Athi Mongezeleli Joja

  • Tracey Rose, Die Wit Man (The White Man), 2015, HD video projection, color, sound, 42 minutes 40 seconds.

    Tracey Rose

    These days, contemporary South African art is undergoing an awakening totally different from the hopeful, celebratory, and overwhelming determinism it nursed during the transition from apartheid to democracy. The promise then was to move forward into a new and inclusive national culture. Almost thirty years later, this remains a mirage. Today, the enthusiasm for structural change in the visual arts and across all sectors is less ebullient, more realist and critical. And while this push is certainly welcome, a blind spot has been the false assumption that such an approach has no precedents in

  • Nolan Oswald Dennis, cycliverse model (cosmogony), 2021, compound PET plastic globe model, synthetic stone finish and black primer, 13 x 32.5 x 8".
    picks September 02, 2021

    Nolan Oswald Dennis

    While seemingly resolved a few millennia back, the question of whether the Earth is round or flat has lately seen a perplexing resurgence. For “Conditions,” his third solo exhibition with Goodman Gallery, artist Nolan Oswald Dennis approaches this debate from a different angle, interrogating the racial logics, perceptions, and affect that subtend theories of the world and its depictions. In other words, whether they posit it as flat or round, both conceptions of the Earth have something in common: a “fear of the black planet” (to quote the 1990 Public Enemy album). Palpable and at times deadly,

  • Zanele Muholi, Bangizwenkosi, The Sails, Durban, 2019, gelatin silver print, 23 5/8 × 15 3/4". From the series “Somnyama Ngonyama” (Hail the Dark Lioness), 2012–.

    Zanele Muholi

    The celebrity status that photographer Zanele Muholi has come to enjoy is paradoxical, considering the relatively incendiary tenor of their earlier work vis-à-vis the general atrophy of activist art in South Africa. The assertiveness of Muholi’s photographs appear untrammeled by bourgeois conventions, offering instead the photographic outspokenness and sensuality of Black queer lives. It beckons many of us to reckon with the scandalized existence of Black lesbian, queer, and trans people, especially in the South African townships.

    Muholi’s iconoclasm isn’t a consequence of the new generation’s

  • David Koloane, Under The Bridge II, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 63 × 63".

    David Koloane

    The passing of artist and writer David Koloane at eighty-one not long after the opening of the first iteration of this traveling retrospective at Cape Town’s Iziko South African National Gallery reignited the questions he posed almost two decades prior: “What defines a South African expression? What paradigms would typify the expression? And what criterion to employ in a society virtually divided into distinct and separate worlds?” Though these queries were asked twenty years ago, their urgency remains, unsettling any cavalier mention of a “South African art.” These demands, easily taken for

  • View of Kendell Geers’s “Kendell Geers: In Gozi We Trust,” 2019–20.
    picks December 20, 2019

    Kendell Geers

    Kendell Geers’s latest exhibition is a critical mess of contradictions drawn together in subtle and encyclopedic ways. While the South African conceptualist’s familiar dreads—white suburban paranoia and the vestiges of apartheid—still attend “In Gozi We Trust,” he has broadened his view to accommodate Christian symbolism, anarchism, mysticism, and Egyptology. Visitors will likely either be overawed by what appears to be a rich and multidirectional swipe at postapartheid malaise or totally flummoxed by an ornate and centrifugal posture. With his exhibition title, Geers is obviously riffing on

  • Portia Zvavahera, Cleansing, 2019, oil-based printing ink and oil bar on canvas, 79 1⁄8 × 68 1⁄2".

    Portia Zvavahera

    Entry into any discursive space comes at a price, especially when that which enters does so through translation. Herein lies the rub for artists such as the Zimbabwean painter Portia Zvavahera, who takes her dreams and turns them into art. However, her paintings are hardly a direct translation of her dreams. As even she herself has said, “I change it somehow.” Be that as it may, translation remains a grounding feature of her work, and it takes precedence, not only in the construction of her subject matter, but also in its aesthetics. Although Zvavahera draws a lot from her spiritual and religious

  • Albert Adams, Abu Ghraib Figure, 2004, oil on canvas, 50 x 40".
    picks May 14, 2019

    Albert Adams

    A relatively unknown figure, the late Albert Adams (1929–2006) nevertheless stands in the pantheon of South African artists, quietly stoking the flame. Commemorating what would be his ninetieth birthday, WAM, in collaboration with SMAC Gallery, has opened the doors for researchers to start excavating the bounty Adams left behind. Including works such as the triptych South Africa 1958-59 (Deposition), 1959, and Descent from the Cross, 1955, to later output like The Captive, 1982, and his stark charcoal “Celebration” drawings, 2001, curator Marilyn Martin’s show, subtitled “An Invincible Spirit,”