Goodman Gallery Cape Town
30 August – 29 September 2018
Curated by Liza Essers and Emma Laurence
John Akomfrah // Ghada Amer // Yto Barrada // Lisa Brice // Nolan Oswald Dennis // Regina José Galindo // Ja’Tovia Gary // Yuki Kihara // Grada Kilomba // Misheck Masamvu // Zanele Muholi // Beatriz Santiago Muñoz // Wangechi Mutu // Shirin Neshat // Yinka Shonibare MBE // Mickalene Thomas // Naama Tsabar // Kara Walker // Carrie Mae Weems
In Context: this past was waiting for me takes its cue from contemporary women artists – hailing from America, Guatemala, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Kenya and Samoa (many with ancestral roots in Africa) – united by an ambition to unfurl suppressed stories.
This is the third iteration of In Context, an ongoing curatorial initiative started by Liza Essers in 2010 in response to South Africa hosting the World Cup and temporarily becoming ‘home’ to the world. This sparked reflection on the complex dynamics of home, which artists like Kara Walker, Yinka Shonibare and Candice Breitz addressed in work dealing with slave narratives, structures of power and institutionalised racism. These themes extended to the second iteration of In Context, titled Africans in America (2016), which was curated by Hank Willis Thomas and spoke to the flows, exchanges and continuities between the continent of Africa and the United States. ‘The project was envisioned as a way of adding to the representation of South Africa, broadening the narrative and taking note of voices from surprising quarters,’ says Essers.
this past was waiting for me continues to mine tensions of place and the body, bringing narratives and identities into focus which have been obscured by history. In reference to colonialism, Grada Kilomba describes this complex interplay between the past and present as ‘a wound that has never been properly treated – an infected wound that always hurts and sometimes bleeds’.
Addressing this ‘wound’ requires acknowledging its existence. Yto Barrada, Wangechi Mutu, Shirin Neshat, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker and Carrie Mae Weems, among others, unpack the complex historical dynamics that have come to dictate the ways in which lives are valued and bodies are controlled. The reflection prompted by this work creates a liberating but charged space for transformation – a concept contained in the word ‘waiting’ in the exhibition’s title, which conjures current frustrations around the lack of urgency for social change in South Africa and internationally, giving way to Fallism, Brexit and the rise of Trump. The title of the show, this past was waiting for me is from a Lucille Clifton poem, which speaks to the exhibition’s concerns to revisit and re-construe hidden histories and identities, stating:
i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother’s itch
took it to breast
and named it
Artists like Naama Tsabar and Yuki Kihara channel this transformative potential through their work. Using sound and sculpture, Tsabar envisions a utopian world in which attentiveness, passion and solidarity outweigh dominance and discrimination. In Kihara’s film work a reference to the Polynesian demigod of transformation, Maui, embodies the redemptive ability of art to transcend suffering – an ideal that defines the essence of this exhibition.
Part of Zimbabwe’s ‘born-free generation’, Misheck Masamvu (b. 1980 in Penhalonga, Zimbabwe) explores and comments on the socio-political setting of post-independence Zimbabwe, and draws attention to the impact of economic policies that sustain political mayhem. Masamvu raises questions and ideas around the state of ‘being’ and the preservation of dignity. His practice encompasses drawing, painting and sculpture.
Misheck Masamvu studied at Atelier Delta and Kunste Akademie in Munich, where he initially specialised in the realist style, and later developed a more avant-garde expressionist mode of representation with dramatic and graphic brushstrokes. His work deliberately uses this expressionist depiction, in conjunction with controversial subject matter, to push his audience to levels of visceral discomfort with the purpose of accurately capturing the plight, political turmoil and concerns of his Zimbabwean subjects and their experiences. His works serve as a reminder that the artist is constantly socially-engaged and is tasked with being a voice to give shape and form to a humane sociological topography. Masamvu will be taking part in the 22nd Biennale of Sydney in 2020.
Masamvu’s work has been well-received and exhibited in numerous shows including Armory Show 2018, Art Basel 2018, Basel Miami Beach 2017, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair New York 2016, São Paulo Biennale 2016, and the Venice Biennale, Zimbabwe Pavillion 2011.
Ghada Amer (b. 1963, Cairo, Egypt) views herself primarily as a painter, but she has worked in a variety of media producing ceramics, site-specific garden works, photographs, prints, drawings, installations, and performance pieces.
