Sharp Sharp Johannesburg

Terry Kurgan, Gilan Melki (the Congolese sign painter from Johannesburg) and I were invited to set up a version of Hotel Yeoville as part of the Sharp Sharp Johannesburg month at new media art space La Gaite Lyrique in Paris. The program ran for the month of October and include a host of musicians (Motel Mari, Brother Moves On, Desmond and the Tutu’s, Spoek Mathambo, Dirty Paraffin etc.) and along with us, installations by Cuss Group and MJ Turpin. The program also had a photography and comic focus, featuring Conrad Botes, Anton Kannemeyer and photographers Liam Lynch, Roger Ballen and more. You can find on 10 and 5 3 short video’s made by Jamal of the Cuss Group.


The primary aim of the  Hotel Yeoville installation at La Gaite Lyrique was not only to present the project, but also present the issues that the first project dealt with; the concerns of the African foreign national community (many of whom are refugees and asylum seekers) who live in the suburb of Yeoville in Johannesburg.

As the first project was heavily about self documentation and self representation, we felt it important to have a strong link to the community in Yeoville.  At the Gaite Lyrique we setup our photo booth, in the original project this was the “Love Booth”. In Paris it became the “Pose your Question” booth, in which the French audience could contribute to the body of the project by posing for a photo and asking a question to Johannesburg on the photo. Then every Sunday for four weeks we made a live link with the Francophone community in Yeoville.  Great big heavy conversations were had and many questions answered. This was done with the Francophone (mostly Congolese) community in a social space called Kin Malebo in the heart of Yeoville.

The Parisian installation was called the “Extended Mirror Cafe” , as not only were we using the local internet cafe as a source for our connection, but the two spaces, at the Gaite Lyrique and at Kin Malebo were ‘cafe’ and social spaces. We had additionally set up constant live feed (with IP camera’s) between the spaces during the week. This way the spaces were always visually present for each other.

In addition Gilan Melki painted not only all our signs in the style of Johannesburg sign writing (Gilan was the sign painter on the original project), but also painted a mural at Gaite Lyrique showing the courtyard at Kin Malebo.

Thanks to Terry Kugan, Laurent Emmanuel and Mark Lewis for the photographs from the installation.

exchange_1_smlInstallation in the “Plateau Media” of the Gaite Lyrique. Photo copyright: Laurent Emmanuel, 2013.

Gilan’s mural of Kin Malebo in Yeoville on the far left, on the screen to the right you can see the live feed with Yeoville, with Godfrey Talabulu hosting the event. Next to this is the peg wall for “pose your question” photo’s and then the mural on the outside of the photo booth, this is a portrait of Theo Makola the developer of the photo booth software loaned to us by Content Bar in Johannesburg.

inYeoville_smlView from the Yeoville side at Kin Malebo on the same Sunday. Photo copyright: Mark Lewis, 2013.

photowall_1_smlSelection made by Terry Kurgan of photo’s from the original Hotel Yeoville “Love Booth” in the Yeoville, on display at the Gaite Lyrique.  Photo copyright: Laurent Emmanuel, 2013.

whereFrom_smlWe  made another “Where Are You From” chalk wall, here is a detail from the Gaite Lyrique space. In the original project we wanted to celebrate the diversity of the Yeoville community and the chalk wall led the audience into the installation. The Gaite Lyrique audience was pretty diverse too. Photo: Tegan Bristow.

theo_1_smlDetail of Theo Makola’s portrait on the outside of the photobooth.  Theo is the developer of the photobooth software we used, using his portrait is part of my plan to make engineers and developers more present in the creative spaces. Photo copyright: Laurent Emmanuel, 2013.


Detail from the “pose your question” booth.  Photo copyright: Laurent Emmanuel, 2013.

Wall_smlThe photo peg wall towards the end of the installation.  Full up! We also have an online gallery of all the photo’s taken – find it here with Mob Flashing. Photo copyright: Laurent Emmanuel, 2013.

photo_1_smlPhoto from the Parisian peg wall. South African visitors asking difficult questions :). Photo: Tegan Bristow

photo_2_smlAnother photo from the Parisian peg wall. Photo: Tegan Bristow

KinMalebo_Poster_English_smallAbove: Poster used to advertise the events on the Yeoville side at Kin Malebo.