The intersection of cultural and aesthetic influences on the creation and interpretation of art from Africa
Shepstone Gardens. Courtesy of RMB Latitudes.
With excitement mounting in the lead up to the RMB Latitudes Art Fair, when 40 galleries and 250 artists will bring their art to Shepstone Gardens in Johannesburg from the 26th to the 28th of May 2023, Latitudes Curator, Nkhensani Mkhari, announces three Special Projects that will enhance the visitors’ experience and offer some insight into this year’s chosen theme of ‘Coemergence‘.
“Within the African art context,” explains Mkhari, ‘Coemergence’ refers to the intersection of various cultural and aesthetic influences on the creation and interpretation of art from Africa. This can include the blending of traditional and contemporary art forms, the incorporation of elements from different ethnic and regional cultures within Africa, and the impact of global perspectives and influences on African art.”
This year, three platforms will support this theme: INDEX, a captivating survey exhibition that brings together an array of independent artistic practices from South Africa, the African region, and the diaspora; ESSAY – an exhibition that showcases a cross-generational dialogue through the works of three artists – Sam Nhlengethwa, Katlego Tlabela, and Cinthia Sifa Mulanga; and the International Galleries Platform.
International Galleries Platform
The International Galleries Platform has been launched as a sustainable means for galleries and artists on the continent and in the diaspora to show in South Africa. The platform presents the opportunity to propose artworks for inclusion within a curated special project. Each year, selected works will be curated thematically so that participating artists are represented in a nuanced way that speaks to their unique practices. The 2023 International Galleries show is led by Mkhari, in close dialogue with the Project Advisory Committee members; Azu Nwagbogu, Valerie Kabov and Lucy MacGarry.
Terence Maluleke, Vertical Line, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.
INDEX is a new platform that offers exposure to independent artists, who often have to create their own networks and methods for getting their work seen by audiences. This is often cultivated through fostering relationships with curators, organisers, and other artists, as well as building an online presence through websites, social media, and various platforms. This exhibition is a reflection of this spirit; it speaks to the importance of cultivating connections outside traditional models of exhibition making and creating space for galleries and audiences to discover new artists.
The exhibition is divided into three themes. The first theme is ‘Reflections‘, and features contemporary photography and figurative paintings by artists like Jody Brand, Terrence Maluleke, Lebogang Mogul Mabusela, Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo, Jack Markovitz, Bahati Simoens, Ketumile Malesa, Samurai Farai and Thato Toeba amongst other luminaries. The theme explores figuration, portraiture, and unpacking the strange and wondrous landscape of the body(politic).
The second theme, ‘Rest‘, explores the dialectic between space and rest, a sustained meditation on the latent tension between the forces of movement and stillness, action and inaction, or change and stability, encapsulated and expressed through sculptural form. It features contemporary sculptural pieces by Warren Maroon, Bulumko Mbete, Cazlynne Peffer, Gaelen Pinnock, Alexandra Naledi Holtman, and a host of hybrid 3D works by Tzung-Hui Lauren Lee, Raees Saieet, and a stellar art installation by Mankebe Seakgoe. The works are curated to evoke a sense of peacefulness and contemplation while also hinting at the underlying energy and dynamism that animate all forms of existence.
The third and final theme is titled ‘Dream‘ and is devoted to contemporary painting ranging from abstract expressionism to landscape, neo-expressionist, and various other styles. The staging features the works of Thokozani Mthiyane, Yonela Makoba, Mankebe Seakgoe, Maja Maljevic, Lerato Lodi, and Benjamin Salvatore, among others.
This exhibition is more akin to a library of the arts, a resource, and an inclusive and intersectional record of contemporary artistic practice and cultural production. Hosting this exhibition at an art fair creates a space for independent artists to connect and establish themselves as important contributors to the contemporary art landscape, while also connecting with new audiences and collectors to discover, engage, and connect in a generous and cultivated manner.
Cinthia Sifa Mulanga, Mold me II, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Goodman Gallery.
ESSAY explores a nuanced dialogue in concept, and approach to colour and line between Nhlengethwa, Tlabela and Mulanga. This cross generational dialogue is pertinent to the zeitgeist as the African art market grows, creating a need to analyse, expand and catalyse the critical middle between commerce and the academy.
There’s a thread of homage weaving the three artists’ practices together, whether it’s honouring the past or projecting into the future. On a retinal level some of these works depicting interior settings may seem aspirational, on another level, each painting, collage and drawing can be seen as an investigation of the inefficiencies in our existing constructed and natural settings, as well as the relationships that people of colour have with them.
Each artist’s work can be seen as a journalistic expression of their own becoming, their personal histories, dreams and nightmares projected onto paper and canvas. Their expressive voices are fuelled by architectural and infrastructural representations. These works pivot into a critical multivalent dialogue on representation whilst simultaneously institutionalising black portraiture which has been making waves over the past couple of years.
There is no parking at the venue. Visitors should make use of the Fair’s Park and Ride at the Old Edwardian Society, Houghton, where transport will be provided to and from the event. Hope Road is closed for the duration of the event. If arriving in an Uber or a private ride, visitors should have their tickets ready to show officials at the road closure, in order to gain access to the event.
Tickets allow visitors access to the Fair, where they can discover art from 40 galleries and 250 artists. They’ll also be able to explore all three acres of Shepstone Gardens, including the newly opened, stately Great Hall building. What’s more, kids will be able to unleash their creativity with the many activities in the RMB Young Artists’ Playground, and guests can treat themselves to an incredible food and wine experience, by the likes of winemakers from the Franschhoek Wine Valley and sustainable chef, James Diack.
For information, please visit RMB Latitudes.