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  • Osart Gallery

Borders: Dan Halter

Dan Halter's (1977, Zimbabwe. Lives and works in South Africa) artistic research touches Zimbabwean post-colonial actuality, political boundaries, migration issues and economic instability of some southern African countries, such as Zimbabwe. His highly symbolic work collects several references to international politics, Neo-capitalism, and to difficulties related to the occupational and economic situation of Zimbabwe.

He uses materials directly related to the situations he wants to bring to light, often related to popular use: shredded paper, telephone directories, plastic bags, banknotes, enter his artistic practice and assume ambivalent metaphorical features, connected to the economical and political situations underlined by the artist.

The work titled Z $ 5 Billion Agro-Cheque, is part of a body of works based on Zimbabwean values, money and bonds. Here Halter uses the same technique he adopts for most of his artworks, projected with Bienco Ikete, a refugee originarian from Democratic Republic of Congo: he recomposes images weaving stripes of printed paper or banknotes, with the same method people usually adopt for the making of baskets and bags. In this work the stripes of printed paper are recomposed into the image of a Zimbabwean bond, used in order to buy goods in the agricultural sector. The bond has an expiring date and people usually spend this kind of values as fast as they can, as far as the economic oscillations can devalue them in a really short time.

The same interweave characterizes the plastic-weaved bags that often return in Halter's works; known as "China bags", but recently also named "Zimbabwean bags" or, specially in West Africa, "Ghana Must Go" bags (the name is related to the forced extradited, in 1983, of many Ghanian immigrants from Nigeria), these bags change their name in every country, according to the migration traffic: in Germany they are called "Türken Koffer", in the Caribbean "Guyanese Samsonite" and in the UK they are known as "Bangladeshi Bag", at last they are defined "Shangaan or Zimbabwe Bag" in South Africa. Their recognizable tartan texture, ironically resembling the Scottish one, permits Halter to play on this relationship. These plastic bags are used by Halter to analyze migrational phenomena: in Refugee - Map of the world (2019) he uses them in order to make a China-centric map of the world in which areas characterized by an increased emigration are more worn out than the ones characterized by more immigration, that are newer.

Hand-woven geographic maps of Zimbabwe are often connected to social problems that the artist wants to underline: in 2007 he made a map of farming areas of the country titled Space of AIDS, made with Zimbabwe telephone directory shreds, and in 2019 he made Z$ 4,358,055, another map of Zimbabwe's farming regions, made with banknotes, now without any value, in which the amount hides a coded message.

An interest in political borders, in the use of materials taken from reality, weave as a favorite medium, and an interest in conventional language, converge into the reiterated use of maps and linguistic signs. Halter's poetical practice is in close dialogue with an Italian master such as Alighiero Boetti, despite the obvious existence of a different point of view.


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