Venue: The Museum of African Design
Address: 281 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg
by Aaron Kohn
This exhibition tells the stories of bygone eras by positioning them firmly within present day narratives. Through architecture, construction, cartography, photography, communal archives, and historical reenactment, each artist and participant has a conversation with a past though which they did not live by juxtaposing the design elements of the past with those of today.
The exhibition title comes from Jacob Dlamini’s 2009 Native Nostalgia, in which he probes the ethical justification for fond memories of a childhood in a South African township. How, he asks, can a black South African can reflect on something so deplorable with nostalgia? The works in this show represent a related form of nostalgia: the nostalgia for a troubled time through which one did not live.
For example, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou reflects on the narrative of Benin’s capital, Porto Novo, through the traditional role of women, ceremonial masks, and the Aguda architectural style largely brought back from Brazil by slaves who were deported from there after the early-1800s slave revolts. The designs in the women’s fabrics and masks, as well as the topless dress, contrast with the peeling paint and ornate Portuguese-style woodwork. On top of that, the portraiture itself is unquestionably contemporary.
Meanwhile, I See A Different You’s 19[ ] Mercedes [MODEL] is parked in the middle of the gallery, a physical specimen of design that the duo drive in their everyday life. Rather than bask in the glory of contemporary vehicular stylings, I See a Different You lives with one foot firmly planted in the political and [artistic/creative/design] past. Their other foot allows their work to depict similar contemporary appropriations of historical design elements.
These juxtapositions are reflective of a broader trend toward nostalgia. For South Africans in their early twenties and younger, South Africa is defined more by the post-1994 intersection of Mandela-style reconciliation and rapid globalization than it is by the struggle against Apartheid. Perhaps because they did not live through the darker days of Apartheid, twenty-somethings buy domestic worker outfits for parties and listen to house music alongside older Marabi jazz.
The works in this exhibition display the deep complexity of Native Nostalgia.
There is also multi media spatial intervention by the Kalashnikovv Gallery and Cuss ZA.
Cuss Artist Statement – INDODA
Creative Direction – Mina Lundgren x Ravi Govender
Performance – Simiso Zwane
Music – Zamani Xolo x Simiso Zwane
This collaboration between Swedish designer Mina Lundgren and myself Ravi Govender see’s us focussing on the Kanga textile and its graphic motifs with reference to its place in Zulu culture. The Khanga itself has been appropriated by diviners across South Africa as part of their dress code, and has strong varied meaning as a result. Themes from Zulu culture, such as strength and masculinity, power and the introduction of the false prophet into contemporary culture are also focussed on. The idea was to create a costume for a character that embodies these features. To aesthetically personify mysticism that is present in an expression that is current to africa. It is to also bridge the gap between international representation, with the creation of a fashion video installation. For this, the technique of green screen is incorporated to enhance the visual
aesthetic of movement and work with the idea of lo-ﬁ video production across the continent.
Kalashnikovv Gallery Statement
The Cuss x Kalashnikovv Gallery Spatial Intervention Installation, involves the fusion of curator and artist into a singular manifestation of two specific roles in the art world. Creating a disjunction and thus a new degree of innovation between these two traditional roles by combining them into one, everything in the installation is considered to question these roles and utilized this combination for maximum impact within the physical space (moad). Rendering curator, mode of display, installation, artwork and other multi media into one all encompassing experience.
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