Monday, July 02, 2007

OTM Press:

A Journey with Fokofpolisiekar
The Rooke Gallery. Newtown Johannesburg. June 28.

By Sydelle Smith

The endless queue cramming to enter Liam Lynch's first public exhibition - documenting the life and time of the legendary Afrikaans band Fokofpolisiekar - was a good measure of how many people admire his work and have a strong relationship with his subject. On a mid-wintery cold Jo'burg evening, the queue snaked its way around the Rooke Gallery - a newly renovated happening spot in Newtown.

The gallery walls, still redolent with the smell of new paint, gave the bold black and white images a stark and clear background space. Fokofpolisiekar, with their controversial name in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, exploded onto the airwaves shocking and igniting the youth from 2003 to 2006. Proudly, they claim the title of being the first Afrikaans punk band to be played on nationwide radio stations.

Talking to Liam about his work, it is apparent he has a deep passion for the counter culture the band represents, a passion one sees clearly reflected and engrained in his documentary approach to photography, driven by his urge to tell a stories as they are. The photographs capture the unique energy of this bold group of musicians who weren't afraid to push limits or stir the pot, especially amongst their own Afrikaans compatriots. With daring lyrics like "Can someone get God on the phone and tell him he is not needed anymore," Lynch capture the ironies of their messages in provocative poses. In one, band members hold Christian crucifixes; in another an injured drummer lies in his hospital bed with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. These are personal moments that could only ever be captured on camera by a close friend. A friend who has followed and documented the journey of a moving statement that shook up the stage wherever the band has traveled and played together.

Lynch may have made more careful selection of the work exhibited to avoid repetition in the theme and poses of some of the photographs. Not all of them held as rich visual meaning as others. Most striking were pictures of live shows that captured a vibrant and real perspective of the frenzied crowd dynamically interacting with the band on stage - chaos and the mayhem, all about.

A group of images in particular held my attention - The Tuks FM New Year's Eve party in Pretoria: one of the last gigs the band would play together. Interesting moments on the road in Belgium, the Netherlands and London show five young guys having a rocking time as they expose Europeans to a new African sound, in a sister-tongue of Flemish or Dutch. Other images that portray the legend that Fokofpolisiekar will no doubt come to be, are of silhouetted band members caught in mid air, legs outstretched; immersed in smoke and sweat, beautifully portraying an intense passion and rage emitting from the stage.

Band photographers such as Liam are gifted with a powerful weapon, being able to blend into the background of a lifestyle of shows, parties, recording studios and bad road food. A musician himself, formerly with The Slashdogs, Liam's eye is fine-tuned. He has successfully captured the rise and the fall of a unique Afrikaans band that shook the nation with its lyrics and daring questions, commentating on social and political issues that the post-apartheid generation of Afrikaans South Africans has had to deal with.

Lynch's camera and fine artistic eye has given us a well-chronicled visual document portraying critical iconic moments of a band that did more than just get a crowd moving to catchy lyrics. Fokof managed to break all the boundaries in the realm of the music of the youth in this country. More than just a wall of beautifully constructed black and white images hung on a newly painted wall in a gallery of the regenerated Newtown precinct, Lynch's body of work stands as evidence that the Afrikaans Music Revolt has irrevocably arrived.

Original article to be found here.



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