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Thursday, July 30, 2015


(Michael Selekane, The bikers, 2014, ink on paper/ silk screen)

The Durban Art Gallery’s current exhibition: South African Art: a retrospective exhibition of contemporary art in celebration of freedom to; create, to inspire and to push boundaries is curated by Bongi Bengu and Lunga Khumalo in collaboration with the Durban Art Gallery in continuation to celebrate South African arts.

The show is partly envisaged to celebrate 21 years of political freedom and to illustrate variations in the country’s creative industry. Also to celebrate artists who, through their art, commented and fought against apartheid injustices. It also serves to highlight the wave of aspirant artists who are taking the proverbial baton to use art as a tool for social, political and economical transformation as presented in the country’s constitution.

The exhibition features works from 1994 to present – however, this period is not a limitation, nor an exclusion of works that were executed before this time. The focus on works from 1994 is a starting point to the discourse presented in the exhibition. The layout interrogates the validity of the political change in the lives of ordinary citizens: freedom from political shackles, youth unemployment, issues of Xenophobia/Afrophobia, HIVAIDS, Sports, housing etc.

Artist featured in this exhibition include: Sue Williamson - Truth games, the Biko testimony 1998, Zamani Makhanya - Divine intervention 2003, Lola Frost - Inscribed in rhetoric progress and democracy undated, Pitika Ntulivarious sculptures  2014 and 2015, Bongi Bengu - Journey I and Journey II, Mary Sibande- All is not lost 2013, Michael Selekane The bikers, 2014 and others.

South Africa has come far since the first democratic elections of 1994. Progress has been achieved in many spheres, including access to water, electricity, sanitation and housing. But much still needs to be done so that all people in South Africa enjoy better life.

When it comes to freedom of speech, artists use their creative skills to express themselves freely, this is reflected in the work by Lola Frost, Inscribed in Rhetoric (Progress and Democracy) which looks at issues of how far are artists, journalists, and members of parliamentcan oppose or agree with government policies and actions.

Frost’s work was a precursor to many events where artists faced the ‘’iron hand’’ where they faced censorship of their work - ironically this was a tool that was used by the former Nationalist government to subject people to its propaganda and to suppress free-thinkers. The work invites the viewer to think and question the progress made in all spheres of life: issues of housing, job creation, poverty, terminal diseases and global competition. These are aspects that are new for the country - hence it is not surprising for many commentators to criticize rather than provide solutions and for the government to be defensive in its decisions if and when they go wrong.

Sibande’s work provides hope that new ideas can improve the situation - as can be seen in Daniel Mosako’s collages: Women in mining I and II where the figures portrayed are not in overalls but in designer business suits carrying a laptop = symbol associated with being an executive business person. On the other hand the figure carries a pick or a shovel = suggestive to hard work/hard labour associated with work in the mines.

Michael Selekane’s work the Bikers traces its originality to works by Gerard Sekoto, John Mohl, George Pemba and Gerald Bhengu all portrayed their subject’s life in urban areas as about being in constant motion, always in a hurry. The Bikers reference that in post-apartheid South Africa as not having changed much.

Positive strides include seeing a new trend of Black artists winning art competitions and taking centre stage in the art world. We are also seeing a greater number of black female artists gaining greater recognition within the global art community. There has also been a shift away from traditional mediums such as painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and new media.

There will be a walkabout on July 30 at 11h00 and entry is free. A seminar will also be held on August 20.

South African Art: a retrospective exhibition of contemporary art in celebration of freedom to; create, to inspire and to push boundaries will run in the Durban Art Gallery’s Circular exhibition hall until August 29.

For more information contact: Thulani Makhaye on 031 311 2268, Fax: 031 311 2273 or email