Contemporary Art South Africa
One of the noteworthy artistic concentrations happening at this year’s Art Santa Fe is an exhibition by about a dozen South Africans. In early July, curator Mlondolozi Hempe told Pasatiempo that he would present works by 12, and perhaps 13, artists for the show Contemporary Art South Africa. He hoped all would be able to attend the opening but added that there are issues with visas.
The participating artists range in age from their 20s to their 70s. Some are veterans with long portfolios and many exhibitions, and a few of the youngest are still students. Some are self-taught, while others are at least partially indebted to formal art education.
Contemporary Art South Africa boasts a selection of paintings, photography, and mixed-media and sculptural works in subjects that include village life, urban scenes, social commentary, and traditional design — rendered both figuratively and via abstraction.
Hempe endeavored to come up with “a good mix to showcase a variety and to keep people’s interest so that they don’t just see the same type of art. Some pieces are more abstract so they bring a contemporary feel to it, then you get more of your realistic artists as well.” This is the third curatorial undertaking for Hempe, an artist working in furniture, fabrics, pottery, and wallpaper design.
Among the artists represented in the exhibit, Majolandile Dyalvane is unique for presenting a vessel — a colorfully decorated wooden pot. Dyalvane, born in a village in the Eastern Cape province, studied art and design at a technical college in Cape Town, and then earned a diploma in ceramics at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. “His inspiration is drawn from the traditional vessels that are used by a family, and then he abstracts them into a modern way of molding his clay,” Hempe said.
Collage artist Sam Nhlengethwa, born in a more urban context outside of Johannesburg, has typically worked with musical themes. “The disjuncture of fragmented montage images is the visual equivalent of the twisted harmonies and staccatos of jazz,” he says in an exhibition statement. His piece for Contemporary Art South Africa, however, appears to simply portray a pair of goats.
Slightly more confrontational are the paintings of Nelton Nigel Willemse, who hails from the arid Klein Karoo region in the Western Cape province. In his work, he references social issues having to do with employment and gender equality. Photographer Andrew Shabangu addresses the trials experienced by Africans moving from rural areas to cities. “Despite these challenges of poverty and living under extreme harsh conditions, ordinary Africans are still able to create a sense of community, belonging, identity, and optimism,” Shabangu says.
Mishack Raphalalani is a self-taught artist whose forebears worked with gold, copper, and iron, as well as carving wood. For his carved figures such as the one at Art Santa Fe, he works “to set free the imprisoned figure.”
An abstract painting by Daniel Rankadi Mosako appears to depict skyscrapers and floating grids and symbols. “I regard myself as an art journalist whose art pieces are like an open book that makes reference to key socio-economic issues throughout the world,” he says in an artist statement. In his paintings he references migration issues, and he employs “metaphoric representations of deserted buildings to portray general problems [and] vast population growths, as well as social conflict triggered by the quest for basic living turf and resources.”
Painter Pauline Mazibuko deals with the everyday struggles of women and children, who were routinely abused in her childhood community — although her own parents were loving and respectful to her and to each other, she says in her statement. “Most, if not all my art works, are a recollection of what I saw and experienced in my youth, of how I imagined the women/children felt, of their need to be seen and heard, their reason to go on another day, of how amidst the heartache and pain they experienced daily, they always found a way to smile, to love and be free.” — Paul Weideman
Vessel by Majolandile Dyalvane; above, painting by Avashoni Mainganye