Brunn Kramer completed his Masters in Fine arts at Rhodes University in 2021 with the financial support of the National Research Foundation (NRF), SARChl research programme in Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa, and the Andrew W. Mellon and the Global Souths programme. He was born in 1994 and was raised in the karoo in a small town called Steytlerville. Kramer is an emerging artist who has participated in numerous group exhibitions all over South Africa, including the prestigious Turbine art fair. Brunn received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (cum laude) from Nelson Mandela University in 2017. He majored in painting and his watercolor portraits which explore the humanness of ex-prisoners were selected for Sasol New Signatures top 100 art competition in 2016 and 2017. His current research explores the intersection of personal experiences and identities, concerning depression.
“A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortunes inequality exhibits under the sun”
The natural disaster took place against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which itself continues to cause far-reaching social and economic distress. South Africa’s unemployment rate reached 34.9% in the Quarterly labor survey of 2021- the highest figure on record as continued lockdown restrictions and load-shedding and the July riots all impact jobs in the country. This work marks and narrates a journey experienced by many graduates, that is often overlooked, cameras stopped flashing, cheers and applause of crowds have become a silent murmur, smiles turned into frowns, and absolutely nothing, nothing can prepare you for the uncertainty and emotional turmoil that comes with being unemployed and in-dept. This is the future that many black and colored graduates face post-graduation. The National student financial aid scheme (NSFAS) was designed to specifically aid students that were affected by the Bantu Education Act, but in a pre-covid, war-stricken, ‘flooded’ South Africa it is institutionalized as a prison that holds black and colored students captive to dept after graduation. Incarcerated by traditionalist norms such as ‘black tax’ and taking care of the home- the ever-so-popularized social media caption of “being the first to graduate in a black/colored family” becomes meaningless as you look at your graduation photographs.
Emancipation narrates the trials and tribulations that most black/colored graduates endure after studying for years and receiving their qualifications. The work aims to address the ineffectiveness of NSFAS and how the system inherently adds to an increase in unemployment specifically amongst black/colored graduates- which in most cases where students aren’t awarded their certificates due to dept to a university, preventing them to apply for jobs. Displacement (Space-Body-Place) becomes a major focus as students from rural arrears are forced to learn and unlearn to adapt to the high rising walls of the city. A ghost-like figure towers above the highways and skyscrapers of the city, illogically mopping the streets. Senseless, meaningless, futile…useless- these are but a few emotions that incarcerate graduates when they cannot find jobs. Doing precarious work that doesn’t provide long-term sustainability and odd jobs to survive and provide food on the table- is the harsh reality for graduates. However, the message is clear, despite the challenges that we face, we shall overcome and rise above our circumstances. We are bigger than our dreams.