Nd au­then­tic­ity

Mail & Guardian - - Friday -

Gold­blatt, Dada Khany­isa, Nandipha Mn­tambo, Meleko Mok­gosi, Zanele Muholi and more, all of whom are rep­re­sented in this ex­hi­bi­tion. A show of this mag­ni­tude trig­gers a pro­found emo­tional re­sponse, by pure virtue of its as­ton­ish­ing scope.

When a show is large and pow­er­ful, it can be over­whelm­ing. One is al­ways fear­ful of hav­ing to con­front the pol­i­tics of hi­er­ar­chies (or per­ceived hi­er­ar­chies) of tech­niques, medi­ums and even hi­er­ar­chies as­signed to artists.

In this show, the vis­ual re­la­tion­ships and con­trasts be­tween each artist’s works are stark and di­rect. In the show’s Cape Town it­er­a­tion, Muholi’s in­ti­mate por­traits pull you in, and as you turn the cor­ner, Gold­blatt’s sharp pho­to­graphs doc­u­ment­ing apartheid South Africa call for your at­ten­tion. Both, and flirts with these pol­i­tics and there­fore opens up an in­trigu­ing con­ver­sa­tion.

We See Mama, Mummy and Mamma (Pre­de­ces­sor #2), an acrylic, pencil and char­coal work by Njideka Akun­y­ili Crosby, hangs in one cor­ner. Across the room is Ke­mang Wa Le­hulere’s in­stal­la­tion from his 2017 show, His­tory Will Break Your Heart. Although seem­ingly un­at­tached, both works force us to con­front ideas about col­lec­tive sto­ries, mem­o­ries and “at home­ness”’. They are made to con­verse with one an­other.

It is ques­tion­able, and hotly de­bated in many cir­cles, whether white gallery walls can ever be­come truly in­clu­sive and evolved. The ques­tion of whether they can be­come spa­ces that trans­form peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes hangs in the air. And yet within this ques­tion, and per­haps de­spite this ques­tion, when one sees the works of the likes of Muholi, one’s spirit lifts.

The Dark Li­on­ess, as she is fondly known in mul­ti­ple art spa­ces (a name in­her­ited af­ter her 2015 se­ries of self- por­trai­ture with the same name; Som­nyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Li­on­ess) pro­vokes, dis­rupts and com­forts from dif­fer­ing van­tage points.

The in­stal­la­tion view of the works span­ning from 2003 to 2017 is enough to in­spire — re­mind­ing you that the po­si­tion­ing of the work is not only about the po­tency of the im­ages but also what they rep­re­sent. With an en­tire room ded­i­cated to these works, the Dark Li­on­ess grabs you by the an­kles and re­fuses to let go.

Muholi’s in­ti­macy plays a game of con­trasts, both from a tech­ni­cal as­pect with the dark­ened im­ages from Som­nyama Ngonyama, and with the lyri­cal and com­mand­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion of les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der and in­ter­sex peo­ple in her on­go­ing project, Faces and Phases.

One is con­fronted with choices: How far or close should one stand?

The suc­cess of this show is un­der­pinned by its di­ver­sity, a pre­sen­ta­tion of a range of artists over a mul­ti­tude of me­dia and tech­niques. It is held to­gether by the strength of con­cepts rooted in very dense and par­tic­u­lar voices. Bold and strong voices like that of Ler­ato Shadi, who, in her video project Motl­haba wa re ke namile, per­forms the suicidal act of eat­ing soil — a form of re­sis­tance by slaves and an­ces­tors.

Mys­te­ri­ous voices such as that of Wangechi Mutu, who grap­ples with iden­tity and rep­re­sen­ta­tion in her mor­phed and vis­ceral col­lages, add to the ex­hi­bi­tion’s over­all feel. Con­fronta­tional and provoca­tive voices such as that of Co­hen, who, with his heart­break­ing med­i­ta­tion on loss and ab­sence in put your heart un­der your feet … and walk! asks deeply un­com­fort­able ques­tions.

Both, and re­minds vis­i­tors about the in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness of hu­man strug­gles. It is a wealth of di­verse nar­ra­tives dis­tilled into one show.

One feels a spark of recog­ni­tion some­where deep within — a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity with the work.

The show cap­tures one’s imag­i­na­tion and deep­ens the feel­ing of won­der and awe. Above all, it is a cel­e­bra­tion of nar­ra­tive hy­brid­ity, com­plex­ity and mul­ti­plic­ity.

Game of con­trasts: Pho­tog­ra­pher Zanele Muholi’s in­ti­mate por­traits have an ir­re­sistible pull

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.