Athenkosi Kwinana
Reimagining Albus
A Critical And Visual Response To Albinism In Contemporary South African Art

Black persons living with Albinism (PLWA) of all ages and gender are subjected to systemic violence and discrimination daily in South Africa. As a result, many live with the fear that they may be harmed, raped or abducted and killed for their body parts. In response, my artworks depict how more expansive representation of PLWA assists in creating greater awareness about Albinism. I challenge existing social prejudices and stigmatisation about PLWA through my art practice.

Reimagining Albus focuses on themes of the representation of the black (albinotic ) body in South African art, aspects regarding human rights and such notions of identity as self acceptance and self othering, related to PLWA. In creating my artworks, I referred to printmaking techniques by South African printmaker Diane Victor. I adopted artistic tropes used by South African visual activist Zanele Muholi such as the gaze and large sized artworks. I find both artists’ works
powerful in expressing their unique messages about marginalised communities.

In so doing, I have created my body of artworks through the use of drypoint and drawing. I have chosen to use both mediums due to their unique, and therapeutical nature. I use research based iconography and tropes that emit constructive messages, such as the use of bees, sunflowers, text and sage.

I have selected drawing as a secondary medium because it is a graphic medium, as a result this allows me as an artist to make graphic statements. My choice of large scale portraits incorporates the use of the gaze which emphasises the unique message underscoring each portrait respectively. It is easier for viewers like myself with vision impairment to view each artwork with ease. By creating close up imagery that emphasises the gaze, highlight notions of power, visibility and inclusion of PLWA as a way of drawing attention to their human rights.
The exhibition stimulates deeper awareness that can help address the lack of research, social justice, policies and practices relating to Albinism in South Africa. My work signals urgent challenges regarding the need for equality and inclusivity of PLWA in South Africa and Africa and the need to reimagine PLWA in the visual cultural, and educational sectors. The exhibition is held at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, on the 29th of January to the 25th of February 2022.

I have chosen to use this venue as my text and body of artworks focuses on challenging negative narratives concerning Albinism and PLWA, I chose Constitution Hill for my exhibition space due to its profound history and connotations of South Africa’s struggle for democracy. Importantly, the Constitutional Court, centred at Constitution Hill,80 symbolises the home of human rights for all South Africans, including PLWA. Since my research questions challenge the discrimination and violation of the human rights of PLWA, through visual representation, I believe that selecting the Number Four prison as an exhibition venue has a meaningful symbolic value. The venue appropriately complements and reinforces my research claims.