Craft love, not war

WORDS Nadine Botha 

Until 18 July catch filmmaker-turned-artist Ralph Ziman’s arresting exhibition of beaded AK47s in Cape Town at the Muti Gallery.

“Is there design this good that doesn’t kill people?” asked the US magazine Good a few years ago about the AK47. After all, as the Nicholas Cage character in Lord of War explains: “Of all the weapons in the vast Soviet arsenal, nothing is more profitable than the Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947, more commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov.

“It’s the world’s most popular assault rifle, a weapon all fighters love. An elegant and simple nine-pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood, it doesn’t break, jam or overheat. It will shoot whether it’s covered in mud or filled with sand. It’s so easy even a child could use it, and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people’s greatest export.”

With some 200 wire-and-bead AK47s in tow, these are the issues that South African filmmaker-turned-artist Ralph Ziman raised with his first solo show, Ghosts, at the CAVE Gallery in Los Angeles. Ralph commissioned six Zimbabwean street artists in Johannesburg to make the guns, providing six months of paid work for them. The photos shown here are of the artists themselves with their wares.

Ralph, based in Los Angeles, may not be well known in his home country but some of his claims to fame include directing music videos for the likes of Michael Jackson, Shania Twain, Toni Braxton and Ozzy Osbourne. Local film fanatics will also recall that he directed the first independent South African feature film to be completed after apartheid, Hearts and Minds, and the unforgettable Jerusalema about a Hillbrow gangster, which was shortlisted for an Oscar in 2008.

Besides the beaded guns and photographs, the exhibition also entails a street-art component of murals and currency-inspired stickers. After showing at the Muti Gallery in Cape Town, from 24 April to 18 July, Ralph is planning to make a pan-African documentary in which he intends to get real soldiers to pose with the guns.

This design certainly trumps the original!,

More other fab local talent to be found in our April/May 2014 REWIND REDO RENEW edition, now on shelves.