The group exhibition’s inventive curation shows the connection between artists despite Covid-19 lockdown isolation, and turns artists into co-collaborators as well as participants.
Double Up! is a group exhibition at Durban’s KZNSA gallery that is centred on the Covid-19 pandemic and the various issues that emerged during the core of lockdown in the world and in our country.
The exhibition explores the concept of a ‘support bubble’ that emerged during the nationwide lockdown, and is a response to local artists who were greatly affected by the lockdown, and closely looks at how artistic community and practice can be re-imagined during the pandemic. This exhibition echoes the need for support in art communities and broader society for issues like stress, economic struggles, depression, and unemployment which affected many creatives during South Africa’s lockdown.
The premise of Double Up! sees five artists – Selloane Moeti, Alka Dass, Nivesh Rawatlal, Simanga Zondo, and Zama Ntshangase – being invited to exhibit their work at the gallery, and each subsequently inviting another artist to exhibit their work alongside. These artists were Gift Banda, Laylaa Jacobs, Thembi Mthembu, Zweli Radebe, and Makhosi Ntshangase. In this way, a support circle of exhibiting artists is created.
Thembi Mthembu, Enye impilo
Nivesh Rawatlal, painting and mural installation, 2021 PHOTO Ncumisa Mcitwa
Speaking to Creative Feel, Zinhle Khumalo, co-curator of the exhibition says that on a curatorial level ‘we didn’t interfere with who the artist chose. When they chose them, we didn’t know what kind of work they did but we went with blind faith that we know that the artist would not choose someone who does not deserve to be on this platform.’ This adaptable curatorial practice led to outstanding results and a powerful exhibition. This approach also led to the artists being co-collaborators, rather than solely being group show participants.
Khumalo continues, saying that the exhibition ‘stayed true to the time we are living in as society and artists because of the pandemic. This reflected how living through the pandemic affected artists and how they managed being motivated, active, and making more works.’ The pandemic has changed the way things are done by creative people and creative spaces, and by using the new language and practice of a ‘social bubble’, the exhibition reflects this.
Listen as co-curator Zinhle Khumalo talks about the meaning behind the exhibition, its name, the influence and impact that Covid-19 had and more.
The synergy between invited artists and chosen artists was strong. The collaboration between Selloane Moeti and Gift Banda highlights this.
Moeti says that Banda was an artist she was already collaborating with during the Covid-19 lockdown. ‘I collaborated with him ever since the beginnings of Covid-19. We both were seeking guidance and inspiration from the feeling or emotion at the space of that time.’
When interviewed, Banda pointed to their admiration of Moeti’s work. ‘Selloane is an extraordinary artist whose work speaks directly to the soul. Through the use of vibrant colours and ibovu [her work] narrates untold stories that resonate with many people. Her ability and experience permeated in her artworks.’ The feeling is mutual, with Moeti saying that ‘Gift’s work has an imaginative portrayal of freedom and nostalgic response to our society. He is able to stop time for a second and allow us as viewers to empathise and engage with the environment and figures.’
There is a strong theme running through Moeti and Banda’s practice, with Banda’s work looking at the idea of losing and finding oneself through processes of self-discovery. Moeti’s work looks at communal acts of meaning-making and healing through ukuphahla and prayer.
Selleane Moete, clay and oil paint on canvas, 2020 PHOTO Ncumisa Mcitwa
Listen to Selleane Moete’s reflection as the artist/collaborator.
These similarities of subject matter and medium are seen in all ten artists’ works. There is an interesting conversation and contrast between the works of the original artists and the invited ones. The closeness and placement of these twin bodies of work also signaled who engaged with who, how one artist has supported another, or what kind of connection they have as artists. The ideas of artistic community and support, despite the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, were re-imagined with Double Up!, and local artists are all the better for it.