Painting historiography: Meleko Mokgosi’s Democratic Intuition

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2021 Number 79

Painting historiography: Meleko Mokgosi’s Democratic Intuition
Meleko Mokgosi pages 152-164


This interview focuses particularly on Democratic Intuition (2013-20), Meleko Mokgosi’s epic, eight-chapter painting cycle, the title of which references Gayatri Spivak’s lecture on the necessary relationship between education and democracy. Education, reflection on theory and practice and engagement with young practitioners are all important parts of Mokgosi’s work. The interview discusses the way the chapter format of Democratic Intuition is influenced by film processes, and the research and critical analysis on which his work is based; this includes historiography; the western genre of history painting; narrative tropes and the work of Hayden White; and painting techniques that more accurately construct Black skin tones. It also discusses discourses of race and assumptions about whiteness in the western canon; and whether there is a possibility for the Black subject to inhabit allegorical representational space without being overdetermined by histories of Blackness and race discourse. Stuart Hall’s work has been important to Mokgosi because of its analysis of the complexities of the discourses within which cultural production and consumption is located. This has been helpful for reflecting on the location of the western art tradition within discourses of the Enlightenment and western humanism, which provide specific rules of circulation and consumption, and structures of authority. Such discourses assume that the viewer has the necessary tools or literacies to read in order to arrive at the meanings proposed in cultural objects. Mokgosi is engaged in continuous reflection on the extent to which, in spite of this, he, as a particular subject from Botswana, has managed to locate meaning within the narrow practice of painting.

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To cite this article
Meleko Mokgosi (2021) Painting historiography: Meleko Mokgosi’s Democratic Intuition, Soundings, 2021(79), 152-164

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