Marcells a citizen of the world

IN the South African context - a country that to a large extent sees life in black and white - she would plunge the race-obsessed into total confusion when they try to figure out her race.

IN the South African context - a country that to a large extent sees life in black and white - she would plunge the race-obsessed into total confusion when they try to figure out her race.

But multimedia artist Pauline Marcells, who was born in Dominica in the West Indies and lives and works there just as well as in Vienna, Austria, has no issue with her race. As far as she is concerned she is black.

Marcells has been in South Africa for the past one and half months, working at the Bag Factory, the arts studio in Fordsburg, Johannesburg.

She has been sponsored by the Austrian government to work in any country for four months. She chose South Africa because she says she was attracted by the country's history.

"I was the only black person chosen from many artists by the Austrian government for this scholarship. And I was the only non-native Austrian in the group," Marcells says.

"They chose me because they have been following my work throughout the world for some time.

"I am half Austrian and half Caribbean and an American citizen. In the Caribbean, though some people tend to dislike Africans for whatever reason, race is not such a big issue because we have a mixed ancestry.

"My grandmother is part Red Indian, part black and part white, so my family is a mix of different races. So race is not an issue to my family."

Marcells, who paints and specialises in photography and video installations, says the City of Joburg's slogan has reinforced her Africanness.

"When I first arrived I saw the sign A World Class African Host City. It's an amazing slogan, quite affirming. Here is an African city hosting the Soccer World Cup and it is world class. This is an amazing slogan and whether it was written by a white or a black person does not matter," Marcells says.

She says that she is surprised that so many people she has engaged with on the slogan seem to be indifferent to it. She cannot understand that they think it is not such a big deal.

Marcells says the race and class disparities in South Africa is so obscene that it is scary.

"Rich black people seem to be detached from their roots in the townships. They seem not to want to associate with the townships anymore, simply because they are wealthy. This is wrong," she says.

Coming back to her art, Marcells will be involved in two exhibitions this month and next month.

The first is a group exhibition called Losing Virginity. Catch it at the Bag Factory on March 24.

The second exhibition is a solo on and is the culmination of the work that Marcells has been busy with since she arrived in South Africa.

This one is called Bend Down Boutique and it will be on at the Arts On Main in Johannesburg on April 24.

"Bend Down Boutique is about all those second-hand clothes that well-wishers donate to charities in Europe.

These donations usually end up being sold mostly in Nigeria and other African countries - including South Africa.

"This is wrong because the clothes have been donated to the poor but is then sold under false pretences sold to people in Africa. This is wrong," Marcells says.

X