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Plastic war toys, sand, soil, small stones, cold wood glue, Masonite, wood.
Box format: 900mm (length) X 400mm (width) X 700mm (height)

Impi Ukhutela

  • Impi is Zulu for 'war and ukuthula means 'peace'. The work IMPI UKUTHULA is inspired by the posters of the street artist Chickenman who worked outside the Tatum Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Chickenman has no training in art, can't read well and paints his signs in 'outsider' mode. His text is often surprisingly hyphenated to make it fit the writing surface. The words 'cattle crossing' might, for example, be refreshingly truncated as 'cattle cr-ossing.' I use this ad hoc style of hyphenation in IMPI UKUTHULA. The words wrap around corners and are at odds with each other by meeting at right angles. UKUTHULA takes up three faces as UK-UTHU-LA. WAR becomes W-AR and is upside down next to PEACE which reads as PEA-CE. Together they wrap from the left face, across the top and down the right hand face. W-AR accidentally ends in UK and PEA-CE accidentally ends in LA. The rectangular box format has five visible sides and every side has four letters. This dislocation of letters in the war and peace text serves to disorient the reader. We are lost. What is the point of war? Where is the peace? It's hard to see; a reader's nightmare with IMPI significantly the only word easy to read.


    The words are composed of smashed-up war toys. They are imbedded on a background of coarse gravel strewn with broken objects. Damaged fighter planes, dismembered soldiers and slaughtered animals litter a devastated landscape. "Things fall apart and the centre can not hold" (W.B. Yeats).


    Children, their education and their toys came to mind as matrix and material for my work. I gathered materials in some toy shops and I was disillusioned to find so many aisles of devoted to war toys and toy guns, alien wars and police activity. The second most represented category was that of Barbie dolls, make-believe dress and make-up. Peaceful endeavours like building, carpentry, farming and medical care were noticeably under-represented. If guns and the elements of aggression are taken out of the toy shop, it will cease to exist. I feel drawn to reflect on this lack of balance, this approval of conflict and confrontation.


    Generally governments argue that a strong military presence is necessary before a lasting peace can be had. A country's armed forces get the biggest slice of the annual budget and services like education and health care receive much less. Poorly educated, undernourished and sick citizens are called upon to enforce military solutions to maintain their peace. I am a pacifist and I try to take a proactive stance against so-called military solutions. In the end there are only losers.

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