Writing Art History Since 2002

First Title

The Award acknowledges Ernest Cole’s important role in South African photography. The exhibition will open to the public on 1 September 2023 and run until 15 September 2023 at 70 Juta St, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

© Motlhoki Nono

‘The Weight of a Kiss’ is a reflection on the filmic experiences of love. Dealing with questions around constructions of intimacy, it explores how this is fabricated and translates into different romances. For this iteration of the work, the focus is on the event of the kiss in romantic productions, particularly films. The work attempts to deconstruct the cinematic kiss by placing us between the moment a lover kisses another. We become a witness, a welcomed intruder but also a participant in this intimate act.

Motlhoki Nono (b. 1998, Pretoria, South Africa) is a printmaker and video artist from Johannesburg, South Africa. She defines her practice as Black Romantic Studies, examining ‘the socio-political contours of love’: How the articulation and experience of romance manifests at the intersection of race, class, geography and gender. Motlhoki’s practice departs from observing the racialised gap that excludes the experiences of black people and the gendered one, excluding black women as the subjects of love in romantic productions. Using various lens-based media, print and digital found objects as tools, Motlhoki examines this gap with a decolonial and sociological approach, questioning and problematising the implications of this exclusion on the experience of romance for black women. Her practice operates within the absence of black romantic representation. Through a language of composition, consumption and romantic aesthetics from South African black townships, Motlhoki explores the romantic within the frame of the political. Her romantic-based practice maps the lines of intimacy and violence within love, attempting to contribute towards a black romantic archive that centres on the experiences of black women in particular.

Motlhoki earned her BA(FA) at the University of the Witwatersrand and has since exhibited her work internationally in Germany, New York and Switzerland, and nationally between Cape Town and Johannesburg. She has been the recipient of several awards and grants and is currently the recipient of the Ernest Cole Photography Award. Most recently, Motlhoki completed her three-month residency in Germany as part of the Leipzig International Art programme.

© Motlhoki Nono

The Ernest Cole Award (ECA) was established to commemorate Ernest Cole and to acknowledge him both as a key figure in the history of South African photography and as a contributor to the struggle against apartheid. Ernest Cole faced many struggles in his career as a photographer, which led to his exile and the struggles that continued during his time as a photographer in the United States and Europe.

The Award is framed by the need to support and provide professional guidance to photographers facing various difficulties while trying to establish their careers. Conceptualised and operated from within South Africa, the ECA is an important identifier for photography practice in the cultural sphere of South Africa and for South African photography internationally. The relaunched ECA looks to facilitate positive change to extend opportunities for South African photographers beyond the scope of the Award and does so by supporting creative practice that expands photography’s field of engagement and by resourcing photographers through tailor-made support structures such as a circle of mentorship, peer review, and exhibition and publication opportunities. The Ernest Cole Award is given every second year. Motlhoki Nono is the recipient of the Ernest Cole Award 2022-23. This exhibition is the culmination of Motlhoki Nono’s work over the duration of the award period. Lebohang Kganye has been mentoring Motlhoki Nono over the duration of the Award.

As part of the Award process, Photo: hosted a series of Critique Sessions inviting respondents to look at and give critical feedback to Motlhoki Nono’s work. In attendance at these sessions were Motlhoki Nono, her mentor Lebohang Kganye and John Fleetwood.
Invited respondents were Danai Mupotsa, Joni Brenner, Nomusa Makhubu, Khanyisile Mbongwa and Lerato Bereng. Motlhoki Nono also held a series of editing sessions for her work; Anastasia Pather and Karena Liebetrau were in attendance.

The Award acknowledges the contributions of the Dennis Goldblatt Legacy Trust. The official exhibition opening is on 9 September, at 70 Juta St, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, at 18h00. As part of the Open City programme, running alongside Joburg Art Fair, Motlhoki Nono will conduct a walkabout of her exhibition ‘The Weight of a Kiss’, at 70 Juta St, Braamfontein, 13 September, 11h00. For more information, please visit Photo:.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top