Pamela Allara; In Clement Mohale’s earlier submission, “Unprecedented Times,” for the TLC Student Collection (posted on the artbeyondquarantine blog on July 11, 2020,) a young woman holds out a pill to a personfication of the coronavirus as if to say, “Can this provide a cure?” The drawing highlights the issue of the lack of available medicines for those affected by COVID-19, with a vaccine still yet to be developed. In Mohale’s recent work, “State of Suspense,” the same young woman faces out at us, while behind her waits a group of villagers, each with various containers for storing water. Standing among them is the personification of the coronavirus seen in the previous work. As an indication of the ongoing spread of the illness, a second personification appears to be standing on the left side of the group. The colors Mohale has used for the woman’s face seem arbitrary, although I assume the highlights of green and red meant to be symboic. Hazardng a guess, I would speculate that healthy vegetative growth (green) is being threatened by the heat of the unremiting sun (red). But whatever Mohale may have intended for the colors to mean, they function to hold our attention, so we cannot just look away.
The work seems to me to be a companion piece not only to “Unprecedented Times,” but to Themba Kumalo’s “Waiting for Food Parcels,” as well, (posted on artbeyondquarantine on May 25, 2020). There, too, we see a long line of people, in this instance faceless, waiting for the deliveries that will alleviate desperate hunger and prevent starvation As Mohale has stated, access to clean water is critical, not only for hygiene during the pandemic, but for life itself. The suspense, or anxiety referred to in the work’s title, is generated by the lack of assurance that government vehicles will arrive with the needed water (or food) supplies. The life-threatening need for water is indicated by the dessicated landscape; clearly there are no local sources available. Our young woman, whose cropped short hair may be an indication of malnutrition, stares at the viewer as if to ask, “What will you do to help?” “State of Suspense” is thus a call to action.
Dr. E. Jensen Krige and J. D. Krige. 1943. The Realm of a Rain Queen. A Study of the Pattern of Lovedu
Society. (Published for the
International Institute of African Languages and Cultures. London, New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press.)