samedi 20 avril 2019

Exhibition : BitterKomix - La Cité des Arts, La Réunion

Bitterkomix used to be a South-African, Capetown-based comics' magazine in the 90'/00's. It was created in 1992 (as a remember, the Apartheid regime felt in 1994) as a collective zine and was mainly designed by Anton Kannemeyer x, alias Joe Dog and his mate Conrad Botes x. Some great South African. illustrators also collaborated with them : Joe Daly (check his awesome Red Monkey series - The leaking Cello Case or John Wesley Harding), Karlien DeVilliers x (My mother was a beautiful woman, we're still looking forward the release of the next one !), Lorcan White...

A scratchy vision of the post-Apartheid South African society

This art exhibition introduces us to the world of the two main drawers : trashy drawings, provocative and politically incorrect tone serving their libertarian, humanist vision of the post-Apartheid South African society. A clever work that scratched the whites' conservatisms and questioned the moral crisis among the South African white communities in the late 90's... How to deal with the fear of a global revenge of the black people, the fear of giving up the polical power ? How to fight against all the common but taboo behavior of this specific white community : paternalistic attitude towards the blacks, disclaimer of liability about Apartheid things, or economical and social guiltiness (the whites still have the economical power).
A little section of the exhibition, dedicated for adults only, with additional themes (violence, murders, sex and rapes), pushes the reflection further on and make us think about our own relation with racism, colonialism, democracy, morality...


The early drawings of Conrad Botes and Anton Kannemeyer used classical indie/underground black & white methods (think about Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, Joe Sacco...). 
Anton/Joe Dog pushed the thing further on, replicating the Hergé « clear line » on trashy misappropriations & parodies of some well-known sequences of Tintin in Congo, while Conrad Botes sometimes dabbled in some 50's Western styled comics in his Pulp and/or historical stories (Die Foster Bende...)


The style of their drawings has evolved into some more Contemporary Art for a few years. They now focuse on huge acrylic, expressionist paintings.
The acrylic serie of the African despots and South African black racialists reminds us the precarious balance and the huge challenges this young democracy has to face now.
We can also figure their interest for South African nowadays counterculture with the paintings featuring the crews of the garage band the Make-Overs x or the zef gangsta-rap band Die Antwoord x. The anarchist zefmovement praises oldfashioned, fancy dressing and attitude without any denial of its poverty's backgrounds. The two main zef representing characters, Ninja and Wisser, also played in the Neill Blomkamp's movie Chappie. Where we can draw the parallel between the world of the two painters and the one of their famous compatriot film-director (District 9Elysium). They both share lots of similar visions about their country.

The tone has also become a bit less provocative in their last artistic works Anton and Conrad seem to explore more philosophical, moralistic, polical and religious questionings.
All these topics, drawings and paintings may be found in their previous comics' books and magazines : BitterkomixPappa in Afrika,... But it was just a huge pleasure for me to see the original and full-sized paintings. 


Let's have now a little word on the third character of the upper picture... He's one of the missing link in the Bittercomix connexion to the Reunion Island Comics' world. 

This jovial guy in his early 50's, living on Reunion Island, is Olivier Appollodorus, alias Appollo. He's a comics' scenarist, well-known for his collaborations with French and Reunion drawers : Trondheim (Île Bourbon 1730, a classy pirates' story on Reunion Island), Brüno (Commando Colonial (WWII stories hapening in Africa), Biotope), Serge Huo-Chao-Si (La grippe coloniale, dealing with the Spanish Influenza on the island in 1919), Téhem (La chronique du Léopard, introducing the life on Reunion island during the WWII years )... Always very well documented and passionating stories, mostly with a delightful local taste. Sadly, very few of them have been translated in English x ...

He also broods the new crew of the Comics' magazine Le Cri du Margouillat x,  a great crucible of young, gifted & cool illustrators from Reunion Island. This magazine has always been a revealer of the local skilly authors as well as a travel partner of the Bitterkomix magazine.
Among other things, they have recently been spotlighted on a national scale : they hit with their funny drawings and schoolboy humor the (in)famous Brigitte Bardot for her nasty racist words about Reunion's folks. A little story that showed the full range of their caustic humor and enthusiasm and generaly speaking, the power of artistic outcries and drawings. 
Last but not least, this team is a compulsory contributor to the success of the Rock à la Buse x Festival. They collaborate to the rock shows with their real-time performances which are projected on a large screen while the bands are playing. 

Rock & Comix, a great Reunion!

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