Manuela Gray is an internationally acclaimed tattoo artist who has also exhibited as a fine artist, extending her interest in body marking to engage with a wide range of traditional and non – traditional surfaces and marking techniques.
The Number Project comprises a film that documents the history, personal journeys, codes and body markings of South Africa’s the Number prison gangs, prints, a book and a series of hand stitched photographs. Manuela was drawn to the marks of South Africa’s Number gangs by their raw power. In them she saw marks made with directness a bluntness even that were less for decorative effect than to communicate power in a secret code spelt out and spoken across the bodies of the inmates. In the artworks, Manuela weaves her own layer of meaning, engaging with the iconography of the Number through the ‘feminine’ art of sewing. This maternal gesture and breaking of the surface of the images invites a new reading.
In ‘Paradise Lost’, the triptych central to the exhibition, Manuela combines three images from the three distinct arms of the gangs – the 26, the 27 and the 28. She brings these three marked bodies into a dialogue with John Milton’ s 17th century poem. The triptych evokes Milton’s satanic antihero. The power, seduction and flight of this startling 17th century monologue perhaps echoed in the modern day Turner of the film who laments: ‘Sometimes I long for the might and the power that I had on the inside.’
Manuela’s The Number project will be used to raise awareness and funds for training and rehabilitation initiatives in the troubled gang heartlands of the Cape Flats.
Gray’s engagement with the gangs is collaborative and her focus is on outreach and empowerment. The Number artworks will show between 13 October and 30 October2017
at the Southern Guild Gallery.
A : Shop 5B, Silo 5 V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
For more information please contact [email protected]
T: +27 21 461 2856