Defying the Narrative: Contemporary Art from West and Southern Africa
Takunda Regis Billiat, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Paa Joe, Troy Makaza, Wycliffe Mundopa, Gareth Nyandoro, Simphiwe Ndzube, Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, Irvin Pascal, Cameron Platter, Julio Rizhi, Nicola Roos, and Moffat Takadiwa
September 8 – October 27, 2018
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 8, 5-8 pm
The Daily Californian: In ‘Defying the Narrative,’ artists reject homogenization of African art
SF Weekly: Out of Africa, with Serge Attukwei Clottey
San Francisco Arts Monthly: Gallery Highlights (page 16)
The Financial Times: Ghana art scene rises from streets to international galleries
Ever Gold [Projects] is pleased to present Defying the Narrative: Contemporary Art from West and Southern Africa, a group exhibition featuring work by 14 African artists. This exhibition’s intent is to begin to present the varied directions of contemporary African art to the Bay Area. Defying the Narrative includes artists working in a wide variety of media from diverse backgrounds. Collectively, their work defies the reductive Western conception of Africa as a monoculture and of African artists as working in isolation without access to art history and technology, among other falsities. We believe that resisting this impulse to apply familiar or conventional understandings of contemporary and historical African art gives the viewer an opportunity to experience this work in a more dynamic and holistic way.
Some of the artists featured in Defying the Narrative have exhibited widely, and some are emerging artists. Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Paa Joe were both featured in the groundbreaking 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Many of the artists are interested in making commentary on the state of the environment and the impacts of pollution. For example, despite very different practices, one could say that Serge Attukwei Clottey, Julio Rizhi, and Moffat Takadiwa are similarly concerned with ideas around migration of materials and the politics that underlie these movements. Some of the work references traditional African forms and techniques by reconfiguring historic structures with new materials. This combination of new and old is visible in the work of Paa Joe, who builds fantasy coffins using traditional woodworking techniques, and Troy Makaza, who uses silicone-infused paint to create works that read like woven textile. Many of the artists work in formats that emphasize the idea of hybridity and act to defy many material and formal expectations about African art.
A common thread in the exhibition is an interest in history and mythology, along with the distortions and supplements that can be applied to these narratives. Cameron Platter is a South African artist who engages with the political and artistic histories of the country, creating representations that mimic the hybridity of the cultural landscape. Simphiwe Ndzube’s work reframes activities of daily life by applying surreal reconfigurations through painting and sculpture. Nicola Roos’s ongoing sculptural project stems from her discovery of historical accounts of the first black samurai, whose history she expands toward myth or fantasy.
While organizing exhibitions by grouping artists by geographical origins is often a convenient device to simplify the unfamiliar, it is not necessarily the most accurate way to represent a group of artists or their work. Frequently, geographically-themed exhibitions create opportunities for misunderstandings, as the structure of these types of presentations can lead the viewer to draw connections that are not accurate; favoring connections and assumptions that stem from the focus on geography rather than the artist’s particular voice or position. While we have used loose geographic terms in the title for our exhibition, it is simply to illustrate just that: the loose and multi-interpretational areas which are only part of a much larger non-hegemonic whole.
As humans, we are programmed to recognize similarities first and are almost gravitationally drawn to categorize what we see along lines of what is familiar and comfortable to us. If the artists in the exhibition have anything notable in common, it is, perhaps, an interest in the narrative properties of materials and the idea of figuration as a symbolic device. While all of the artists in Defying the Narrative are African, they represent a broad spectrum of perspectives, ideologies, and geographic origins, and the lack of a unifying narrative among them is both the premise and the conceit of this exhibition.
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Takunda Regis Billiat was born in 1990 in Harare, Zimbabwe. He lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. Billiat attended the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Visual Arts Studios (National Certificate in Fine Art, 2014), specializing in painting. He exhibited regularly throughout his student career, taking part in exhibitions at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and young artist exhibitions at Gallery Delta. He was the winner of the best work award at the 2013 Auxillia Chimusoro national competition and the 2014 Tavatose Competition winner at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. He is a current resident at Chinembiri Studios (Mbare, Harare). His work explores Christianity and the Bible as a social construct in contemporary rise of charismatic churches in Zimbabwe, with their prophets exploiting the ignorance of the people of their own religion’s true content. Recent exhibitions include Cape Town Art Fair 2018 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Cape Town, South Africa); Collaging The City at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2017); Art Africa at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2017); FNB Joburg Art Fair 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Johannesburg, South Africa); AKAA Paris 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Paris); Mupangara Runhare at First Floor Gallery Harare, (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2017); and ‘I am because you are’ at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2016).
