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Monday, January 7, 2019


(Lady Skollie, 2017, South Africa)

Curated by Gabi Ngcobo with Sumayya Menezes and Zinhle Khumalo, Mating Birds Vol.2 is the KZNSA Gallery’s first exhibition of 2019 and runs from January 17 to February 10, 2019, in the KZNSA’s main, mezzanine and media galleries. Entry is free.

Mating Birds Vol.2 is a powerfully packed womxn led experience. It engages with art and documents dealing head-on with the effects of colonial and apartheid laws in South African contemporary sexual relationships. 

Mating Birds Vol.2 is a curatorial essay that takes the late Lewis Nkosi’s novel Mating Birds as a starting point. The novel is used to visualize the troublesome histories associated with the Immorality Acts of the parliament of colonial and apartheid South Africa (Act No.5 of 1927, Act No. 23 of 1957, Act No. 57 of 1969). The effect of these Acts are presented through the staging of an exhibition as an essay that draws on original artwork as well as reference material from art, literature, philosophy, legal documents, letters, newspaper clippings and exhibition catalogues, among other sources. The essay exposes how contemporary perspectives on sex, sexuality and sexual relationships have been shaped, contested or maintained.

Published in 1983/86 Nkosi’s novel is set in Durban’s segregated beaches and narrated by a black man awaiting execution for allegedly raping a white woman. The novel was equally critiqued and praised by many, including Henry Louis Gates Jr who remarked on how it “confronts boldly and imaginatively the strange interplay of bondage, desire and torture inherent in interracial sexual relationships within the South African prison house of apartheid.” (New York Times: 1986) Meanwhile South African writer Andre Brink (1935-2015) accused Nkosi of being fascinated with inter-racial sexual relations and of being guilty of "distortion and exaggeration."

(Tracey Rose’s “The Kiss”)

“Mating Birds” can be understood as a story about the distortion of intimate relationships in apartheid South Africa. It exposes, as Jacqueline Rose has remarked, ways in which apartheid was a “sexual apartheid as much as, if not before, anything else”.

Mating Birds Vol.2 uses the exhibition space to map the manner in which artists have intervened in the space of sexual politics and how they continue to reshape the visual vocabulary of sexuality and sexual freedoms whilst questioning the way bodies are still impacted by the residual nature of repressing colonial and apartheid policies.

The exhibition features artists Billie Zangewa, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Lady Skollie, Sabelo Mlangeni, Simnikiwe Buhlungu, Tracey Rose and Trevor Makhoba. Reference materials are drawn from literature, including Bessie Head, Lebo Mashile, Lewis Nkosi, Makhosazana Xaba and Zakes Mda, as well philosophical texts, historical archives and other sources. 

(Simnikwe Bulungu)

Gabi Ngcobo has been engaged in collaborative artistic, curatorial, and educational work in South Africa and on an international scope since early 2000s. She is a founding member of the Johannesburg based collaborative platforms “NGO - Nothing Gets Organised” and the now defunct “Center for Historical Reenactments (CHR 2010–12-14). NGO focuses on processes of self-organization that take place outside of predetermined structures, definitions, contexts, or forms. CHR responded to the demands of the moment through an exploration of how historical legacies impact and resonate within contemporary art. Recently she co-curated the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016) and A Labour of Love, 2015/17, at Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main, DE and Johannesburg Art Gallery, ZA respectively. In 2018 she and her appointed team co-curated the 10th Berlin Biennale titled We Don’t Need Another Hero (June 9– September 9). 

Sumayya Menezes is a Durban-based creative with a keen interest in the contemporary visual arts and art education. She completed a BA Honours (Fine Art) summe cum laude at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg in 2008, and has since been involved in various education and creative projects in the visual arts. Since 2014, she has been involved with the KZNSA Gallery playing an active role in the curatorship and education programme of the gallery. She has worked with Curate.A.Space, taking on various projects under Durban curator, Carol Brown, and also lectures printmaking at the Durban University of Technology.

Zinhle Khumalo is a young creative and upcoming curator from Swaziland who has been living and studying in Durban since 2011. She is currently studying her Masters in Fine Art at the Durban University of Technology while also working part-time as an arts administrator for Art for Humanity. She is also an assistant curator to Durban freelance curator, Carol Brown.

With a passion for creating platforms for young artists in Durban, Khumalo has been involved in many initiatives that strive to showcase and sustain creativity in Durban. Her involvement in the Aweh! Youth programme shifted her career focus to host and support local young creatives in Durban creative spaces, especially for young woman artists.

Through her personal art practice, Khumalo attempts to resolve the role a young black woman plays in society today while navigating complex personas in an attempt to understand the definition of womanhood. She explores the significance of self-representation of woman artists in their own work in order to understand the factors involved in shaping woman - significantly the binaries of traditional culture in relation to modern cultural society.

“The self-representation in my own work speaks to the frustration of living up to standards created by the generation before us, while still attempting to navigate urban society and its ever evolving perception of the position a woman should hold.” – Zinhle Khumalo

Mating Birds Vol. 2 opens on January 17 at 18h00 and runs until February 10. A walkabout with the curators and participating artists is on January 18 at 10h00.

Mating Birds Vol. 2 is made possible with funding from the Department of Arts and Culture.

The KZNSA Gallery is situated at 166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood, in Durban. More information on 031 277 1705, fax 031 201 8051 or cell 082 220 0368 or visit