Unathi Sigenu

In Urban Scénos Johannesburg

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member of Gugulective
Gugulective is an artist collective composed of eight young creative producers from Cape Town. The collective was borne out of a need for a creative platform for the variety of art practices in currently disadvantaged communities. The collective intends to create a space where creative interaction takes place, a space of growth, exchange of ideas, creative production, and the transfer of knowledge and skills between and amongst young and established artists and creative intellectuals. Gugulective has created a project space at Kwa Mlamli a shebeen in Gugulethu, Ny 146.

The Gugulective has worked with young people within a variety of communities through workshops and public art projects. They also occasionally run film screenings at Kwa Mlamli’s shebeen, which are followed by debates about issues and concerns raised by the films.

The Gugulective has self initiated and curated 3 multi-disciploinary exhibitions at Kwa Mamli’s in Gugulethu. However, the collective has been open to collaborations and has taken part in a number of exhibitions outside and including the project space. Exhibitions including Akuchanywa curated by Gugulective at Kwa Malmli (2007); Titled/Untitled curated Gugulective with curatorial assistance from Gabi Ngcobo at Kwa Mlamli and Blank Projects (2007); Upsatairs curated by Bettina Malcomes at AVA and Kwa Mlamli (2008); Scratching The Surface curated by Mwenya Kabwe and Gabi Ncgobo at AVA and Kwa Mlamli (2008) and Performing South Africa at Herbbel Am Uffer, Berlin (2008).

Unathi Sigenu / The Jacket / Johannesburg 2009 from Urban Scénos on Vimeo.

_joburgunathi_00902_unathiphotogrammesWPhotogrammes / Film Unathi Sigenu

« Unauthorised jacket »

Unathi Sigenu installed the police jacket of his late brother at the corner of a building opposite from his room at the Drill Hall. Placed here, in the evenings, a spotlight would light up the jacket at intervals. The installation coincided with the hours during which commuters would queue at the corner, waiting for communal (informal) taxies. A radio mic placed in the pocket of the jacket would enable Sigenu to communicate with the commuters – and for them to respond to him. Sigenu filmed the installation and situation from the window of his room, projecting it on a large scale onto the building opposite from the Drill Hall. Entitled “Unauthorised Jacket”, the installation drew much interaction with the public and the police, resulting in conversations about legality, police presence and corruption. // Unathi Sigenu installe une veste de policier, suspendue devant une boutique, à proximité d’un immeuble où les trafics en tous genres sont notoires. C’est aussi là que les gens attendent leur bus du soir. Particularité, la veste de policier est celle de son frère, assassiné en 2003. Dans la veste, un talkie walkie permet de communiquer. Le tout est filmé à distance, depuis une fenêtre du Drill Hall, à travers une grille.

A text by Unathi Sigenu :
The installationperformance piece The Jacket hung beneath the balcony (walkway underneath) of illegal squatter building in the conflictual neighborhood of Joubert Park resulted from my interaction with the space. According to the conceptual theme of the Urban Scenographies in Johannesburg the area was titled the ‘battleground’. It was said that it is concerned with the connection ideas of territory, conquest, sabotage, and ambush and that violence may be tactical or random, sometimes highly organized, or sometimes chaotic.
These subject matters became the integral interests for me about the location. The title itself The Jacket resonated from the origins of the installed police jacket which once belonged to my late brother who past away 2003 after his second month of in-service training as a police man, brutally shot inside the police station by his colleague. Ever since this occurrence I’ve developed an acute eye in observing police activities and interaction with societies (something though I have first hand experienced). Through short time of research in my first week in Joubert Park I’ve received a lot amount of information, witnessing some and certain activities which eventually developed into a conceptual police figure floating in the air in form of a police jacket, above it installed a security electrical light with censer, in the environment upon security is a concept that only survives those who believes. Beneath the jacket hang a police radio and lapel microphone hidden on the jacket in-communication with those who pass by. The first day I installed the jacket it got immediate response from the police themselves who happen to pass by and seeing the jacket they approached the jacket took the radio and started questioning the whole thing. Unfortunately the camera had no tapes by then to capture this engagement, I picked up the radio from the opposite building upon they had no idea of my where about but they were the ones under surveillance this time around. Eventually I agreed to show myself to them and went to explain the whole thing and after some interrogation and threats I’ve agreed to hide the police name on the jacket which they claimed to be their company name that cannot be used in such a way. So in the end the jacket had to be tempered with, I used a piece of black fabric to hide the police name on the jacket which didn’t do much difference because it was quite visible that it was a police jacket. The relationship between the community and the police is quite intense in Joubert Park. It was said in the brief Battles are fought on various levels against the backdrop of urban redevelopment and the enforcement of law and order.

