black comrades allowed space in the broader economic machine. Comrades II and III operate in the same way, but Comrades V takes a departure in its portrayal of a seemingly innocent, idyllic township scene. What apprehends the viewer in this painting is the sheer idleness of the figures in it – the two men in conversation, the elderly woman at the window and a muscled young man at the door. The first four Comrades explore questions surrounding who has access to education, as much as whose education is perceived as superior and how these ideas inform how a post-independence African society shapes itself. Comrades V has porcelain dogs set in front of its cool blue background. These were ornaments common in most black households in the late 80s and early 90s. The dogs occupied a sacred place in my grandmother’s house. They were beautiful and fragile, and always seemed to stand guard.
Juxtaposing the image with that of the idyllic scene, one gets a sense of something worn out, tired and easy to break, as though the sinewy man at the door is an analogy of the porcelain dogs, and thus a vexing metaphor of the value of black life even in the democratic moment.
It is in the prosaic that Mokgosi finds the most insight into the anxiety and tension of society. And perhaps it is in the ordinary scenes of our lives that power, at its most violent, festers and finds relief. In these paintings, social despair is cloaked with light, leading one to ask whether what one aspires to as “normal” is actually not the complete inverse. The exhibition runs at Stevenson Cape
Town until February 27