|A group of SA musicians, artists, filmmakers and dancers were invited fo the exhibition "Fin de Siecle" in France in 1997 by the city of Nantes. The festival was created as a platform for the exposure of South African culture in a post apartheid milieu, but as many others and I had predicted, it proved to be more problematic and patronizing than anything else; Fin de Siecle, as we later deduced, seemed more about portraying S.A as a country a few centuries behind the main stream of art and music practice. This festival was geared toward the ethnic representation of S.A, seeming to forget the fact that as a nation we were, and still are, dealing with a huge amount of issues from the recently dismantled apartheid system, which comes with its own baggage.Needless to say there were more ZULU dancers scattered around the theatres in the quaint, parochial village of Nantes, than I had seen in ZULULAND and JOHANNESBURG!This in turn, created a new bias, cased in that old prejudice towards the dark and lonely, ˝sunny South Africaţ; I felt bound up to that self-same stereotype, all the while hoping that I (and others) had at last exposed it as artists. Alas! I was on the wrong track, even though filled with hope in the changes taking place; the TRUTH commission was about to set sail in the oceans of the world, to lands of reconciliation, forgiveness and truth. This French Wave current however, was dragging me back to the shore I had departed from, instead of the promised lands of Liberty, EQAULITY and Freedom in the civilized world. I found myself caught in the net of stereotypes; the patrons were all too happy to see the noble ´savage═, with all his traditional dancing, within the context of their sacred and ´enlightened═ illness; lets call it "The Dark Continent Syndrome".The final straw; after enduring the umpteenth Zulu dance at another one of the big events, my mind wondered to the time when black artists from S.A had gone into exile to Europe with their hopes of Liberty Equality and Freedom and what false smiles they were greeted there with; a free plate of goose liver pate and a glass of expensive champagne, ˝Mr Livingstone═s Friday, I presume?══or was it, ˝Look, another half dressed savage!ţI felt a sincere empathy for my artist brothers who died poor in Europe, and only now are getting their due recognition back home and thus, I decided to pay homage to their determination in striving for freedom and success, by leaving their country to live in a place overflowing with artistic opportunities BUT only if you═re French.I went through the possible actions to take and, as I was now drowning with anger and needed to find a way to express myself, short of ending up in a French jail and later in the French Foreign Legion, raping and pillaging countries less fortunate than my ownâAnd there it was, my action: to be covered in French chocolate mousse while playing a piano composition I had composed, ´The African Basket═ and then licked clean by a French woman.I saw this as a protest against how South Africa, how Africa infact, was being represented and has been since the conquerors landed on the shores to enforce their gods and ways of seeing onto those ´savages.═ My being a White South African, meant to them that I was part of that charade and being no longer with them, as easily cast aside as a shipwrecked European; an extra in the peepshow of contemporary African art.The performance was stopped by 2 huge French black bouncers, and they were in the process of dragging me out, quite dishonourably, when they were informed that I was a featuring participant of the festival.This was a true example of how people see things and how things are. The public were given a ´portrait═ of contemporary South African culture through the eyes of a few French curators.The piece dealt with how people are stereotyped and cast into identities. The music compositions are manifestations of loss. The idea of the sweetness of chocolate, the body painting and the licking, represents how we would like to see Africa. For me it was a cathartic initiation to humiliate myself by exposing my nakedness; the coating of this cute substance on my body a fantasy of colour. And then! to have the chocolate licked off, to the point of nausea, and there! back again to that same human being, without colour or prejudice.|
Chocolate has been performed in Austria London France Pretoria and Durban.