These types of clashes I’ve witness with how the residents were interacting with the police jacket. Some were highly concerned about the visibility of the police when needed within the community, and some totally avoided interacting with the talking jacket exposing their fair for the police, one could understand this based on many people in this area being illegal immigrants. Through my observation skepticism was mostly razed by the feeling of being seen and not see who is communicating with oneself, constantly people live in paranoia of being under surveillance from criminals to security cameras that doesn’t seem to make their lives better from being victims of crime.
For the two days that the jacket was installed a video piece was the end result of the work of a conceptual police figure in the middle of chaos questioning elements of security and police visibility within the space.  

Unathi Sigenu & Blackwash / The march / Johannesburg 2009 from Urban Scénos on Vimeo.

“Unauthorised March” was a collaboration with the collective ‘Blackwash’, which consisted of an unauthorised march from the Drill Hall to the former ANC headquarters at Shell House. Brandishing slogans and t-shirts that aimed to question the value of leadership and education, the march took place during the festival and again drew large audiences and queries.

_joburgunathi_90042_unathi2wPhotos : Sammy Baloji


In <<RR=FF>> Paris-Villette


In Urban Scénos Labellevirtuelle


In Paris-Belleville (Solo residency)

ScU2 is developing a long term project with based in Capetown artist Unathi Sigenu, co-founder of Gugulective, an artist group intervening mainly in Gugulethu. The principle of the residency is serie of artist interventions in the urban space of Bellevile, the area in Paris where ScU2 is installed. These interventions will also take place at the « Frichez nous la paix » Gallery, in Belleville. And Unathi Sigenu will participate some projects staged by ScU2 in the area (coming, an event in partnership with the Maison des Metallos, in june-july 2012). Unathi Sigenu’s intervention will take place in link with the 2 seasons staged by the Frensh Institute, the frensh season in South Africa (2012) and the south african season in France (2013). // ScU2 développe actuellement un processus au long cours avec Unathi Sigenu, artiste basé à Capetown (Afrique du Sud) et co-fondateur de Gugulective, un collectif intervenant principalement à Gugulethu. Le principe de cette résidence est une série d’interventions d’artiste dans l’espace urbain de Belleville, le quartier où est implanté ScU2. Ces interventions auront lieu en lien avec la galerie « Frichez nous la paix ». Et Unathi Sigenu participera à certains projets menés par ScU2 dans le quartier (en préparation, un événement en partenariat avec la Maison des Métallos, en juin-juillet 2012). Les interventions d’Unathi Sigenu s’inscriront en lien avec les deux saisons organisées par l’Institut Français, la saison française en Afrique du Sud (2012) et la saison sud africaine en France (2013).

image : un mural à Belleville, sept 2011 // a mural in Belleville, sept 2011


Travaux d’atelier / sept 2011

Grands dessins et projets muraux // Large scale drawings and mural projects. 

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In Urban Scénos Dakar

Unathi Sigenu / Mouride night / Dakar 2013 from Urban Scénos on Vimeo.


Unathi Sigenu

Afrique du sud / South Africa
Artiste plasticien / visual artist

La pratique d’Unathi Sigenu, né au Cap en 1976, s’est structurée autour de Gugulethu, le township dont il est originaire et où, avec Kemang Wa Lehulere et d’autres amis, il a fondé le collectif Gugulective. En utilisant de multiples mediums, en particulier peinture et dessins en grand format, mais aussi installations, vidéos, voire performances, Unathi Sigenu a développé de multiples interventions en relation avec le contexte urbain. Un shebeen est devenu galerie d’art, de multiples invitations faites à des artistes, une capacité de meneur du collectif, qui est au fil des années devenu une référence en Afrique du Sud en matière d’art in context. Gugulective a ainsi été invité à participer à de nombreuses expositions, à la Goodman gallery à Johannesburg, à Blank project à Capetown ainsi qu’à des expositions telles que « US », commissariat Bettina Malcomless et Simon Njami à la JAG/Johannesburg et à la National Gallery/Capetown, « From Pierneef to Gugulective”, à la National Gallery /Capetown, mais aussi “Dada south”, toujours à la National Gallery/Capetown. Le collectif a enfin exposé à Berlin, Hamburg, Eindhoven dans le cadre de festivals ou d’expositions.


The practice of Unathi Sigenu, born in Cape Town in 1976, is structured around Gugulethu township where he comes from and where with Kemang Wa Lehulere and other friends, he founded the collective Gugulective. Using multiple mediums, especially painting and drawings in large format, but also installations, videos, performances and even, Unathi Sigenu developed multiple interventions in relation to the urban context. Became a shebeen art gallery, numerous invitations to artists, with a capacity of leader of the group, which has over the years become a benchmark in South Africa in terms of art in context. Gugulective has been invited to participate in numerous exhibitions at the Goodman gallery in Johannesburg, Capetown Blank project as well as exhibitions such as “U.S.”, curated by Bettina Malcomless and Simon Njami the JAG (Johannesburg) and the National Gallery (Capetown), “From Pierneef to Gugulective” at the National Gallery (Capetown), but also “Dada south,” always at the National Gallery (Capetown). The group was finally exhibited in Berlin, Hamburg, Eindhoven in festivals and exhibitions.