Amer’s work has always explored ideas related to women, femininity and gender roles. “I believe that all women should like their bodies and use them as tools of seduction,” Amer has stated. In Amer’s well-known erotic embroideries she at once rejects oppressive laws set in place to govern women’s attitudes toward their bodies and repudiates first-wave feminist theory that the body must be denied to prevent victimisation. By depicting explicit sexual acts with the delicacy of needle and thread, the images’ significance assumes a tenderness absent within simple objectification. Amer continuously allows herself to explore the dichotomies of an uneasy world and confronts the language of hostility and finality with unsettled narratives of longing and love.
Amer’s work addresses first and foremost the ambiguous, transitory nature of the paradox that arises when searching for concrete definitions of east and west, feminine and masculine, as well as art and craft. Through her paintings, sculptures and public garden projects, Amer takes traditional notions of cultural identity, abstraction, and religious fundamentalism and turns them on their heads.
Amer has also created a number of text-based works, most notably the installation piece Encyclopaedia of Pleasure, which comprises fifty-seven canvas boxes inscribed with embroidered texts serving as investigations of sexual and spiritual identity. While her works serve as commentary on the roles of women, they also offer a critique of painting itself, particularly in its largely masculine Abstract Expressionist mode. Her incorporation of thread into the parameters of the canvas legitimates a form of expression seen as particularly feminine.
Amer has shown her work all over the world, including the Istanbul, Johannesburg, Whitney, Gwangju, Sydney and Venice biennales; in major travelling shows such as The Short Century; Looking Both Ways: Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora; and Africa Remix. She has exhibited at P.S. 1 in New York and SITE Santa Fe, and in 2008 the Brooklyn Museum hosted Love Has no End, a retrospective of twenty years of Amer’s work.
Amer trained to be an artist at Villa Arson, Nice, France.
She currently lives and works in New York City.
Considered one of the most influential contemporary American artists, Carrie Mae Weems has investigated family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power. Using photography, text, fabric, audio, digital images, installation and video, Weems compels viewers to actively consider how the world is structured, bringing to light systems of oppression and inequality. Weems is the recipient of prestigious awards, grants and fellowships, including the BET Honors Visual Artist award, the Lucie Award for Fine Art photography, the MacArthur “Genius” grant, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Prix de Roma, among others. She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions at major national and international museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frist Center for Visual Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Prospect.3 New Orleans, and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville, Spain. She is represented in public and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art, NY and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Lisa Brice (b.1968, Cape Town, South Africa) negotiates the precarious terrain of artistic production, as she moves between practices of spontaneous drawing and figure painting. She makes use of unexpected painting and printing techniques on a variety of surfaces, which include canvas and tracing paper. For Brice, the act of tracing often leads her to a repetition of similar motifs or figures in her work, sometimes biographical, and at other times art historical: ‘I am attracted to the idea of repetition,’ Brice remarks, ‘Chasing that high, stories told and retold.’
In 2006 Brice had her first solo exhibition of paintings at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, titled Night Vision, in which she reflected on the uncertainties of childhood. In 2009, a solo show, More Wood for the Fire, was presented at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg; the exhibition detailed Brice’s relationship with the island of Trinidad. In 2011, Brice’s work was included in the Vitamin P2 publication, Phaidon’s major anthology of international painting. In 2012, Brice presented a solo exhibition titled Throwing the Floor at Goodman Gallery in Cape Town. She has had subsequent shows at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg in 2015 titled Well Worn, and in June 2016 she was included on a show at Camden Art’s Centre in London Making & Unmaking curated by Duro Olowu. Brice had her first solo museum exhibition in the UK at the Tate Britain in 2018, where she exhibited large scale paintings which addressed the longstanding art-historical tradition of the female nude.
The artist lives and works in London, UK.
Nolan Oswald Dennis (b. 1988, Zambia) is an interdisciplinary artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. His practice explores what he calls ‘a black consciousness of space’: the material and metaphysical conditions of decolonization.
His work questions the politics of space and time through a system-specific, rather than site-specific approach. He is concerned with the hidden structures that pre-determine the limits of our social and political imagination. Through a language of diagrams, drawings and models he explores a hidden landscape of systematic and structural conditions that organise our political sub-terrain. This sub-space is framed by systems which transverse multiple realms (technical, spiritual economic, psychological, etc) and therefore Dennis’ work can be seen as an attempt to stitch these, sometime opposed, sometimes complimentary, systems together. To read technological systems alongside spiritual systems, to combine political fictions with science fiction.
He holds a degree in Architecture from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and a Masters of Science in the Art, Culture and Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Grada Kilomba (b. 1968, Lisbon, Portugal) is an interdisciplinary artist, whose work interrogates concepts of knowledge, power and violence.
