Cu­rat­ing the hu­man con­di­tion

Young Jozi artist puts xeno­pho­bia un­der her artis­tic lens, writes Bonginkosi Nti­wane

The Times (South Africa) - - ART -

IN HER last ex­hi­bi­tion, artist and cu­ra­tor Mbali Tsha­bal­ala was in­spired by the mon­ster that is xeno­pho­bia. She fo­cused on the com­mon­al­i­ties of both the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors in her art ‘‘books”.

‘‘I wanted to cre­ate open books that de­picted our sim­i­lar­i­ties as peo­ple. Every­one is a for­eigner some­where; hu­mans have been mi­grat­ing from the be­gin­ning of time and the place you call home was once an­other’s home.

“It’s not enough to tol­er­ate each other. It’s im­por­tant we ac­tu­ally learn how to treat each other as hu­mans,” says Tsha­bal­ala.

The 29-year-old from Malvern, in the east of Jo­han­nes­burg, ad­mits to be­ing a print­maker at heart but works mostly in sculp­tural glass and ce­ram­ics.

She be­gan print­mak­ing at a com­mu­nity art cen­tre in Klip­town, Soweto, in 2011 and then started dark­room photography un­der the men­tor­ship of Vic­tor Matom and the late Du­misani Mabaso.

To­day Tsha­bal­ala has over 20 group ex­hi­bi­tions un­der her belt as an artist.

For the ex­hi­bi­tion, ti­tled An African Anec­dote, hosted at Al­liance Fran­caise de Pre­to­ria, she used art books to con­vey her ideas.

‘‘I work in the for­mat of books as a metaphor for in­di­vid­ual nar­ra­tives joined to­gether by the fact that we’re all es­sen­tially just par­ti­cles in a con­tin­u­ously chang­ing or­gan­ism.

“When an or­gan­ism fights it­self we call it can­cer­ous. I ques­tion the no­tion that the hu­man race is a can­cer. The works look like par­ti­cles of mat­ter un­der a mi­cro­scope or a view of earth from space,” she says.

Tsha­bal­ala hopes her work en­cour­ages a cul­ture of ubuntu.

‘‘The sub­ject mat­ter is based on the ‘isms’ that sep­a­rate us and hu­man re­la­tion­ships. The theme of my cur­rent work is hu­man mi­gra­tions. There’s a lot of in­tol­er­ance in our so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing xeno­pho­bia and racism.

“We for­get that every­one is a for­eigner some­where,” she says.

‘ We’re par­ti­cles in a con­tin­u­ously chang­ing or­gan­ism

Tsha­bal­ala is cur­rently com­plet­ing her BTech in Fine Arts at the Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

Ear­lier this year she at­tended the Paris Art Fair, which had a fo­cus on African art.

‘‘It was very im­por­tant for me to be there as a cu­ra­tor be­cause the Paris Art Fair is one of the most prom­i­nent art fairs in the world along­side Tokyo Art Fair and Lon­don Art Fair.

“I wanted to see how con­tem­po­rary African artists han­dle African is­sues and present them to the pub­lic.”

Tsha­bal­ala has cu­rated quite a few ex­hi­bi­tions.

She says she re­alised in var­sity that the art in­dus­try needed pro­fes­sional cu­ra­tors and be­ing an artist wasn’t enough for her.

‘‘I also want to cre­ate plat­forms for young fe­male artists to ex­per­i­ment and show their work to the pub­lic without be­ing afraid that the work we pro­duce here doesn’t fit into pre­con­cep­tions of con­tem­po­rary art.”

This is the rea­son why she is launch­ing her own gallery, Anec­dotes, which opens its doors tonight at 1 Eloff Street, Jo­han­nes­burg.

‘‘It’s open­ing with a group ex­hi­bi­tion of five artists,” she says.

The of­fi­cial open­ing will fea­ture an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled Au­gust House with works by Di­ane Vic­tor, Themba Khu­malo, An­drew Kayser, Benon Lu­taay and other artists from Au­gust House — an in­dus­trial build­ing from the 1940s con­verted into a net­work of liv­ing and work­ing spa­ces for artists.

The build­ing houses 16 artist stu­dios, a sewing fac­tory and a group of res­i­dents who all work in the cre­ative in­dus­tries.

‘‘The ex­hi­bi­tion pays homage to the artists and the build­ing it­self.” Tsha­bal­ala be­lieves that there’s never been a bet­ter time to be a black African fe­male artist.

‘‘The play­ing fields are be­ing lev­elled and the art world is con­tin­u­ously be­ing mon­i­tored to help fe­male artists thrive if they’re will­ing to put in the work,” Tsha­bal­ala says.

IN THE FOLD: A work from the African Anec­dotes ex­hi­bi­tion

CON­NECT: Jo­han­nes­burg gallery owner Mbali Tsha­bal­ala

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.