‘The grass is green’ subverts historical tropes

Businessman, investor, photographer and noted.man contributor, Mr Saki Zamxaka, opens his first solo exhibition at Constitution Hill this week. Entitled  “The Grass Is Green”, the photography collection is at once emphatic, subversive and hopeful, writes the photographer. 

This week, my solo photography exhibition kicks off at Constitution Hill, in the historic Old Fort Ramparts. After months of discussion, the curators Mr Lawrence Lemaoana and Ms Sibongile Msimango, decided to title the photo exhibition: “The Grass Is Green”. Photographers often say that it’s not what you see, but how you see it. I have attempted to fuse two worlds that have influenced my being – art/photography and investments – into showing what I’ve seen through these photographs. As I hope the images will show, in my surroundings I have appreciated what I’ve seen and sought to keep these memories, and almost say to others: ‘look, the grass is green.” I have photographed family members – mostly way older than me – often in appreciation of how content they are about life, their wisdom, and at times all this expressed in their sense of style.

This title has a sense of being emphatic, communicating what you see or should see, and also a sense of being hopeful. This exhibition is a sum of a journey that started in the early nineties with a camera I got as gift from parents and used it to take portraits to make money. At almost the same time, 1991, I had started learning economics and accounting. I am a big believer in the importance of culture and telling our stories. I am also a great believer in the future of the continent. We have such beautiful landscapes and stories that warm the hearts of anyone who hears them. Over time, some of these are buried, because the benchmark of telling stories has historically been Western.

In this exhibition, I join the voices of others, the ‘native informants’, as Lawrence and Sibongile phrase it, to tell my story and of those around me. The aim is not to minimise my experiences and mainstream them; not to have them as something that must be hidden, made exotic or unnecessarily mystified.

“Saki visually toys with two historical characters in his meandering: the first relating to the role of the French term ‘le flâneur’, who loosely strolls through places with the intention of pure observation. By contributing something of himself in all his stops, Saki subverts this historical trope,” say the curators.

“The second refers to what anthropologists created as the ‘native informant’, whose function was to translate and render palatable to the world, information that was sacred to a particular community for the sake of personal gain. Zamxaka flips the script by re-submitting the functions of these two historical tropes through his images. The Grass Is Green is a testament to the power the photographer possesses to shift norms by being both a sensitive observer and naturalised participant,” they conclude. 

I look forward to your sharing this narrative with me, so come one, come all, it’s a public exhibition, no entry fee and no RSVP. Just come. 


All photographs by Mr Saki Zamxaka

The Grass Is Green opens on October 24, 18:00. Runs until the end of November 2019. 

Constitution Hill, 11 Kotze Street, Johannesburg.


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