work essays

Work Essays, is series of five essay films produced between 2013 and 2016. Each film explores different aspects of ideologies of work as they manifest themselves within the South African landscape. The series is an attempt to understand the current state of work, how we think about work and how it in turn defines us.

M. Neelika Jayawardane writes about the series for Contemporary & in City of Labor


Sunday Light, 2013. HD video, stereo sound. Duration 13 min 14 sec.

Sunday Light, meditates on what it means to be in Johannesburg city centre on a Sunday. Johannesburg is considered the economic centre of Africa. The central business district is home to the banks, mining houses and numerous other industries that define the South African economy. However, the centre is seldom used outside of work. As one of its residents, I attempt to think through what it means to be there outside of working hours and how the use of the space changes on a day of non-work. Looking at how this might affect the identity of the city and, by extension, how identities might be shaped by our time away from work.

Iseeyou, 2013. HD video, stereo sound. Duration 13 min 52 sec.

The title of the film, Iseeyou, references the telegraphic address of the first multi-racial trade union in South Africa, ICU. The film is a study of the relationship of visibility and work. Exploring public monuments to work and workers in Johannesburg, it looks at how these have been celebrated in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa through public art. The film suggests that this celebration is a way in which the conditions of work is linked to the the promotion of a work ethic.

Calvin and Holiday, 2014. HD video, stereo sound. Duration 13 min 47 sec.

Calvin and Holiday, documents a trip to Geneva in search of Jean Calvin. His teachings were brought to South Africa by various colonisers, in particular the French Huguenots, and became the basis of the religious backbone of Apartheid, the NG Kerk. Interpreted through the racialized lens of Afrikaner nationalism, Calvinism may be seen to be lurking behind the system of labour, its organisation and distribution. The search for the presence of Calvin in Geneva is a way of thinking about South Africa. The film was shot while I was on holiday; a time of non-work.

Lazy Nigel, 2015. HD video, stereo sound. Duration 11 min 41 sec.

The film Lazy Nigel, explores the various ways in which work constructs our identities, alongside prevailing perceptions of work, including the ideological assertion that ‘work’ is morally ‘good’. Filmed in the small town of Nigel in the East Rand of Johannesburg, the images the landscapes of industrial complexes and factories devoid of employees, where the workers have returned to their distant homes and families on the weekend. But Lazy Nigel also reveals the everyday life and activity remains.

Without Light, 2016. HD video, stereo sound. Duration 13 min 14 sec.

Without Light, explores the links between work and light, electric and natural. Shot from the window of my home after-hours, the film looks at the way in which work and labour linger with us even after our jobs have ended.