December 9, 2013 (Los Angeles, CA) – C.A.V.E. Gallery is pleased to present Ralph Ziman in the artist’s first solo show, Ghosts. Ziman, who is known locally for his Venice Beach murals, is a South African artist, photographer, filmmaker, and advocate emerging in the United States.
Ghosts will feature a series of photographs, sculptures and installations produced during the artist’s collaboration with Zimbabwean street vendors on a series of handmade replica AK-47s.
There will be an opening night party at the gallery, from 6-9:30 PM, with DJ Bu$RID3R spinning South African Kwaito music to celebrate the launch of this premier US exhibition from the artist. Proceeds from Ghosts will go to Human Rights Watch. Ziman’s work challenges the tragic cliché of our times; a war torn, violent Africa of militant and corrupt dictators, child soldiers, and unceasing civil wars fed by a growing international arms trade. Intrigued by the duality of terror and worship that firearms hold in African culture, Ziman approached artisans working in the streets of Johannesburg to commission the infamous AK-47 rendered in traditional Shona style beading. Originating as a side project while Ziman was directing Kite (the Samuel L. Jackson backed anime adapted film, starring Jackson, India Eisley and Callan McAuliffe, to be released internationally in 2014), Ghosts developed into a six-month collaboration and multidisciplinary exhibition. The resulting work of over 200 hand beaded and wire wrapped guns, incorporated in installations and photographs of the men posing with them, confront the complex socio-economic and political circumstances of the African arms trade—a multinational, multibillion-dollar industry that moves in one direction only—into Africa.
For Ziman, the series is platform to discuss the corruption, greed and influence of foreign world superpowers who, eager for a stake in Africa’s abundant natural resources, provide weapons to dictatorial governments in trade, and often to opposing factions as well, ensuring a perpetual cycle of war for generations. Political leaders, many who ascend from the military in bloody coups and freedom fights, pass their fervor for firearms on to their countrymen, where a black markets fuels a cultural climate that reveres automatic weapons as status symbols of power, authority, and self determination.
The street vendors who Ziman photographs with their crafted prop AKs required no direction in how to pose with them, brandishing their guns with the swagger of rebels and rappers, the image of weapon in hand is as synonymous as the pledge of allegiance. Crates of guns to be installed throughout the gallery and on walls, point to the unrelenting presence of guns flowing into African countries trading their natural bounty for body counts. Ghosts, in poignant and powerful imagery, aims to confront this cycle by building global awareness of the international arms trade that profits on the suffering and oppression of millions of Africans.