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré was born in 1923 in Zéprégühé, Ivory Coast. He passed away at the age of 91 in 2014 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Bouabré was among the first Ivorians to be educated by the French colonial government. In 1948 he had a vision, which directly influenced much of his later work. He created hundreds of small drawings with a ballpoint pen and colored pencils while working as a clerk in various government offices, and these drawings as a whole comprise a project titled World Knowledge—an encyclopedia of universal knowledge and experience. Bouabré also created a 448-letter, universal Bété syllabary, which he used to transcribe the oral tradition of his people, the Bétés. This visual language is recorded through a set of approximately 1,000 small cards, each bearing monosyllabic pictograms, symbolic imagery, and text, with Bouabré’s commentary on life and history. His work was featured in the 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Grande Halle at the Parc de la Villette in Paris. His work was recently featured in the Ivory Coast Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).
Serge Attukwei Clottey was born in 1985 in Accra, Ghana. He lives and works in Accra, Ghana. Clottey attended the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra, Ghana before studying at the Escola Guignard University of Art in Brazil and has completed multiple fellowships abroad. Working across installation, performance, photography, and sculpture, Clottey explores personal and political narratives rooted in histories of trade and migration. Based in Accra and working internationally, Clottey refers to his work as “Afrogallonism,” a concept that confronts the question of material culture through the utilization of yellow gallon containers. Cutting, drilling, stitching and melting found materials, Clottey’s sculptural installations are bold assemblages that act as a means of inquiry into the languages of form and abstraction. Recent exhibitions include Differences between at Jane Lombard Gallery (New York, 2018); The Displaced at Gallery 1957 at Lawrie Shabibi Gallery (Dubai, 2018); Hand to Mouth at Ever Gold [Projects] (San Francisco, 2016); My Mother’s Wardrobe at Gallery 1957 (Ghana, 2016); Earthly Conversations at GNYP Gallery (Berlin, 2016); The Displaced at Feuer/Mesler (New York, 2015), We Don’t Contemporary at Kampnagel Hamburg (Hamburg, 2015); The Silence of Ordinary Things at The Mistake Room (Los Angeles, 2015); Du Bois In Our Time II at the University Museum of Contemporary Art (Amherst, MA, 2014); and Cultures in Confluence at the Goethe-Institut Ghana (Accra, 2011). His work is in the collection of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, Kansas) as well as a number of international private collections.
Paa Joe was born in 1947 in Eastern Region, Ghana. He lives and works in Accra, Ghana. He began his career with a 12-year apprenticeship as a coffin artist in the workshop of Kane Kwei (1924–1992) in Teshie (southeastern Ghana) before opening his own studio in Nungua (Greater Accra Region, southeastern Ghana). Paa Joe is considered one of the most important Ghanaian coffin artists of his generation, and has been included in major exhibitions in Europe, Japan, and the USA. His work was featured in the 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Grande Halle at the Parc de la Villette in Paris. Paa Joe has been featured in exhibitions at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Paris, 2017); the Brooklyn Museum (2012); the Southbank Centre (London, 2012); Salon 94 (New York, 2011); Jack Bell Gallery (London, 2011); and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, 2011). He was the subject of a 2016 film titled Paa Joe and the Lion. Paa Joe’s fantasy coffins are in the collections of many art museums worldwide, including the British Museum in London.
Troy Makaza was born in 1994 in Zimbabwe. He lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. He attended the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Visual Arts Studios (2015, National Certificate in Fine Art). As a contemporary artist living in Zimbabwe, Makaza is interested in bridging tradition with contemporary practice. Many of Makaza’s works incorporate silicone infused paint, a medium that he considers as a combination of traditional and contemporary qualities. Makaza’s work is often located somewhere between painting and sculpture and the artist embraces this idea, seeing the hybridity as a representation of contemporary culture in urban Zimbabwe. Recent exhibitions include Another Antipodes at PS Art Space (Fremantle, Australia, 2017); FNB Joburg Art Fair 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Johannesburg, South Africa); AKAA Paris with First Floor Gallery Harare (Paris, 2017); Young Now at Hazard Gallery (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2017); Collaging The City at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2017); Cape Town Art Fair 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Cape Town, South Africa); London Art Fair 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (London); and Face The Magic at Loving|Monro (Los Angeles, 2017).
Wycliffe Mundopa was born in 1987 in Rusape, Zimbabwe. He lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. He attended the National Gallery Zimbabwe Visual Arts Studios (2005-2007). Mundopa paints scenes that interweave Shona (a group of Bantu ethnic group native to Zimbabwe and neighboring countries) folklore and urban iconography. As a painter he is committed to representing the lives of women and children in Harare’s underprivileged neighborhoods. His work is represented in private collections in Hong Kong, Kenya, Australia, France, the UK, Germany, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Cameroon, as well as in the Museum of Modern Art of Equatorial Guinea. Recent exhibitions include the Cape Town Art Fair 2018 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Cape Town, South Africa); Collaging the City at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2017) FNB Joburg Art Fair 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Johannesburg, South Africa); AKAA Paris 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Paris); ‘I am because you are’ at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2016); VOLTA 2016 with First Floor Gallery Harare (New York); and Flaunt, Africa New Wave Now at Ethan Cohen Fine Arts (New York).
