Must See Exhibitions this July
The month of July offers a selection of highly anticipated exhibitions at Africa’s leading art galleries. Here’s a list of some of the most exciting.
Dear History: It’s Not Me, It’s You
July 1 to 22
LKB/G Gallery, Germany is pleased to present Dear History: It’s Not Me, It’s You by South African artists Thania Petersen, Buhlebezwe Siwani and Grace Cross.
Dear History: It’s Not Me, It’s You is an exhibition about art as a powerful tool for reclaiming South Africa’s complex heritage, historical narratives and aesthetic imagery. Works are presented from a distinctly female perspective in an attempt to break, both physically and conceptually, from the loveless marriage between colonial past and patriarchal history. Excavating historic events and deeply subjective experiences, the exhibition aims to reinsert the lost chapters, forgotten heroes and unsung heroines of history that were erased by the colonial sneer.
Jack Bell Gallery
July 7 to 21
South African artist Bambo Sibiya will present Ubuntu Ngabantu at the Jack Bell Gallery, London. Rich stylistic detail and textures mark the artist’s linocuts and drypoint works, which seem to give insight into masculine identity and community on the streets of Johannesburg. Sibiya has found inspiration in the social realists – Hogarth’s social allegories, Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ and Diane Victor’s ‘Disasters of Peace’ – and has been strongly engaged with the theme of poverty in his local community, including the role of single mothers as heads of their households. In his current work, Sibiya has shifted his focus to the lifestyle that developed around migrant communities.
States of Emergence
July 8 to August 19
WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery, Johannesburg will unveil States of Emergence by South African artist Michele Mathison. Earth formations and the impact of human economic activity on the terrestrial landscape are at the heart of the artist’s new exhibition.
The extraction and transportation of gigantic shards of stone, across borders between neighbouring countries, a narrative that obliquely references Mathison’s countrymen and fellow sculptors. Although born in South Africa, the artist grew up in, and takes inspiration from Zimbabwe, with its rich history in stone sculpture.
States of Emergence is both a formalist study in materiality and an exploration of what stone sculpture means in a commoditised world. The works on exhibition have begun their lives as pieces of rock destined for reconstruction into everyday objects; counters, gravestones, and pavements. But the contrary use by the artist of domestic stone as fragments of high art lends them gravitas.
The Stedelijk Museum
July 8 to October 15
The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam will present a selection of photographic works from the series; ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’, ‘Faces and Phases’, and ‘Brave Beauties’ by South African artist Zanele Muholi.
From an insider position, Muholi photographs the black lesbian and transgender community in South Africa. Starting with her very first work, Only Half the Picture (2006), her arresting, powerful and sometimes witty images have focused eyes on a community that, while being constitutionally protected since 1996, remains at the risk of horrendous abuse, discrimination and ‘curative’ rape. Muholi says, “We’ve lost so many people to hate crimes… you never know if you’ll see someone again the next day.”
According to curator Hripsimé Visser, “Her self-portraits are profoundly confrontational yet witty, and searingly emotional, too. Through an inventive manipulation of props and lighting, Muholi creates historical, cultural and personally inspired versions of ‘blackness’. With this, she defies stereotypical images of the black woman and speaks to current debates about stigmatisation and stereotyping.”
Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness
July 14 to October 28
From July 14 to October 28, Autograph ABP, London will present Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, by South African artist Zanele Muholi. Taken primarily in Europe, North America and Africa, each portrait asks critical questions about social justice, human rights and contested representations of the black body. Muholi’s psychologically charged portraits are unapologetic in their directness as she explores different archetypes and personae, as well as offers personal reflections.
Somnyama Ngonyama playfully employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate contemporary identity politics. By increasing the contrast in the dark complexion of her skin, Muholi interrogates complex representations of beauty and desire. Gazing defiantly at the camera, she challenges the viewer’s perceptions while firmly asserting her cultural identity on her own terms; black, female, queer, African.
Hasan and Husain Essop
July 15 to August 19
South African artists Hasan and Husain Essop will unveil Refuge at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. The artists address the cultural conflicts surrounding questions of national belonging that have spawned from the Syrian refugee crisis.
From the perspective of young Muslims living in the Islamic diaspora, the Essops have produced new works that investigate mainstream media representations of the refugee crisis based on the perception that there is increasing misunderstanding and fear of Islam in the secular world.
The exhibition poses the question: ‘what constitutes refuge?’, presenting new works – photographs, sculptural installations and video – which consider the traumas of millions of individuals who have become collateral damage as a result of this devastating conflict.
The New Parthenon
July 20 to August 26
Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town is pleased to present The New Parthenon by African artists Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Simon Fujiwara, Meschac Gaba, Simon Gush, Moshekwa Langa, Nyakallo Maleke, Michelle Monareng, Thierry Oussou, Penny Siopis and Kemang Wa Lehulere. The exhibition will focus on the essay film and object-based installation as modes of speculative inquiry.
The essay form is used as a means to approach a series of formal and philosophical questions around images and the production of meaning. These questions are articulated within a broad field of materiality, including the essay film and installations that incorporate objects, as well as elements of photography, ephemera and performance. The movement between film and object speaks to the dual nature of practices that work with both the tangible and intangible aspects of images.
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