Dan Halter | Research TripSouth Africa | Visual Arts
March 2022 — Visual Arts
In the framework of a research trip, Zimbabwean visual artist Dan Halter has invited his Swiss cousin and tailor Marc-Etienne Nicca to Cape Town, South Africa to collaborate on a unique textile artwork that relates to their family history.
The project emerges from a residency Dan participated in at CAT Cologne in 2017 where he was able to design and print his own blaudruck fabric at the oldest factory in Europe (founded in 1638) still producing this textile. Described as the denim or tartan of South Africa, blaudruck (blue print) fabric was introduced by German and Swiss settlers in the 19th century who imported and used it for their clothing, helping to entrench it in South African culture. Locally, blaudruck is known as ‘shweshwe’ cloth or ‘German print’, ‘sejeremane’ in Sesotho, ‘ijeremani in isiZulu and ‘ujumani’ in isiXhosa.
Dan’s blaudruck tells the story of his family’s life in Zimbabwe. The design is based on the blueprint of the house his Swiss grandfather built in Zimbabwe and which he grew up in, and the bruises (another kind of blueprint) inflicted on his parents when they were attacked in this house during the political and economic upheaval in the early 2000s. In working with his cousin on this collaboration, Dan is interested in revisiting his personal history that connects Switzerland and Zimbabwe, and the personal and the political.
Dan Halter was born in Zimbabwe in 1977. In 2001 he graduated from the University of Cape Town with a BAFA. He describes himself as a “Swimbabwean: a portmanteau of Swiss-Zimbabwean.” Growing up in Harare with Swiss heritage left Dan feeling an outsider both in Zimbabwe and in Switzerland. This experience of foreignness informs his work, which deals with a sense of dislocated national identity, human migration and the dark humour of present realities in Southern Africa.
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.