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Kenneth Shandu’s solo exhibition unpacks the lived realities of smallholder farmers

Currently on at The Bag Factory is Azilime ziyetsheni a solo exhibition by Durban-based contemporary artist, Kenneth Shandu.

Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Umkhulu, Dry point print on paper, 2021. 20 x 15 cm
Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Queen of the garden, Dry point print on paper, 2020_43 x 31 cm
Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Ugogo, Dry point print on paper, 2021_20 x 15 cm
Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Horizon, charcoal on paper, 2021. 143 x 40 cm

The exhibition, curated by Rohini Amratlal, is a visual exploration inspired by what Shandu observes as the everyday experiences of smallholder farmers, of the community from KwaSokhulu in the North coast of KwaZulu Natal. Azilime ziyetsheni is a Zulu expression that speaks of taking the necessary steps to break through difficult situations. Likened to the difficulty a cow endures to plough through the soil, the title of this exhibition questions the way in which one can push or pull oneself out of the circumstances that challenge them the most. Shandu’s mother is also one of the smallholder farmers who uses farming as a means to provide for her family.

Kenneth Shandu, mourning, Charcoal on paper, 2020. 140 x 110 cm
Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Asiyeni (Lets go for it), Charcoal on paper, 2022. 150 x 40 cm each
Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Empty promises, Charcoal on paper, 2020. 140 x 115 cm

Through sculpture, drawings, and prints, Shandu uses the garden hoe as a metaphor for hard labour and critiques the relationship between money and the introduction of new technology in agriculture, as an observation of the continual marginalisation of small Black farmers. In Shandu’s view, the adaption of new technology for the development of farming is a major challenge as traditional ways of farming become obsolete. Shandu places his focus on the socioeconomic realities of farmers who do not have access to new technology in agriculture.

Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Izizukulwane, wood and garden tools, 2022. 280 x 200 x 180 cm (detail 2)
Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Izizukulwane, wood and garden tools, 2022. 280 x 200 x 180 cm
Kenneth Shandu Bag Factory exhibition Joburg
Kenneth Shandu, Izizukulwane, wood and garden tools, 2022. 280 x 200 x 180 cm (detail 1)

The exhibition aims to address a series of critical questions about the lived experiences of marginalised farmers, and how these experiences talk to our democratic situated-ness. He seeks to provide hope and acknowledge the traditional methods of farming which still benefits smallholder farmers today. Through his practice he asks if there are any improvements for the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in post-apartheid South Africa.

On Saturday 21 May at 11:00, Shandu will host a walkabout at Bag Factory, 10 Mahlathini Street. The exhibition closes on 28 May 2022.

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