Simphiwe Ndzube was born in 1990 in South Africa. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA and Cape Town, South Africa. He attended the Michaelis School of Fine Arts (BFA, 2015), graduating with the Michaelis Prize. Ndzube’s work is characterized by a fundamental interplay between objects, media and two-dimensional surfaces; stitching together a subjective account of black experience in post-apartheid South Africa. Recent exhibitions include The Eye Sees Not Itself at Nicodim Gallery (Los Angeles, 2018); Limbo Colony with Nicodim Gallery at the Armory Show (New York, 2018, solo); Bharbarosi at Nicodim Gallery (Los Angeles, 2017, solo); Becoming at WHATIFTHEWORLD (Cape Town, South Africa, 2016, solo). He has participated in residencies at Greatmore Artist Residency Studios (Woodstock, Cape Town, South Africa) and Dalton Warehouse (South Central, Los Angeles). His work is in a number of public and private collections, include the Rupert Museum (Cape Town, South Africa), the University of Cape Town, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Cape Town, South Africa), and the Rubell Family Collection (Miami).
Gareth Nyandoro was born in 1982 in Bikita, Zimbabwe. He lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Harare, Zimbabwe. He attended Harare Polytechnic College (National Diploma in Fine Art, 2003) before going on to further his studies in Creative Arts and Design at Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe, qualifying in 2008. Nyandoro combines three-dimensional objects with two-dimensional collages created using a technique the artist dubs “Kucheka cheka.” This process is inspired by Nyandoro’s training as a printmaker, and in particular, by the technique of etching; Nyandoro “cut-draws” into paper and applies ink with a sponge, ultimately removing the top sheets of paper to reveal marks that have affected deeper layers. In 2014 and 2015, Nyandoro was a resident artist at the Rijksakedemie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Since his debut solo exhibition titled Mutariri at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2012, Nyandoro has exhibited widely on the African continent and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include Stall(s) of Fame at Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2017); a solo presentation at The Armory Show with Tiwani Contemporary (New York, 2017); IPAPO – IPAPO at SMAC Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa, 2016); and Paper Cut at Tiwani Contemporary (London, 2016). Recent group exhibitions include Drawing Africa on the Map at Quetzal Art Centre (Vidigueira, Portugal, 2018); AFRICAN VOICES: Confronting Frontiers of Reality at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2017); All Things Being Equal at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Cape Town, South Africa, 2017); Frieze New York 2016 with Marc Foxx (New York); and A Moment of Grace (KALEIDOSCOPE) at Modern Art Oxford (Oxford, 2016).
Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude was born in 1988 in Harare, Zimbabwe. He lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. He attended the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Visual Arts Studios (National Certificate in Fine Art, 2008). Born and raised in Mbare—Harare’s and perhaps Zimbabwe’s most vibrant and notorious ghetto—Nyaude works against the sweeping identity that has been defined by the voice of the state. His images oscillate between figuration, abstraction and hallucination, drawing from the restless energy of the ghetto. Living on the verge between survival and demise has been somewhat of a call to poetry, at times proving brutal and at others sentimental or cynically satirical. His figures defy characterization, underscored by the humanity of their quest to attain a quality of life that appears even beyond the reach of dreams. Recent exhibitions include Songs for Sabotage at New Museum Triennial (New York, 2018); FNB Joburg Art Fair with First Floor Gallery Harare (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2017); AKAA Paris with First Floor Gallery Harare (Paris, 2017); Mazino at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2017); Face the Magic at Loving|Monro (Los Angeles, 2017); Another Antipodes at PS Art Space (Freemantle, Australia, 2017); and Cape Town Art Fair with First Floor Gallery Harare (Cape Town, South Africa, 2017).
Irvin Pascal was born in 1987 in London, England. He lives and works in London and Brighton, England. He attended the University of Brighton (BA, Architecture, 2008, and MA, Fine Art, 2017). Recent exhibitions include Material at The Cob Gallery (London 2018); Talisman in the age of difference, curated by Yinka Shonibare MBE at Stephen Friedman Gallery (London, 2018); After Cesaire/Modern Tropiques at Platform Southwark (London, 2018); Marks Make Meaning: drawing across disciplines at Grand Parade gallery (Brighton, 2018); Bloomberg New Contemporaries at Block 336 (London, 2018); The Long Count at Von Goetz (London, 2017); BHM at Latham & Watkins (London, 2017); Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2017 at BALTIC 39 (Newcastle, 2017); and PIAF, Copeland Gallery (London, 2017). Pascal was one of the 47 artists selected for this year’s prestigious Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition, which is accompanied by a printed catalog; he was also included in the 2017 edition. His work is in a number of international collections, including Simmons & Simmons LLP.
