Opening at The Bag Factory this June is 2021 Cassirer Welz Award winner Mpumelelo Buthelezi’s solo exhibition Ukuzihlukanisa, curated by Thlalefi Maditsi.
In Ukuzihlukanisa, Buthelezi explores ideas of self-reflection, identity and spirituality through black and white digital photographs. Through a series of self-portraits and portraits, he has produced a new body of work that takes inspiration from the isolation experienced during the national lockdown.
In the initial stages of the project, he used his bedroom as a studio to make the self-portraits, seen in the choice of props used by the artist: bubble wrap, tin foil, lace fabric, bed sheets and other materials found in a home. The images attempt to depict the meditative state of the artist when he started to wonder about the biblical concept of an angel and how he could elevate himself spiritually to attain the level of divinity and purity described in the holy book. As the process developed, Mpumelelo invited his friends to participate in the act of image-making, reflecting a need for companionship drawn from his inclusion of others in this introspective work.
Ukuzihlukanisa also asks viewers to consider a time when man (human) as described in the bible was holy and without sin. Could this be Buthelezi’s way of coping with the isolation and the global pandemic that exposed the true nature of man? In essence, this work is about what it means to be human. An existential question that most people grapple with, even more so during the isolation of quarantine implemented during the first national lockdown. Buthelezi came face to face with the precariousness of (Black) life and in turn sought aid from what he perceived as an entity beyond the self.
Ukuzihlukanisa runs from 4 – 30 June at the Bag Factory. A walkabout of the exhibition will take place on Saturday 18 June at 11:00.