Fly Machine/Mogaka (2018)

Info / Book / Sound Art / Installation

Context

On the 27th of April 2018, Major Cliff Manyuni, a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) pilot untimely met his death during a BDF Day rehearsal after steering a stricken fighter jet away from highly populated areas in Gaborone, thus saving many lives in the the process.

Although, BDF protocol and public affairs officials declined interviews on the tragedy that preceded the annual army celebrations on Saturday, his friends, colleagues and Batswana at large have hailed the deceased Major Cliff Manyuni a hero across all social media platforms.

Artist Statement

“Fly Machine” and “Mogaka”. Fly machine is a colloquial phrase used by Batswana to describe any object of aviation be it a jet, plane or helicopter. Mogaka is a Setswana translation of the word hero. The photography I employed in this book consists of photos taken of a diorama that I carefully constructed as well as photos from inside a large camera obscura where I manipulated light. Additionally, I used site specific photographs in relation to the exact locations where the pilot began to lose control of his aircraft and where he ultimately lost his life.

In this body of work, I aimed to explore the grey area between collective and personal memory as well as reality and imagination. Upon hearing this tragic news, I was immediately struck with a harsh reminder of my mortality and how quickly life can diminish. This book serves as a memorial and tribute to a man who sacrificed his life in a moment that required lightning quick decision making. In the practice of creating a book, I would like to slow time down to allow the viewer to ponder and appreciate the ultimate sacrifice made by this person for the greater good of his people.

Review

"It’s an enormous effort all round, for a young Motswana to come all the way to Cape Town, to study Fine Art at the world renowned, Michaelis. So when you approach the tiny, final-year offering by Thero Makepe, entitled Flying Machine, (Mogaka- Hero) you can literally feel his parents’ anxiety 2000kms away. All apprehension dissolves in seconds as you page through this heart rendering tribute to Major Cliff Manyuni, a pilot who sacrificed his own life, by crashing his malfunctioning aircraft away from a densely populated area, earlier this year. Makepe holds a simple stance of awe, for this true hero. The black leather-bound book of images, of children toy planes, sits atop its coffin-like box, and viewers are requested to wear white gloves reserved for pall bearers, while paging through the images. All the while, audio clips of the pilots’ last few seconds play from above. The images are dream like. Ethereal. Haunting... one feels the pain of martyrdom, and early passing. My favorite, is a melancholic image of dozens of paper planes, launched off Kgale Hill, a view spot overlooking the capital city Gaborone. A spot I have frequented hundreds of times. So Mr and Ms Makepe, your son has done incredibly well, if for no other reason than stopping us to pay respects for a hero- in a time when far too few abound." - Aldo Brincat, photographer and theatre practitioner