As one of the Absa L’Atelier Ambassadors for 2019, Johannesburg-based Nkhensani Rihlampfu says that, with the award behind him, he feels like he can now take on the rest of the world.
In his winning Absa L’Atelier work, Nkhensani Rihlampfu introduces us to his universe of woven realities; a space in which actuality is entwined with the idealistic and notional ideas birthed by our society. He aims to expose the manipulation of communication through gesture and assumption.
By interacting with Rihlampfu’s fantastical figures, we are immersed in a reality founded on our perception of the world. The figures coax us to the belief of movement and mass, where there is none. We ‘feel’ the pressure and the weight of non-existent objects. The works exist in the overlapping margin between truth and ideology; it is in this space that we discover our identity and acknowledge the importance of communication. We are presented with familiar structures and recognisable characteristics, but never definitive facts. This orchestration by Rihlampfu encourages us to search for a new path to develop sturdy foundations for our communal evolution.
Of his work, Rihlampfu says, ‘I comment a lot on men and labourers and how much of our power actually rests on them, so it’s really a song of praise that I sing through these works.’ With the specific body of work entered into the Absa L’Atelier, entitled Land Intercessors, Rihlampfu says that he is also commenting on the current issues of land in South Africa. ‘My question is: “who does land belong to?” That’s one of the points I’m trying to make… it’s a challenge on current affairs and whoever is in power to really think about what they are doing, to make a grave decision on how this is going to end and how it is going to impact the rest of South Africa, or the rest of Africa in this case.’
Having grown up in Modimolle, Limpopo, where ‘there is very little art, if there even is any’ and not knowing that art was even a career option to being one of the Absa L’Atelier Ambassadors is huge. ‘I feel like new doors have opened and I’m just thinking of all the new possibilities,’ says Rihlampfu.
‘I feel like it gives you accreditation,’ he says. ‘It gives your clients, investors, buyers, the confidence to invest in your work as well. I’m just looking forward to the learning journey, to being exposed to different cultures and how different people make artworks. I can only grow from what I am now to what is going to come from these residencies. I’m just excited.
‘Thank you to the Absa L’Atelier for giving us artists such a wonderful platform. I believe they are doing a great job, they really are helping a lot of us out there and it’s something I couldn’t get on my own – the Paris residency and a touring exhibition take years to achieve.’
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