In his works Haroon Gunn-Salie does not shy away from thorny matters, taking on issues such as neo-colonialism, radicalism and violence. This echoes the specific context of South Africa, a country that finds itself in a crucial transitional period. Gunn-Salie is determinately outspoken on these societal challenges, and adheres to a grassroots activism. His works are mainly site-specific interventions or public art pieces, created in a range of different media, and often made in dialogue with local communities.
In the large installation Amongst Men, he conceptually recreated the funeral of Imam Abdullah Haron, who was murdered by apartheid police in 1969. Four hundred individually cast kufiyas were suspended from the ceiling and were accompanied by a poem of James Mathews. For this piece, he collaborated intensely with the imam’s widow and daughter. Following these dialogues, Gunn-Salie then felt the urge to tell the stories of the women who continue the imam’s legacy, which led to the pieces Smile-Cries and Remember – I love you.
Another work fed into a polarized debate concerning the lack of transformation in education and heritage in South Africa. Soft Vengeance consists of sculptures of “bloodied” hands cast from public statues of colonialists. Gunn-Salie hence questions the psychology of memorization and reflects on past legacies that still keep a national consciousness of inferiority in place.
Having received a BA in sculpture at the renowned University of Cape Town Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2012, Gunn-Salie was recently also picked up in Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castet’s project “89plus” which aims to bring together innovators born in or after 1989 in long-term, international, multi-platform research project. Furthermore, his works were on show at the South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennial of 2015 and he is represented by Goodman Gallery in Cape Town.
Read more about Haroon Gunn-Salie’s project History after Apartheid in Tique | art paper #1: Transition.