In Africanis, Mokgosi presents renderings of distinctly southern African breeds of dog, renderings of signs inextricably indexed to nationalist, colonial and post-colonial desires. Dogs and their breeding are so closely allied with developments in human society that they become a poignant way to tease out the political, emotional, and economic aspects of the legacies of colonialism. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred by colonialists to embody an “ideal” balance of European and African hunting dogs for use by the European settlers of sub-Saharan Africa. The Boerboel, an imposing mastiff, was bred by Afrikaner farmers expressly for guarding homesteads; they literally defended the colonial enterprise. The Africanis, disdained by European settlers for decades, has now been revered as an indigenous breed and dubbed “the dog of Africa,” inspiring the launch of societies to preserve it in the 1990s. Through these works, echoing the animals seen throughout the Pax Kaffraria project, the dogs become diachronic characters in the drama of southern African nationalisms.
Oil and charcoal on canvas, 96"x216"
Boerboel, Africanis, Rhodesian Ridgeback (Installation view, Honor Fraser), 2014
Charcoal on paper, 72"x130", 72"x216", 72"x130"