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Indepth Arts News:

"Exhibitions by Zwelethu Mthethwa, Zamani Makhanya, Gabisile Ngcobo"
2002-12-02 until 2003-01-03
Association for Visual Arts
Cape Town, , ZA South Africa

The Association For Visual Arts (AVA), 35 Church Street, Cape Town, is hosting three exhibitions. In both downstairs galleries Zwelethu Mthethwa is holding his first solo exhibition in Cape Town for more than a decade, while upstairs in the Artsstrip Zamani Makhanya and Gabisile Ngcobo, from Kwa-Zulu Natal, are holding a joint exhibition of new works. Both shows run until Friday, 3 January 2003.

Zwelethu Mthethwa, born in 1960 in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, has a Diploma and an Advanced Diploma in Fine Art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. As a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship he studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the USA, from which he graduated with a Masters in Imaging Arts in 1989. On his return to South Africa he worked for several years in commerce and then, in 1994, began lecturing in Photography and Drawing at the Michaelis School until his resignation in 1999 owing to pressure from a very tight international traveling schedule. Mthethwa is now a full-time artist who lives and works in Cape Town.

Mthethwa began exhibiting in the mid 1980s and has since exhibited on scores of group exhibitions, in Africa, the USA (widely, in many states), South America, the UK, Europe (extensively in numerous countries), South Korea, Korea, Scandinavia, Japan and Australia. He has held numerous solo exhibitions in South Africa, Italy (several cities), Switzerland, the USA (widely), Germany (several cities), France, Spain, and in New York City at the Jack Shainman Gallery in 2000 (and again in 2003). The 1990s witnessed a huge surge in Mthethwa’S art career and he continues to be invited to participate in international exhibitions, traveling blockbuster shows, such as "The Short Century" (2001/2) "The Gift"(2001/2), "TRADE – Wares, Ways and Values in World Trade Today" (2001/2), and in biennales, including the Johannesburg Biennale (1997) and the Dakar Biennale (2000, 1998).

His work is represented in most major public and corporate art collections in South Africa, including the South African National Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Durban Art Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum, Tatham Art Gallery, the Universities of the Witwatersrand, of Stellenbosch and of South Africa, Sanlam, Transnet, Gencor, JSE, ABSA, SA Reserve Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Boland Bank PKS, MTN, Vodacom, Siemens, SA Breweries, Wooltru, Old Mutual, Metropolitan, Herdboys; and abroad in the Smithsonian Museum (USA), ARCO Foundation (Spain), Bouwond (Holland), Kunsthalle Hamburg (Germany), LA County Museum (USA), Samuel Harn Museum, Florida (USA); and in countless private collections world-wide.

His creative work has received both national and international recognition and earned him several prizes, which include the City of Abidjan Prize at the Abidjan Biennale in 1993, Bertrams VO Award for its national competition in 1993, and various nominations, including one for the First National Bank Vita Award. His work is the subject of a wide range of catalogue, art magazine, art book and monographic articles internationally, especially Flash Art, Artforum, Artnews, Art In America and the New Yorker.

Zwelethu Mthethwa's subject is the living conditions and experiences of the migrant who comes from rural areas to the city to seek employment in the industrial centers of South Africa: people in a metropolitan environment constantly confronted by the everyday domestic issues which result from socio-economic and educational problems. His theme addresses the cultural disorientation of migrants in their search for survival as they create new homes for themselves, recycling materials such as wood, corrugated iron, plastic sheeting and cardboard for shelter. He captures his subjects in the interiors of their dwellings which they have decorated with ‘commercial’ wallpaper and discarded consumer products.

"In Mthethwa's images the colour seduces and engages us on a visceral level. Rather than concealing poverty with a romantic narrative, his intense colour, with its dramatic vividness, adds a dimension of celebration, while bearing witness to the ghetto anxiety."

Says Mthethwa: "Art in our day is not really done for art’s sake; it questions issues related to global processes such as urban industrialization, contemporary cultures, identity crisis, gender, race and social imbalances."

While Mthethwa's work attempts to bridge cultural gaps, it nevertheless acts as an emotional barometer, capturing the dignity and pride of "township" dwellers living out the quotidian drama of life in Africa – fetching water, reading newspapers, telling stories, drinking beer in shebeens, leaving home, slaughtering goats and celebrating rites of passage in the new millennium.

Upstairs in the Artsstrip, Zamani Makhanya and Gabisile Ngcobo are holding a joint exhibition of their latest works. Zamani Makhanya was born in Durban in 1959. He holds a B A (Fine Arts) and an Honours (1984) from the University of Fort Hare, as well as a Higher Education Diploma (1985). He worked as a lecturer in the Department of Education and Culture at the Ntuzuma College of Education in Durban from 1986 to 1999, was a co-founder of the Natal Visual Art Organization where he held the chair, as with the Community Building Institute where he worked as Director of Programmes. He was twice the award winner at the Festival of African Arts at the University of Zululand (1983/ 4) and was a finalist in the recent Sanlam Art of Investment in 2002. He has been exhibiting in Durban since 1989, mostly at the NSA, the Durban Art Gallery and at the BAT Centre.

Makhanya says: " I work mainly in oil pastels on paper and mixed media on canvas. I like to use forms, colour and shapes symbolically to tell African stories of the past and the present in order to sensitize people as to who they are. The use of African symbols continues an ancient African dialogue, since they connect the present with the past for a current dialogue to inform the future."

Gabisile Ngcobo was born in 1974. She has a BA Fine Arts from the University of Durban Westville (1996). She has been involved in community work as a facilitator (Mental Health Awareness workshop 2001), (Love Life project 2001); as a workshop co-ordinator (Ethwekeni 2001), (an all women’s art workshop for Women’s Day celebrations 2002) and as a committee member (Thupelo International workshop 2001) since 1995. She was a founder member of 3rd Eye Vision, a Durban-based artists’ group whose main aim is the bringing of artists of all disciplines into one coherent whole so as to create change through strength and variety.

Ngcobo has participated in residencies at the Fordsburg Artists’ Studios in Johannesburg in 2000, at Greatmore Studios in Cape Town in 2001 and at the Caversham Press in Howick in 2002.

She has been exhibiting since 1996 mostly in Durban, but also in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Germany and Denmark.

Ngcobo says: "I’m inspired by the search for identity that most Africans are looking for. I am an African woman and believe in African Feminism which is different from European Feminism and African American Womanism in that it looks at the situation of African women living on the African continent. The call for an African Renaissance by President Thabo Mbeki has inspired a search for a deeper understanding of who we were, who we are and who we want to become, looking back so we can go forward."


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