore generating space for tackling questions around the existing apparatuses for printing, publishing and distributing both locally and internationally. Lephephe “seeks to deepen a marketplace, or a site of trade, as an important feature of life despite its hijack by capitalism, neoliberalism and gentrification…” notes Hlasane. Influenced at the outset by the work of the MEDU Art Ensemble during a Drawing and Contemporary Practice project in 2017 while completing their third year of study at the Wits School of Arts, Title in Trangression began to discuss and interrogate forms of knowledge production and dissemination, the role of print media and it’s multiple forms and the various modes of sharing and creating new knowledge economies. Some of the earlier seeds of the project came much earlier from encounters with Crater Invertido in Mexico City and Casa Do Povo’s weekly 3-floor book market in Sao Paulo that Hlasane visited. Lephephe Print Gatherings does not push any agenda, but is a call to action, a community, a marketplace, and a commons, for thinking writing and publishing.

–Short stories and long stories, self-published novels, poetry books and books about writing, books about the land, about memory, about language, about home.
A Killing in the Sun
Homesoil in my Blood
Pocket readers on great leaders. A lucky packet with art supplies.
GarenaZaka: What we tell people who need it.
Important dates in history dance around my feet: In 1961, Lumumba is killed near Lubumbashi, in 1965, the Negro Mondial Festival of the Arts takes place in Dakar, Senegal, a picture of Dumile Feni’s African Guernica…
Coloring books that take a hit at gentrification in Joburg.
PUBLICA[C]TION? An archive of two-years (and more) of national student activism, it asks: what are the forms that activism take, how do we think about writing, talking, conversing as forms of public action and activism as much as taking to the streets.
Maps that tell stories of the distribution of knowledge centers—the geographic locations of institutions of higher education highlighted, by way of contrast to the location of former Bantustans—and that old expression lingers uncomfortably, surely, if you get over it, and with hard work, you can make it out of poverty…
In The University And The World: an overview of student activism on the continent. A reminder that what we do and what we fight for is ongoing and preceded by generations of minds who have interrogated the politics of colonialism and its legacies. A few free Queer Realness zines and the poetry collection Queer Africa. Another tote-bag: “Marching For Our Rights, Lesbian and Gay Pride March 10.10.1992”

The rooftop area: light, open. People hang out on the balcony at King Kong, chat over food and a few beers, while inside, lectures and screenings. A tiny zine called Af-re-kaans by Nadia Myburgh, a reclamation of the history of a language of creole birth. Folk tales I don’t understand in KWASUKASUKELA! A hauntingly A6 print of a figure draped in a blue shawl by Mbali Dhlamini… More questions: why is it that artists are not so often able to support the work of their peers?
Names and titles of books I want to read. Things I’d like to have.

Artworks that use words, and words that take shape in rare, special, hand-made objects.

While interrogating forms of transaction and exchange, Lephephe does not divert totally from what we know: books and publications are sold, for cash (because well people need to eat) but ideas of exchange and bartering are stretched and extended to thinking about forms of producing knowledge together, thinking about the power of oral histories and learning together. What Lephephe does is create space for trading objects, prints and other paper-print things, but it is through these things, objects, slips of paper, T-shirts, tote bags and hand made zines that we trade knowledge and ideas, we trade information, we trade parts of ourselves, our stories and histories, a trade whose purpose is that of expanding our worlds.

My bag is heavy and my head is spinning: Can a market of ideas work? Does a market for specialized items and specialized publications work? How do we make the trading of stories and knowledge feasible?