Cameron Platter was born in 1978 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lives and works in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. He attended the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town (BFA, Painting, 2001). Recent exhibitions include Teen Non_Fiction at 1301PE (Los Angeles, 2018); Salami at GNYP Gallery (Berlin, 2018); SCREAMING HALLELUJAH at Ever Gold [Projects] (San Francisco, 2017); U-SAVED-ME at Depart Foundation (Los Angeles, 2016); 2015 Artist in Residence at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Cape Town, South Africa); Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa at SFMOMA (San Francisco, 2014); Imaginary Fact, Contemporary South African Art and the Archive at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); De Leur Temps at Musee des Beaux-arts de Nantes (2013); Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now at MoMA (New York, 2011); Les Rencontres Internationales at Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2014) and The Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, 2010); Le Biennale de Dakar 2010 (Dakar, Senegal); Coca-Colonized at Marte Museum (San Salvador, El Salvador, 2010); and Absent Heroes at Iziko South African National Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa, 2010). His work is present in the permanent collections of MoMA (New York); The FRAC Pays de la Loire (Carquefou, France); the Iziko South African National Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa); The Margulies Collection (Miami); The Zeitz Collection; and The New Church Collection (Cape Town, South Africa). His work has been featured in The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Vice Magazine, NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, The BBC, Utflukt, Art South Africa, Protocollum, and Artforum.
Julio Rizhi was born in 1991 in Harare, Zimbabwe. He lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. A self-taught artist, he is a current resident in sculpture and mixed media at Chinembiri Studios (Mbare, Harare). He explores issues of environmental decay, high-density living, and pollution through his found object works in two and three dimensions. He often utilizes plastic elements in his sculptures, melting brightly colored pieces down as a metaphor for the broken promises of a better future advertised but never delivered. Rizhi was raised in a family of two different traditions—the traditions of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. His father fled Mozambique during the civil war between the Portuguese and Frelimo, and much of his work explores the long-term social and psychological impacts of war. Recent exhibitions include Cape Town Art Fair 2018 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Cape Town, South Africa); Art Africa Art Fair 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Cape Town, South Africa); AKAA Paris 2017 with First Floor Gallery Harare (Paris); Another Antipodes at PS Art Space (Fremantle, Australia, 2017); and ‘I am because you are’ at First Floor Gallery Harare (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2016).
Nicola Roos was born in 1994 in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. She lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. She attended the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, graduating in 2017 with the Michaelis Prize. She produces life-size figurative sculpture, primarily utilizing used inner tire tubes, and considers the work to be an investigation of the origins of civilization and society, as well as the ever-changing politics of national identity, collective memory, and cultural belonging in the postcolonial world. Recent exhibitions include Letterlik / Literally at Absolut Art Gallery (Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2018); Right at the Equator at Depart Foundation (Malibu Village, CA, 2018); Recent Acquisitions at UNISA Art Gallery (Tshwane, South Africa, 2017); Black and White at Absolut Art Gallery (Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2017); Turbine Art Fair 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa; and Michaelis Graduate Exhibition at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town (Cape Town, South Africa, 2017).
Moffat Takadiwa was born in 1983 in Karoi, Zimbabwe. He lives and works in Harare. He attended Harare Polytechnic College, Zimbabwe (BA Honors, 2008). Part of the post-independence generation of artists in Zimbabwe, Takadiwa has exhibited extensively across major institutions in Zimbabwe as well as internationally. Takadiwa has been a recipient of many awards, including the Award of Attendance from The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (Harare, Zimbabwe) in 2012 and an Award of Merit and Special Mention Prize for exhibitions at Gallery Delta (Harare, Zimbabwe), both in 2010. Recent solo exhibitions include Say Hello to English at Tyburn Gallery (London, 2017); Foreign Objects at Gallery (London, 2015); Foreign Bodies at Whatiftheworld (Cape Town, South Africa, 2016); Local Foreign Products at Gallery Special Projects, FNB Joburg Art Fair (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2015); Africa Not Reachable! at First Floor Gallery (Harare, Zimbabwe, 2012). Selected group exhibitions include: Right at the Equator at Depart Foundation (Malibu, 2018); On being alone and unbearable loneliness at Watou Art Festival (Belgium, 2017); Chinafrika at Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig (Germany, 2017); and De Nature en Sculpture at Villa Datris Foundation (L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France, 2017). In 2018, the artist will exhibit his work in the group exhibitions Language is the Only Homeland at Nest (The Hague, Netherlands), and The Eye Sees Not Itself at Nicodim Gallery (Los Angeles).