Art both playful and sombre

Wees Gegroet/Greetings by artist Bronwyn Katz.

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BY BILLY SUTER

ELEVEN young black women living and working in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Botswana, and devoted to performance art, installation, video art, photography and other media, have united to present a topical exhibition in Durban soon.

Titled iQhiya, which is also the name of the collective, the exhibition has been seen Athens, Greece, and in Kassel, Germany. It is scheduled to open at Durban’s park-side KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood on Wednesday, July 26, and run until August 13.

At the core of the group are shared personal and professional experiences that help shape each individual artist through various projects and exhibitions, says a spokesman.

iQhiya features work by Bonolo Kavula, Matlhogonolo Charity Kelapile, Bronwyn Katz, Matlhogonolo Pinky Mayeng, Thulile Gamedze, Lungiswa Gqunta, Asemahle Ntlonti, Thandiwe Msebenzi, Sethembile Msezane, Sisipho Ngodwana and Buhlebezwe Siwani. The artists have used a variety of media: digital, print and sculpture.

Their joint statement explains: “Our works speak individually and collectively about voids, tensions and histories; lingering between the materiality of everyday existence, and the imaginative, fantastical futures where one might be free.

“We have been working profoundly in our personal capacities, with each artwork speaking volumes individually and powerfully as a collective: probing and creating debates surrounding why, as black women, we only become relevant as a collective voice.”

The artists have emerged in a time where there are contested notions of the roles of gender and tradition within contemporary South Africa, where the centre of power is no longer solely defined by masculinity. As a set of emerging artists, they are determined to extend their practice to a broader audience, says a spokesman.

iQhiya – directly translated, meaning a head covering or headband – seems to equally reveal and conceal elements of black female-ness, the spokesman adds.

There is an intergenerational connection between those that wrap their heads – an ancient inequality that targets black women at the intersections of their race and gender – and this potent violence continues to unfold and unfurl in newer and more clever ways in the contemporary era, it is stated in a press release.

“We exist in a space of tension, which parallels that of iQhiya – a signifier of both strength and burden, with the daily realities we face as young black women. The practice of the collective, iQhiya, therefore, is gestural; it is an action that asserts our presence through articulating our own narratives.”

The work produced by the collective is said to be at once playful and sombre. It  tells stories of childhood, the future, and stories of the often veiled black female imagination.

The artists are to host a public walkabout, to enlighten interested parties about their work, at 9am on Thursday, July 27, and again at 9am on Saturday, July 29.

There will also be a KZNSA Lab Talk at 6pm on Thursday, July 27, with some of the exhibiting artists Qhiya would like to invite creative women to participate in this seminar at the KZNSA Gallery.

The seminar seeks to create a space of sharing, discussion and reflection, which advocates the engagement for women and their professional practice.

Through the creation of this space of visibility the seminar hopes to contribute to the empowerment of women voices, as well as to promote interdisciplinary networks between women.

The seminar will take the form of a fish bowl discussion and everyone will be free to contribute. An RSVP is essential for the Lab Talk. Phone 031 277 1705.


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