New at Norval

Are you an art enthusiast eager for an outing? We asked Norval Foundation’s chief executive Elana Brundyn to share personal insights into three new exhibitions opening at the foundation this September.

After five months starved of gallery and museum expeditions, being the art lovers that we are, we couldn’t be more thrilled about the reopening of Cape Town’s Norval Foundation on Wednesday 2 September. Following their hugely successful exhibition Why Should I Hesitate: Sculpture by William Kentridge and subsequent lockdown hiatus, the foundation reopens with what we know will be three compelling exhibitions, all by highly respected South African artists both past and present.

Zanele Muholi, Jackson Hlungwani and Athi-Patra Ruga’s works are exhibited both locally and abroad and grace important international collections, so expect a feast for the eyes. We asked Norval Foundation’s chief executive Elana Brundyn to reveal to us a personally significant visual from each of the upcoming shows.

New at Norval

Zanele Muholi: And Then You See Yourself

Curated by Owen Martin and Khanya Mashabela.

“I have chosen ‘Somnyama In Lafayette, New York’ (2016) as it is a work I have never seen before. The exhibition opens with a powerful video entitled ‘EyeMe’ (2012), a grid of staring eyes, which sets the tone for a consideration of the nature of seeing and being seen. I love that this exhibition explores the evolution of South African visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi’s practice over the last two decades. It looks at the beautiful and most recent Somnyama Ngonyama series through the lens of the artist’s earlier works. Loosely chronological, a narrative about negotiating identity through self-portraiture unfolds from early works to the present day, beginning in intimate, domestic, and sacred private space and shifting to the public perception of identity.”

Norval Foundation

Jackson Hlungwani: Alt and Omega

Curated by Karel Nel, Nessa Liebhammer and Amos Letsoalo.

“I am very excited that we are staging this exhibition. The image I’ve selected, whilst not from the show itself, reveals a very private, behind-the-scenes glimpse of the planning of the exhibition. This is the model used by the Norval Foundation curators to plan the show to scale. Jackson Hlungwani is one of the most significant South African sculptors to have emerged in the 1980s – unusually, not from an urban environment but from the rural village of Mbhokota, Gazankulu, now in Limpopo Province. Of Shangaan lineage, he came from a region known for its great Tsonga-Shangaan woodcarving traditions. These arose from the abundance of great indigenous woods in the region, which were used in the making of both ritual carvings and household objects of great beauty.

Hlungwani’s carved works are characterised by a deep reverence for the spirit of the wood itself and its natural form, which he harnessed in the creation of powerful imagery. Hlungwani’s spiritual mythology engages his ancestral legacy, the twentieth century Ethiopian Church and possibly an early form of Africanised Christianity. However, his awareness of global culture, contemporary politics and – at times – a quirky, humorous element, made for a nuanced body of work of great consequence.

I find it interesting that since their removal from the site, these works have never been seen together. In a thrilling move, our exhibition will reunite the two altars that were the conceptual nucleus of his acropolis hill site. Furthermore, since Hlungwani’s passing, the site has fallen into disrepair and there are no longer any sculptures there to be seen. As a way of reconstructing the route through the site as it was when Jackson was alive, we will have on display a site plan of New Jerusalem, with information about locations of works and the various stations on the route.”

Norval Foundation

Athi-Patra Ruga: iiNyanga Zonyaka: The Lunar Songbook

Curated by Khanyisile Mbongwa.

“I am so proud of this ambitious project and major commission conceived in three parts in Norval Foundation’s triple-volume atrium by one of my favourite artists, Athi-Patra Ruga. The first part realises a large-scale image, like a stained-glass window in a cathedral, directly on the atrium’s window that builds on the artist’s personal iconographies while drawing upon the Xhosa calendar. The second part will see this tableau completed in stained glass and pulled into the space. The third part will exist as an archive in Norval Foundation’s library, collating all of the research materials and preparatory sketches. I have chosen one of these sketches of the character that informs the beautiful story – Nomalizo (the one that brings reward), a young woman from eTsomo, a town just above the Kei River. She travels to Azania City to study. The story unfolds through love and joy, pain and turmoil. I consider it both beautiful and spiritual.”

Words: Martin Jacobs
Photographs: Courtesy of Norval Foundation

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