Art and sexual relationships

Artist Simnikiwe Buhlungu is among those participating in the Mating Birds Vol 2 exhibition opening in Durban this month.


DURBAN’S KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood opens the year with a women-led exhibition, Mating Birds Vol 2, which is said to engage with art and documents dealing head-on with the effects of colonial and apartheid laws in South African contemporary sexual relationships

Scheduled to run at the park-side gallery from January 17 to February 10, the exhibition is curated by Gabi Ngcobo with Sumayya Menezes and Zinhle Khumalo.

Mating Birds Vol 2 is a curatorial essay that takes the late Lewis Nkosi’s novel, Mating Birds, as a starting point. The novel is used to visualise the troublesome histories associated with the Immorality Acts of the parliament of colonial and apartheid South Africa (Act No.5 of 1927, Act No. 23 of 1957, Act No. 57 of 1969),” says a spokesman.

“The effects of these acts are presented through the staging of an exhibition as an essay that draws on original artwork as well as reference material from art, literature, philosophy, legal documents, letters, newspaper clippings and exhibition catalogues, among other sources.

“The essay exposes how contemporary perspectives on sex, sexuality and sexual relationships have been shaped, contested or maintained.”

Local artist Lady Skollie.

Published in 1983/86, Nkosi’s novel is set in Durban’s segregated beaches and narrated by a black man awaiting execution for allegedly raping a white woman. The novel was equally critiqued and praised by many, including Henry Louis Gates jnr,  who remarked on how it “confronts boldly and imaginatively the strange interplay of bondage, desire and torture inherent in interracial sexual relationships within the South African prison house of apartheid” (New York Times, 1986) .

Meanwhile, South African writer Andre Brink (1935-2015) accused Nkosi of being fascinated with inter-racial sexual relations and of being guilty of “distortion and exaggeration”.

“Mating Birds Vol 2 uses the exhibition space to map the manner in which artists have intervened in the space of sexual politics. It also looks at how they continue to reshape the visual vocabulary of sexuality and sexual freedoms while questioning the way bodies are still impacted by the residual nature of repressing colonial and apartheid policies.”

The exhibition features artists Billie Zangewa, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Lady Skollie, Sabelo Mlangeni, Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Tracey Rose and Trevor Makhoba.

Reference materials are drawn from literature, including Bessie Head, Lebo Mashile, Lewis Nkosi, Makhosazana Xaba and Zakes Mda, as well philosophical texts, historical archives and other sources.

Gallery entry is free and all are welcome. A walkabout with the curators and participating artists is scheduled for 10am on Friday, January 18.

Mating Birds Vol 2 is made possible with funding from the Department of Arts and Culture.


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