Goodman Gallery Johannesburg proudly presents Thresholds, a solo exhibition by internationally acclaimed, South African–born Moshekwa Langa.
Born in 1975 in Bakenberg, Limpopo, Langa left home at age 13 and returns now as an observer, an artist and a cartographer of geographical and psychological history. Thresholds is an intimate document of how past informs present, which in turn informs future; the contrast of a modern man observing the traditional rituals of his birthplace.
Thresholds is a photographic and film installation that documents the graduation from initiation rights in the Harmansdal village in Limpopo.
The exhibition is made up of three bodies of work: men’s graduation, women’s graduation and the unveiling of a gravestone. These rites are a point of orientation in a broad story and passage. They situate the viewer and the artist in a biographical history, both personal and collective.
As a young child growing up in the area Langa was afraid of these rituals. He grew up in a house with 14 children and everyone went through the rituals except him because he left to live in Johannesburg. Langa says he is “afraid of the rituals but curious”.
The work includes a series of confrontational portraits that compel the viewer to engage with the gaze of the subjects. The observation and location of the artist emerges as a focal point of the work. The absence of the artist in the frame is the presence felt. The tug between comfort and discomfort from image to image, moment-to-moment and gaze-to-gaze is the thread that arrests our engagement.
Through his observation, the artist attempts to understand the secrets of the rites of passage. Thresholds is a visual presentation and arrangement of his observation. The work is not an intervention but rather a report that informs the personal document of the artist’s life.
The grouping of the portraits is provocative and penetrating; the single gaze that pushes through the group of faces, the women in relation to the men, the young in relation to the old. It is the eyes in each group, which seem to imply the telling or not telling of the passage of induction.
Also on the show and following on previous work by the artist are memory map drawings that link to a time when he was growing up, referencing the artist’s own passage and threshold.
Moshekwa Langa was a participant at Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunst, Amsterdam. His work has been included in several major local and international exhibitions. His work is a life story in progress and is made up of markers in a process of observation, markers in his biography.
Moshekwa Langa lives and works in Amsterdam and Paris.