Andries Botha on Tattoo photographs
I was about 50 years of age when I finally fell in love with my father. It reminded me of how long it takes, sometimes, to fall in love.
I can unequivocally say that the struggle and the wait was worthwhile. At that point in time I became hyper-conscious of my father’s body. I realized upon closer intimate scrutiny that his was a body wracked by sadness, social misadventure, an absence of love and as well a general decomposition, that which is way beyond the years that he held.
It set me on an introspective journey around brave, stupid, broken men, especially white South Africans. Men, in South Africa, generally washed up on some shore, somewhere. This enquiry took me to a homeless shelter in the middle of Durban, called “The Ark”. I spent about a week in the shelter where I had an opportunity to talk to boys and men who were marooned somewhere in the sky. What struck me was how their bodies bore the marks of their various journeys, almost like a piece of cartography It was then that I anticipated that the surface of human skin is not that much different to the surface of the earth. Time and history impacted on it, stretched it, bruised it. I was later to make a work strongly influenced this: “KwaZulu-Natal 1896 -1999”.
Grounding myself in this experience as a self –conscious “other” was massively instructive and important. This influence was powerful and very instructive to me in as much as it clarified so many unspoken thoughts and subsequently shaped so many new revelatory ideas, not only about my own but also about those other bodies of men that I collectively share.
These photographs were shown in an exhibition that I shared with Marlene Dumas in Basil called “Damenwahl”.
Andries Botha, February 2012