Polite Force is a leaderless group of volunteers performing random acts of public kindness. This means helping people in any way possible. One can wear articles of uniform emblazoned with the word POLITE that look similar to police outfits including caps, T-shirts and masks. This idea by Christian Nerf has already been performed several times in different locations with various participants.
Beitbridge Polite Force takes this concept to the Beitbridge border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. This is a key transnational crossing point that is rife with corruption and notoriously difficult to negotiate. The project partners aim to support and help people on their journey making it easier for them in that hostile environment.
At the beginning of October 2021, Lionel Mbayiwa, Ray du Toit and Dan Halter will perform Beitbridge Polite Force with any other willing volunteers that they may find at the border. They plan to perform the ephemeral art piece on both sides of the border for a couple of days and hope to document it in any way possible.
They artists explain that, “Our objective is to create a transient intervention into the lives of people working at and crossing the border on that particular day. The work seeks to show a contrast with policing behaviours that often antagonize people causing them to fear the authorities. We aim to bring art and hope to a desperate place, a no-man’s land between countries. We intend to generate dialogue and interactions between disparate people, opening up new possibilities.”
Lionel Mbayiwa was born, bred and educated in rural Mhondoro, Mubaira under Chegutu District in Zimbabwe. He did not attend any formal art school, taught instead by his elder brother, Hugh Hatitye Mbayiwa, who was an art teacher as well as other family friends. In 2005 he participated in a group show for the first time at Gallery Delta in Harare, and exhibited with them until 2009. During those years he also exhibited at the Zimbabwe National Gallery. Family responsibilities amidst political and economic instability forced Lionel across the border into South Africa. He settled in Cape Town and worked in a bar before eventually finding his way back to art. After buying a digital camera Lionel could pursue his interest in photography and in 2019 he had his first solo photography show at the National Library in Cape town. Prior to this he exhibited photos in a group show at AVA gallery. In 2015 joined the YellowWoods creative block program (now Spier Art Trust) and remains an active participant. In 2020 he participated in the artHARARE online show and in 2021 he’ll take part in a group show of paintings, drawings and photographs at 6 Spin Gallery.
Ray du Toit was born and educated in Cape Town, South Africa. His early career was concentrated on learning current and historic photographic laboratory processes, working for and eventually managing professional photographic labs in South Africa, London and Scotland. Since 2003 he has specialised in high quality Fine Art photographic post production and printing. In 2005 Ray helped Pieter Hugo conceive and produce The Hyena Men, and he produced Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases in 2010. Ray served as Technical Officer of Photography at the Michaelis School of Fine Art. He continues to tutor and work with established and up and coming artists and their curators.
Dan Halter was born in Zimbabwe in 1977. In 2001 he graduated from the University of Cape Town with a BAFA. His solo exhibitions include Take Me to Your Leader 2006 (João Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town), Mafuta Farm 2017 (Dillon + Lee, New York), Zimbabwean Traffic 2017 (Skövde Konstmuseet, Skövde, Sweden) and Patience Can Cook a Stone 2018 (Whatiftheworld / Gallery, Cape Town). Group shows include Energy Flash – The Rave Movement, M HKA (Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen), the 16th and 17th VideoBrasil (São Paulo) in 2007 and 2011, the 10th Havana Biennale in 2009, the Dakar Biennale in 2010 and Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. He has been an artist in residence in Zürich, Cologne, Turin, Rio de Janeiro and Dufftown in Scotland.