“What stories are told? How are they told? And told by whom?” are constant questions in Kilomba’s body of work, to revise post-colonial narratives. With a singular beauty, Kilomba subversively translates text into image, movement and installation, by giving body, voice and form to her own critical writings.
Performance, staged reading, video, photography and installation are a platform for her unique practice of storytelling, which intentionally disrupts the proverbial ‘white cube’ through a new and urgent decolonial language and imagery.
Her work has been presented in major international events such as: La Biennale de Lubumbashi VI; 10. Berlin Biennale; Documenta 14, Kassel; 32. Bienal de São Paulo. Selected solo and group exhibitions include the Pinacoteca de São Paulo; Bildmuseet, Umeå; Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; The Power Plant, Toronto; Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin; MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon; Secession Museum, Vienna; Bozar Museum, Brussels; PAC- Pavillion Art Contemporanea, Milan.
Her work features in public and private collections worldwide, including the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, and MAAT — Museum of Art, Artchitecture and Technology.
Kilomba holds a distinguished Doctorate in Philosophy from the Freie Universität Berlin. She has lectured at several international universities, and was a Professor at the Humboldt Universität Berlin, Department of Gender Studies.
Among others, she is the author of the acclaimed “Plantation Memories” (Unrast, 2008) a compilation of episodes of everyday racism written in the form of short psychoanalytical stories. Her book has been translated into several languages, and was listed as the most important non-fiction literature in Brazil, 2019.
Naama Tsabar (b. 1982, Israel) lives and works in New York City. She received her MFA from Columbia University in 2010. Solo exhibitions and performances of Tsabar have been presented at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), Museum of Art and Design (New York), The High Line Art (New York), Kunsthuas Baselland (Switzerland), Palais De Tokyo (Paris), Prospect New Orleans, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, The Herziliya Museum for Contemporary Art in Israel, MARTE-C (El Salvador), CCA Tel Aviv (Israel), Faena Buenos Aires, Frieze Projects New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery (New York), Paramo Gallery (Guadalajara), Dvir Gallery (Israel), Spinello Projects (Miami). Selected group exhibitions featuring Tsabar’s work include Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Elevation 1049 Gstaad (Switzerland), Goodman Gallery (South Africa), TM Triennale, Hasselt Genk, Belgium, ‘Greater New York’ 2010 at MoMA PS1, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens (Belgium), The Bucharest Biennale for Young Artists, Hessel Museum of Art at CCS Bard, Casino Luxembourg (Luxembourg), ExtraCity in Antwerp (Belgium). Tsabar’s work has been featured in publications including ArtForum, Art In America, ArtReview, ARTnews, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Frieze, Bomb Magazine, Art Asia Pacific, Wire, and Whitewall, among others.
Shirin Neshat (b. 1957, Qazvin, Iran) completed her education in the USA in 1974, five years later the Islamic Revolution prevented her from returning to her home country for almost twenty years. Her personal experiences as a Muslim woman in exile have informed her practice in which she employs photography, video installation, cinema and performance to explore political structures that have shaped the history of Iran and other Middle Eastern nations. Neshat portrays the alienation of women in repressive Muslim societies interrogating the role reserved for women Islamic value systems. In her practice, she employs poetic imagery to engage with themes of gender and society, the individual and the collective, and the dialectical relationship between past and present, through the lens of her experiences of belonging and exile.
She has mounted numerous solo exhibitions at museums internationally, including: the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Serpentine Gallery, London; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Recent solo exhibitions include: Kunstraum Dornbirn, Austria; Faurschou Foundation, Copenhagen; Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany; and Museo Correr, Italy, which was an official corollary event to the 57th Biennale di Venezia in 2017. A major retrospective of her work was exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2013. Neshat was awarded the Golden Lion Award, the First International Prize at the 48th Biennale di Venezia (1999), the Hiroshima Freedom Prize (2005), and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2006). In 2009, Neshat directed her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, which received the Silver Lion Award for “Best Director” at the 66th Venice International Film Festival. Dreamers marked her first solo show on the African continent, which exhibited at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg in 2016. That same year, Neshat featured in the New Revolutions: Goodman Gallery at 50 exhibition in Johannesburg and in the Summers group exhibition at Goodman Gallery Cape Town. In 2017, Neshat was awarded the prestigious Praemium Imperiale award for Painting. That same year, Neshat directed Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Salzburg. In 2017, Neshat was awarded the prestigious Praemium Imperiale award for Painting. That same year, Neshat directed Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Salzburg. The Broad Museum in Los Angeles recently hosted a survey exhibition of the last 25 years of Neshat’s work.
The artist lives and works in New York, USA.