Intertwined 2005 – 2017

Intertwined 2005 – 2017

From May 24 to June 23, 2017, Johannes Stegman Art Gallery will present Intertwined 2005 – 2017 by South African artist Nomusa Makhubu.

The exhibition is a survey of Makhubu’s practice as a lens-based artist.  Through the medium of photography she explores issues of identity and particularly the sensitive issue of representation/self-representation. She has worked mainly with portraiture, performance and space-time politics.

Trading Lies series is a response to the Observatory Museum, Grahamstown’s dioramas.  These depiction of the lifestyle of an 1820 Settlers family, with a kitchen, bedroom, living room, study and children’s’ playroom are void of any context; which is Xhosa populated Eastern Cape Town. The inclusion of the self in the diorama is an interruption or contamination of the seemingly quiet settler life exhibited. The museum still exists today, as it did then, albeit as an island of history and a vacuum that keeps settler histories un-contaminated.

A selection of photographs from Trading Lies series were included in the 2010 traveling group exhibition No more bad girls? Curators Claudia Marion Stemberger and Kathrin Becker suggested that the exhibition opens up perspectives on contemporary women’s art praxis. These female artists no longer exclusively reflect on gender binarisms, but rather at the same time also reveal multiple identity categories such as life situations of migrants, social status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or ethnic origin. With a critical awareness of a hegemonic, white, canonic feminism, the exhibition uncovers alternative cartographies of a deconstruction of culturally-informed stereotypes of femininity which refer to heterogeneous and complex spatial contexts as locational affinities.

Self-Portrait Project alludes to the continued alienation and estrangement in an era where the focus is inclined toward self and individual identity as opposed to collective and communal life. One of the canonical meanings that Achille Mbembe (2002: 241) argues can be attributed to slavery and colonialism (as well as Apartheid) is dispossession, a process in which juridical and economic procedures have led to material expropriation. This series has been on exhibition yearly since its launch in 2007.

Inquietude began as a portrayal of the Vaal Triangle, an industrial area that lies south of Johannesburg. This project was based on interrogating notions of being in and out of place (Cresswell 1996), as well as histories of belonging and dispossession.

It was not until I moved to Grahamstown that I became aware of the Vaal’s brown horizon or the polluted air. I had by then become an outsider to this landscape. The window then for me became an important metaphor in that it symbolised the sense of distance that had formed in the way that I had experienced this landscape. Moreover, I no longer experienced this space as a coherent whole because I became aware of the inequalities created by those industries. The townships in the Vaal are diverse because people came from various parts of the country to work in the industries. What I had seen as diversity seemed to be fragmented narratives of dispossession. The broken windscreen therefore functions as a way of seeing.

The Flood produced in 2013 received deserved critical attention; it marked a departure in methodology, shifting from the personal to the public, from the performative to documenting. In 2015 she returned to an earlier practice of weaving two photographs into a unique work; she received her first award in 2006 with an entry of woven photographs. In Living Colour she brings two geographical locations in one pictorial space to question the assumed universality and objectivity of time and place.  It is this sense of ownership, or the loss thereof, that I would still like to explore.

Nomusa Makhubu was born 1984 and holds a bachelor, masters and post graduate degree in fine art from Rhodes University. She is an award-winning artist, academic and a full-time lecturer at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Makhubu’s works have featured in several exhibitions internationally including Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Permanent Collection, Berlin, Germany; Manoir de la Ville de Martigny, Permanent Collection, Martigny, Switzerland; Serenella and David Ciclitira, Private Collection, London; The Hood Museum of African Art, Permanent Collection, Dartmouth College, USA; and North-West University Gallery, Permanent Collection, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

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