Writing Art History Since 2002

First Title

Lawrence Lemaoana’s body of work, particularly his series executed on Kanga textile, is imbued with political references, theological considerations and visual metaphors.

LOT 6: Lawrence Lemaoana, The ANC will rule until Jesus comes, 2017. Embroidery on Kanga fabric, 155 x 115cm. Estimate: 8000-12000€

Kanga itself is an iconic textile, which is widely used in various countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. Originally from Southeast Asia, it was introduced in Africa in the 19th century and, like the Dutch wax fabric in West Africa, quickly became a symbol of continental identity and a privileged means of communication for the working and wealthier classes. Punctuated from the beginning of the twentieth century with inscriptions in Arabic and later, in Swahili and other languages of the region, it became a vehicle for political messages (The ANC will rule until Jesus comes, 2017), humorous comments on society (Jealousy is freedom for fools, 2019), proverbs (A man’s wisdom can make his face shine, 2017) and references to everyday life. By appropriating this medium of communication to turn it into an artistic medium blurring the line between art and design, between culture and pop culture, South African artist Lawrence Lemaoana manages to take art out of the galleries and bring the street back into the museum, thus acquiring an effective as well as symbolic instrument.

LOT 9: Lawrence Lemaoana, Zuma is like Jesus, 2017. Embroidery on Kanga fabric, 155 x 115cm. Estimate: 8000-12000€

Intrinsically linked to the history of post-apartheid South Africa, the artist’s works borrow from the language of slogans their efficiency and signifying power. Through the embroidery, for which he commissions women in South Africa, like Alighiero Boetti before him, satirical texts, puns (The word is our shepherd, 2017), biblical references (But fools despise wisdom and instruction, 2019) and expressions from popular culture are woven together, alongside figures such as Franz Fanon, the great writer of anti-colonial literature, monuments of globalised culture such as the Jungle Book (Lay the secret on me of man’s red fire, 2015), and reinterpretations of the textiles used in political rallies (Zuma is like Jesus, 2017)… the artist confirms the use of Kanga in its primary function and pushes us to a reflection on the power of media and its ability to shape social consciousness, while tracing the history of this textile with its complex origin and that of his country, South Africa.

LOT 10: Lawrence Lemaoana, But fools despise wisdom and instruction, 2019. Embroidery on Kanga fabric, 155 x 115cm. Estimate: 8000-12000€

The richness of the references mobilised by the artist gives birth to a set of works allowing several possible levels of reading; the viewer can read their own interpretation of the message according to their personal experience, the subject matter inviting subversion to whoever knows how to decipher its coded language.

The exhibition will be public from the 7th of October 2022. The ONLIVE auction will be held on the 11th of October 2022. For more information, please visit PIASA. Click here to view the catalogue.

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