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All Things Being Equal…

The Must-See Shows in South Africa This Week

Zanele Muholi, Yaya Mavundla II, Parktown, Johannesburg (2017) © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York

BY Antwaun Sargent
critic and writer

In Must See

Much of the art world flocked to Africa for the opening of the largest contemporary art museum on the continent, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town. Designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, the founding collection of the museum is on life-time loan from the German businessman and former CEO of Puma, Jochen Zeitz.

The 12 inaugural shows range from the group exhibition “All Things Being Equal…” which features work by African artists of international renown such as El Anatsui and William Kentridge, to “States of Grace”, which includes a powerful performance by emerging South African artist Gabrielle Goliath.

In addition to the museum, here are several must-see exhibitions in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Kudzanai Chiurai, “We Live in Silence”, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Installation view of Kudzunai Chiurai, “We Live in Silence” at Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg (31 August-14 October 2017). Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

During the 10th anniversary weekend of the Joburg Art Fair, one of South Africa’s oldest contemporary art spaces—Goodman Gallery—opened a solo exhibition by the Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai entitled “We Live in Silence”.

The cinematic photographs, paintings, drawings and installation work on show comprise the final show in a three-part series that included Revelations (2011) and Genesis (Je n’isi isi) (2016), all seeking to disrupt the institutions—governmental, financial, religious—that Africa inherited from colonialism.

Inspired by Mauritanian film-maker Med Hondo’s 1967 drama Soleil Ô, images like, We Live in Silence XI (2017) seek to reshape what the artist calls “colonial futures”.

In Chiurai’s picture, a young black woman takes the posture of a would-be African leader at a  press conference. Wearing a cheetah-print jacket before a row of microphones and jabbing her finger into the air, she is silent no more.

Chiurai, who also has an early career survey on show at Zeitz MOCAA entitled “Regarding the Ease of Others”, is considered of the emerging stars of African art. His vision of empowerment is not to be missed.

“You & I”, A4 Arts Foundation, Cape Town

Exhibition view of “You and I”, curated by Ziphozenkosi Dayile and Kemang Wa Lehulere. Photo credit: Kyle Morland

The recently opened, A4 Arts Foundation is a public arts center created by the Guggenheim Museum board President —and avid South African collector—Wendy Fisher, whose intentions are to support artistic inquiry in Cape Town.

The non-profit art foundation, which hosts an expansive multimedia library; a research archive drawn from Fisher’s vast collection and a white-cube gallery space, opened with “You & I”, on the theme of collective unity.

Organized by curators Ziphozenkosi Dayile and Kemang wa Lehulere, the exhibition opens with Glenn Ligon’s Give Us a Poem (Palindrome #2) (2007), an edition of the Me/We wall sculpture that also greets visitors at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Other artists include the late Malian social photographer, Malick Sidibé, Haroon Gunn-Salie and Eija-Liisa Ahtila.

Zanele Muholi, Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town

Zanele Muholi, Phila I, Parktown (2016) © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York

Today, when we think of contemporary African photography, Zanele Muholi’s arresting images of LGBTQI+ people living in South Africa are not far from our minds. For the first time in five years, at Stevenson gallery in Cape Town, the photographer who mixes—with rare power—her activism into her documentary photography and self-portraiture has mounted an exhibition of two bodies of work.

The series Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail, the Dark Lioness) confronts the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive through self-portraiture and Brave Beauties, a photo-essay that sees Muholi documenting with her camera the life of trans women in South Africa. For the exhibition Muholi turns the gallery into a social sculpture, where on a back wall, visitors are encouraged to pen their feelings and support for trans women. The show is a testament to the power of art.

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