Manfred Zylla

Work in progress against Apartheid

It was an event which took place at Community Arts Project (CAP) in Cape Town, South Africa, on Saturday 5 June 1982. Manfred Zylla was the inventor of the project which was called "Inter-Action" between the artist and the urban recipient.

It all started with Zylla's production of oversized pencil drawings up to 3 x 2 meters during a period of eight months. Depicting classic South African characters and scenarios - brawny beer drinking men at a braai (traditional South African barbecue), grinning, selfish business men, soldiers and headless uniformed government authorities appeared on the paper.

While he was working on these themes he knew intuitively that he had to overcome them in a way, may be by some kind of destruction. This "Inter-Action" took place in an old Anglican church left behind after the demolition of District Six, in this time named CAP. District Six was a black quarter, with urban Victorian houses. In the seventies the Government decided to destroy this district to expel the coloured people out of town. Nowadays it is still a "no-go"-zone.

The oversized drawings were shown like in a traditional exhibition with a professional surrounding. Zylla encouraged the visitors of the show to interact, which meant in this case to over paint the drawings in their own personal way. "I couldn't see these figures anymore, so I decided to use them for the "Inter-Action". The event was fantastic; I had a reggae band "roots" playing behind bars. We had good food and no alcohol. People started dancing and painted over the drawings." A video was done by Marc Kaplan, who was later expelled from the country.

After the happening South African TV came (too late) to film the paintings and they interviewed the activist but this was never broadcasted on TV. Zylla produced a catalogue by himself with the help of some friends. The first copy sold was handed to the police and it was banned. It was then forbidden neither to sell nor to own it. Over the years Manfred Zylla got serious difficulties to save his art works. 1986 he left Cape Town with his family and 1987/88 his work (all the drawings) was donated to the South African National Gallery (directed now by Marilyn Martin). After the downfall of old apartheid regime, it seems that things didn't really change in this museum. There is still no academic answer on the question why Zylla's work complex about the apartheid regime was never shown there.

The Community Arts Project (CAP) does not exist anymore.

On the 10th of June 2004 opens the first retrospective show (without the above mentioned project) of Manfred Zylla at Momo Gallery (Momo = Monna Mokoena, the first black gallery owner in South Africa)

Gallery Momo, 52, 7th Ave, Parktown North, Johannesburg, South Africa

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