Roots of communism I, 2019. © Serge Attukwei Clottey

Simchowitz presents ‘Kugarisana’ at Christie’s Beverly Hills

Artists from three African countries, spanning three generations who effortlessly subvert classification in approach will be showing in a group exhibition at Christie’s, Beverly Hills

Troy Makaza, Blind Majesty, Part 2, 2018.Blind Majesty, Part 2, 2018. © Troy Makaza

Kugarisana, meaning “peaceful co-existence” in chiShona, is one of the cardinal virtues of the Shona, the majority culture of Zimbabwe, and is a “clear conception of goodness as a social value. One’s conduct was considered good if it promoted the well-being of the community.” Kugarisana is a social elaboration of the more broadly familiar ubuntu, which means “I am because you are” and is the foundational concept that pervades many cultures in Africa, as a testament to interconnectedness and interdependence of all humans and value of collaboration, synergy and peace.

Despite decades of exhibitions and projects presenting African contemporary art in the West, words of arrival, novelty and exploration continue to proliferate. This is not surprising because at every turn Africa defies attempts to be addressed as a monolith and stuns with a seemingly endless stream of superlative cultural production. Resisting categorization, the eight artists in ‘Kugarisana’ speak poignantly to the breadth of Africa’s artistic traditions and challenge us to identify with our ignorance as a path for progress.

Kugarisana, Part 4, 2018. © Takunda Regis BilliatKugarisana, Part 4, 2018. © Takunda Regis Billiat

Coming from three countries Ghana (Paa Joe, Serge Attukwei Clottey), South Africa (Turiya Magadlela, Cameron Platter, Nicola Roos) and Zimbabwe (Takunda Regis Billiat, Troy Makaza, Julio Rizhi) and spanning three generations, these artists effortlessly subvert classification in approaching medium, subject matter and conversation with history and the history of art.

Seductively coloured and textured, Troy Makaza’s spun, painted and woven silicone works emerge from a complexity of cultural narratives – political and traditional to Zimbabwe. Conversely, Cameron Platter’s works play effortlessly with modernism and pop, while remaining rooted in ecological deterioration, which is a global concern as much as it is South African. United in figuration, but standing at polar opposites, Paa Joe and Nicola Roos address the frictions and the wonder of cross-pollination as a result of engagement between Africans and the outside world, the former through the elaboration of the fantasy coffin tradition of Ghana as it encounters globalisation, and the latter through the history of African engagement with Europe and Japan centuries ago. Disorientingly difficult to place, Julio Rizhi’s organic forms, which are morphed from discarded molten plastic, resonate effortlessly like Murano glass as they convey commentary on youth culture in urban Zimbabwe and some of its influences, such as the gule wamkulu carnivals of Malawi and Mozambique migrant communities. As much at home with Joan Miro as with Ernesto Neto, Turiya Magadlela’s fabric paintings affect us with their elegant familiarity, laced with subtle allusions to a darker original context about colour, race and image. Also addressing the relationship between form, colour and representation, Serge Attukwei Clottey, like Platter, disarmingly refuses to commit to a medium or style, oscillating between minimally abstract wall-hanging assemblages of discarded plastics, kente cloth and melted plastic portraits, and formally classical portraiture. Finally, Takunda Regis Billiat, one of whose works give title to the exhibition, most readily identifies with an idea of traditional art, although his use of horns and hooves is a most apposite commentary on the violence implicit in all good intentions of any culture and society pushed to extremes. While the title ‘Kugarisana‘ speaks to intention, the tension of binding, and horns pointed at each other, interspersed with disassembled phone receivers, present a warning rather than a motto.

Roots of communism I, 2019. © Serge Attukwei ClotteyRoots of communism I, 2019. © Serge Attukwei Clottey
Twin, 2018. © Cameron PlatterTwin, 2018. © Cameron Platter
Obsidian Samurai VII from the No Mans Land series, 2018. © Nicola RoosObsidian Samurai VII from the No Mans Land series, 2018. © Nicola Roos
Untitled, 2018. © Turiya MagadlelaUntitled, 2018. © Turiya Magadlela
Summer is here, 2020. © Serge Attukwei ClotteySummer is here, 2020. © Serge Attukwei Clottey
Coat of Arms, Part 2, 2017. © Julio RizhiCoat of Arms, Part 2, 2017. © Julio Rizhi

At a time when fear and division are all too frequently the most readily visible signifiers of our time, art as a space of dialogue is one where a concept like ‘Kugarisana‘ ought to be a given.

Difference of expression, difference of medium, difference of taste are an opportunity to validate, celebrate and be reminded of the magnificent richness of talent and culture that human ingenuity can engender. Art can be a paradigm that reminds us of the greater rather than the lesser of ourselves, and one that is at the core of what the selection of works in ‘Kugarisana‘ enjoins us to do, individually and collectively. As an exhibition, ‘Kugarisana‘, is both timely as it is timeless, a vibrant sample of history, reality and the immense future that contemporary artists in Africa are making right now.

Simchowitz presents ‘Kugarisina’, a non-selling exhibition, at Christie’s Beverly Hills until the 24th of February 2021.