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Artists interrogate ‘Africanness’

Lizamore juxtapositions Ik ben een Afrikander & African Equations to extend the dialogue around sociopolitical cultural issues in South Africa.

Lizamore & Associates kick-off their 2016 exhibition calendar with two critical group exhibitions – Ik ben een Afrikander: the unequal conversation and African Equations. With the juxtapositioning of these two exhibitions, Lizamore aims to extend the dialogue around sociopolitical cultural issues in the current South African debate. These exhibitions open on 4 February 2016 at 18:00 with TBC as opening speaker.

“Being an “Afrikander” is not a simple task, and the complexity is evident in translating the word, as it has different meanings in different languages” says Mandy Rossouw, former Political Editor of the City Press. Simultaneously, the idea of being an ‘African’, living in Africa is one that resurfaces and always calls for re-interrogation. Africans (interrogating natives and settlers) alike, are finding themselves constantly [re]interrogating and [re]articulating what it means to inhabit the space that is Africa.

The curatorial narrative of Ik ben een Afrikander took as its cue the first person recorded (according to legend) to have identified himself as an Afrikaner, Hendrik Biebouw. In March 1707 he proclaimed “Ik ben een Afrikander”, when he was threatened with expulsion from the Cape as did not want to leave South Africa and his use of the phrase at the time was meant to claim his “Africanness”. Curator, Teresa, Lizamore, says about The Unequal Conversation: “When identifying artists for this show, we looked to significant names whose artistic practice would lend itself to this narrative. Looking at artists who have established important careers in South Africa, our list became very heavily weighted toward white male artists.”

This exhibition opens a dialogue between four white male artists, Strijdom van der Merwe, Hentie van der Merwe, Luan Nel and Jan van der Merwe, in conversation with one white female, Rosemarie Marriot and one black female artist, Senzeni Marasela, all of whom were born and came to maturity well prior to 1994. Their formative years, whether moving from childhood to adulthood, or as adults climbing the ladder of artistic success all coincide with the transition to democracy.

African Equations oscillates around issues of negotiating different, fragmented identities, questioning non-defined spaces and perhaps embracing their non-specificity. Explored through their own subjective narratives Noko Mello, Lwandiso Njara and Setlamorago Mashilo extend this critique to the parallel exhibition Ik ben een Afrikander: the unequal conversation in as far as interrogating what it means, as an African/Afrikaner, to belong in the contemporary African space?

Mello’s work invokes a metaphysical space off ancestry which saw him dwell temporarily ‘[in] between’ boyhood and manhood and subsequently rendered him ‘identity-less’ during that transitory phase. Mello’s work further foregrounds a tension between the ever modernizing Africa and the ethnic Africa. This tension takes new life, and is further evinced, in Njara’s sculptures which problematizes his negotiation between his Catholic education and his traditional upbringing. Njara treats these two polarities as binary opposites, which he does not necessarily seek to resolve but use them to construct a new emergent identity. Not in any way suggesting that identities are singular and fixed, but they could possibly be perceived to be multifaceted and fragmented. Setlamorago Mashilo isolates this very point as his work foregrounds the possibility of being ‘un-identifiable’ within the African terrain. For this artist the materiality of dwelling/belonging in Africa is both problematic and illusive to conceive.

Setlamorago Mashile exhibiting inside Lizamore Gallery
Setlamorago Mashile exhibiting inside Lizamore Gallery

These exhibitions open at 18h00 on Thursday 4 February and ends on 27 February

2015 at Lizamore & Associates, 155 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Rosebank. Please join us at the opening for drinks and live entertainment.

Gallery hours:
Tues – Fri 10h00 -17h00
Saturday 10h00 -15h00

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