New York recently hosted the fourth edition of the 1-54 art fair. The art fair was started in 2013, and it is solely dedicated to contemporary art from African diaspora. It is held annually with editions of the fair hosted in London, New York, and Marrakech. New York’s 1-54 presented 21 international exhibitors and over 60 artists from Africa. The event continues to grow, brining an audience of over 8,000 people.
All works of art were remarkable. However, there was one piece in particular that garnered the most attention. South African artist, Ralph Ziman, created a phenomenal, almost unfathomable work entitled the Casspir Project with SPOEK 1. Ziman turned a military vehicle that was used in South Africa’s apartheid era into a tank that commanded attention from spectators. He and his team, comprised of almost 100 artists, transformed the entire military vehicle. It is brightly colored with beads and an unconventional style.
While the piece of work was amazing, it also symbolizes the triumph achieved in the country. Apartheid was an oppressive political, social, and economic mechanism that legally allowed for the discrimination of African’s of color. Nelson Mandela was at the forefront of that movement. I would like to believe that Mr. Mandela would approve of the transformation of the vehicle. For, it seems metaphoric in changing the monochromatic pallet of the vehicle into something that is bright, diverse in color, and inviting – symbolic of the transformation of South Africa itself.