Writing Art History Since 2002

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What does it mean to live here, to be a part of the now, in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal? The KZNSA Gallery’s latest collaborative exhibition dusts off this mainstay of themes in a show titled Being Here (after a work by Bronwen Vaughn-Evans). Entering this exhibition one is met by a rather despairing attack of pastel on paper, an uncertain introduction to a show celebrating place and belonging.The work, by Ingrid Winterback, is titled Durban: City of dreams and hairline cracks. From below a thick mask of black, twin depictions of sidewalk and city wall are subverted by barely visible text. Next, Mondli Ndada’s piece, Money is the root of all evil, presents a hand and foot fashioned of oily sackcloth, cuffed and nailed to a shanty door; the effect punctuated by a hinge and rusty stove element. Fortunately, the celebration lightens tangibly from here on in.Angela Buckland shines with her work …now and then, larger-than-life photographic prints showing dresses, one suspended below the surface of a deep body of water, the other washed up on a sandy shore. The vacant frocks are at once feminine and forlorn, despairing and beautiful. Her presentation is crowned by a row of spectators, postcard-sized prints of people shot from a bird’s eye-view, though one almost wishes they had been left out of the composition altogether.Vaughn Sadie’s lone offering, Indescribable longing for more than now, a lightbox showcasing nine photographs of street lamps against variegated blue skies, matches Buckland’s work in its evasion of the nuts and bolts of everyday life. While both artists aspire to loftier propositions than the Durbanite condition, Buckland and Sadie’s works exact considerable resonance.Lindelani Ngwenya’s The Scream, a short statue constructed of copper wire and ilala palm, combines two traditional media and methods in a strikingly innovative design. It is unfortunately detracted from by its pairing with a shorter figure, entitled The Visitor, a childlike character presumably of the extra-terrestrial persuasion.Dean Henning and Rike Sitas manage to incorporate several paradoxes in their display of nine block-mounted prints. Six are digitally manipulated images, landscapes featuring San-style figures juxtaposed against railway tracks and commercial buildings. These are accompanied by text, clipped schoolbook idiom warped by censorship and Burroughsian wordplay, the new meanings presenting abstruse questions relating to our liberty, prejudice and African identity.The exhibit is an engaging précis of the status quo. While not everything is a triumph, there is enough worth celebrating to make one feel good about the here and now.Blake Pickering

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