When the Post-Its exhibition was staged at Constitution Hill in July this year, the media storm concentrated on Ayanda Mabulu’s painting of Athul Gupta and president Jacob Zuma engaged in a sexual act, effectively turning the group exhibition into a one-man show.
In spite of that erasure, Alphabet Zoo’s colourful aerosol stencils, presented on portable plywood, reflected on the fleetingness of black middle class life by bringing the street art of culture jamming into the gallery. They juxtaposed the white figures in popular, largely black-consumed brands such as Kentucky, Joshua Doore, Bakers Biscuits and GrandPa with blackface equivalents, replacing, for instance, the Bakers man’s wares with a Bible and a pile of shit.
Viewed in the quiet preceding the media storm, the works had a teleporting effect, momentarily removing one from the severity of Constitution Hill into the consumerism of downtown Johannesburg below.
Isaac Zavale and Minenkulu Ngoyi’s work is steeped in the city; its tendency to alienate and homogenise, and the functional and survivalist creativity it necessitates to subvert its historical patterns.
As Vuyiswa Xekatwane writes in a 10 and 5 post the pair has appropriated for its tumblr, the duo embodies the idea of creativity being, at once, “an attitude, a philosophy and a performance”.
For Zavale and Ngoyi, Alphabet Zoo functions as a collective and alter ego for the ideas they can’t execute as individuals.