Simphiwe Ndzube: Waiting for Mulungu
Organizer: Danielle Shang
Duration: 2018.6.2 – 8.12
Venue： Cc Foundation & Art Centre
Address：Room 101, Bldg. 15, M50 Art Industrial Park, 50 Moganshan Road, Putuo District, Shanghai
Cc Foundation and Art Centre is proud to present South African Artist Simphiwe Ndzube’s debut solo exhibition in Asia, Waiting for Mulungu,.
Recently relocated from Cape Town to Los Angeles, Simphiwe Ndzube (b. 1990, Johannesburg, South Africa) has created an ambitious body of figurative works, ranging from paintings to sculptures to installations, incorporating various stitched-on garments, patterned duct tapes, and found objects. Ndzube’s work, drawing inspiration from African folklore magic realism, is centered on a reoccurring imaginary protagonist, Bhabharosi, on a journey to self-discovery, healing, and searching for meaning in a seemingly godless world.
Although the sometimes faceless and sometimes headless bodies in his works always appear amputated or distorted, they are charged with energy of somatic movements and adored with razzle-dazzle motifs, suggesting rhythm, motion, performativity and corporeality that are derived from South African working-class black men’s tradition of “swenking” and the popular Pantsula dance of the youth. The word “swenking” is borrowed from the English word “swank.” During the decades of Apartheid, swenking, a self-initiated pageantry among black laborers, blossomed. In the competition, the Swenkas peacock against one another, performing elaborate acts and dances to call attention to the details of their flamboyant Western-style outfits and accessories that are interpreted as the extension of men’s masculinity and dignity. If Swenking is for older workers, Pantsula dance is the choice of black young men and women, including Ndzube himself. The word “Pantsula,” is Zulu, meaning “waddling like a duck.” With quick, intricate and technical foot works and acrobatic twists and turns that are usually low to the ground, the dancers take over busy city streets, busting moves to the music.
At the heart of Ndzube’s practice is his reflection on the body in relations to and as objects in both historical and socio-economic contexts. Ndzube states:
…[A]rticles of clothing and fabric become a skin, bound together by thread and combined with found objects[,] simultaneously revealing and concealing forms. The pulling of the thread through the fabric often leads to a distortion of these forms which points to the underlying violence of puncturing and suturing disjointed parts to form a whole. The act of stitching forms a therapeutic and meditative process[,] but, as with the scarring left by surgical stitches, it also serves as reminder of past traumas and wounds.
The theatrically represented and codified Swenkas and Pantsula dancers in Ndzube’s works are where the personal becomes political. Annette Messager once argues that “being an artist means forever healing your own wounds and at the same time endlessly exposing them.” Ndzube’s works accentuate the dynamic corporeal manifestation, so that the visualized bodily postures are connected to the implicit music and choreography as a form of the artist’s autobiographical storytelling of a black young man’s daunting experience growing up in South Africa, where, even after Apartheid was over, institutional racism and neocolonialism still rife.
The Swahili word “Mulungu” means God. It originally described white people who assumed a god-like position of power in the country. By adapting the title from Samuel Becket's Waiting For Godot, Ndzube examines the notion of theater, the tragic, and the epic, while investigating the collective psyche of black people, proposing a different set of vocabulary outside the Eurocentric legacy, and participating in activism of the global black community whose defiant spirit has given birth to an enormous range of paradigms of resistance, solidarity, and celebration.
About Cc Foundation
Cc Foundation, founded and supported by collector and entrepreneur David Chau, is committed to supporting and sponsoring young and emerging practitioners, encouraging innovative ideas, and promoting the development of contemporary arts and culture in China and beyond. With offices in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, the foundation launched its non-profit space at M50 Art Zone in November 2016.