Seeking to more fully explore the artistic practices of emerging and established artists working both locally and abroad, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair introduced 'SOLO' - a selection of solo presentations, with this edition curated by Nontobeko Ntombela.
In its first iteration, 'SOLO' is dedicated to women artists only - at once offering different perspectives on the wide-spread socio-political issues women face, and highlighting their significant contribution to the art world.
ART AFRICA spoke with these artists to learn more about their art-making practice, and the conceptual narratives behind their work.
Keyezua, Fortia #11, 2017. Masks designed and handmade by artist & six men with physical disabilities. Courtesy of the artist & MOV'ART Gallery.
Keyezua's work focuses on breaking the stigmatised image of Africa, where the creation of individual stories - movies, photographs, paintings, poems and sculptures - explore the rebirth of a continent.
Your work deals with the stereotypes associated with Africa and the global 'image' of prejudice it has received from history and media. How do you go about conceptualising a 'new' image of Africa, and would you say that a multidisciplinary approach to art-making best communicates this?
I decided to focus on the things that make me feel uncomfortable as a black woman, and as an 'African'. To be quiet about stereotypes that are an attack to my existence, makes me feel like a contributor to Africa as the 'Hopeless Continent'.
Through the years, as an artist I found that each emotion requires the authenticity and fearless decision to try different techniques and become a multidisciplinary artist. I am currently living and working in Luanda, Angola, where my body movements, sounds, shapes, nature, colours, skin and the history of the country does not permit me to not want to challenge myself - to see what happens when we explore unknown and unexplored mediums. I don't like to feel too comfortable in my choices of artistic mediums and materials. My art has been communicating through different shapes, mediums and emotions that requires the freedom to use any approach. Some results of it might be misunderstood, but this is how I see art. It is there to make noise, and a lot of good noise!
There is no best approach to talk about a continent that has this much to offer -the history of Africa requires from each creative the need to use any medium to genuinely talk about Africa and the rest of the world.
Kimathi Mafafo, Solitude I, 2017. Embroidered Panel, 55 x 40cm. Courtesy of the artist & EBONY.
Working primarily with oil paint on canvas, Kimathi has recently introduced embroidery into her spectrum, and continues to create luscious green environments with both intensity and attention to detail.
Your style is reminiscent of 17th century artworks depicting lounging women in lush nature. Unlike the classics, the black female form is highlighted. What influences you in creating these escapist scenes that are simultaneously representative of African and Classic European Art?
What influences me are the stories I hear of women who are not being given a voice or leadership roles in the broader community. I chose the black woman as a symbol of all women who are left in the dark. These escapist scenes are a representation of a modern man who still defines what a woman is, in the broader community imposingold traditions.
I find myself blessed that I was born to a family of artists - now I can use my paintings and embroidery as a voice to express myself. I have also discovered that while creating these escapist scenes, I find comfort and a space to escape from my day-to-day activities.
The Classic European art in my paintings is also an influence from my childhood memories of visiting the William Humphreys Museum in Kimberly.
Ingrid Bolton, Layered landscape I, 2017. Various metal cables, metal box, 15x15xvariable cm. Courtesy of the artist & Berman Contemporary.
Finding inspiration in the deconstruction of copper cables, Ingrid seeks connection and reconnection in her work, and creates an entirely new object - transforming scrap into art.
You primarily work with discarded cables - in your art, copper stands as a metaphor for systems of connectivity. How does this process of deconstruction inform your artistic themes?
The process of deconstruction starts with the separation of cables from each other in the metal junk yards. Finding the right cable to work with that will, when re-assembled, become something entirely different. Each cable is made up of many individual strands of cable with the purpose of making a connection. It is in the reconnection or reconstruction that my art comes together. These connections are sometimes random, and often deliberate. They connect to each other once again becoming a whole - but now quite unlike its original form.
My interest lies not only in the breaking down to individually examine the detail, but also to show how in life, everything
is connected. How, when I consider the interior view of the cables, there is another quite dissimilar picture presented. As in life I try to look beyond the surface and find the particular feature of what I am working with. The combination of these new surfaces, linking together, are transformed from junk into an artwork.
Buhlebezwe Siwani, IVUMBA, 2016. Inkjet on Epson Hot Press Natural. 100 x 100 cm. Edition of 4 + 1 AP. Courtesy of the artist & WHATIFTHEOWORLD Cape Town/Johannesburg.
Working in performance, photography, sculpture, and installation, Buhlebezwe focuses her work at dismantling the patriarchal framing of the black female body, and the black female experience, within the South African context.
Working predominantly within performance and installation, you often use videos and stills as a stand-in for your body - which is physically absent from these specific spaces. What is the significance of both presentations of yourself and your body - the physically present, and alternatively the re-presentation? Additionally, how will you present your work for 'SOLO', and why?
The body is never completely absent, the subject is always wafting or lives in other realms, that is the purpose of some of the work I make. According to your question, I am physically present and then re-represent my body, to me, it is one in the same. The body occupies other spaces that are not seemingly tangible as the ancestors do. In that way, I am able to speak about the presence that is actually absent in the space, because while I am not there, I still am.
For 'SOLO', I will be presenting some new work and some "old" work, I do not believe that any work cannot be site specific, even a curated group exhibition is site specific. One may be able to take old pieces of work and put them in a different space, do you not have to think about how the space speaks to the work? Work begins with site specificity, whether it is old or new, space must always be considered, thus all work is essentially site specific.
Renee Cox, Eve, 330.2 × 259.1 cm. Courtesy of the artist & Amar Gallery.
One of the most controversial artists working today, Renee Cox is an African-American photographer who uses her body - both nude and clothed - to celebrate black womanhood and critique a society that she often views as both racist and sexist.
You have been named an iconoclast, and are arguably the most influential black photographer working today - known for your fearless and iconic images. Participating in SOLO at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, what are your thoughts around the work emerging from Africa today, and where do you think fairs - such as the ICTAF - stand in the global scheme of things?
The Cape Town Art Fair definitely seems like a good idea to bring artists , producers and collectors together under one roof in a concentrated effort to see what's happening on the continent and abroad. This can only be a good thing exposure exposure exposure.. It is the responsibility of the artist and dealers to make sure the artwork is shown in a venue where Its educational inspiring a new group of young artists and also can create business opportunities (i.e. sales) in order for the Artist to thrive.