Southern Guild, a vanguard in the realm of contemporary art, has unfurled its wings in the vibrant city of Los Angeles.
This momentous occasion is marked by a dual presentation, encapsulating the essence of African creativity. “Mother Tongues,” a group exhibition featuring 25 artists from the African continent, and “Indyebo yakwaNtu” (Black Bounty), a solo show by the acclaimed South African sculptor Zizipho Poswa, converge to create a mesmerizing tapestry of artistic expression.
A Linguistic Tapestry: The Significance of Mother Tongues
The term ‘mother tongue’ transcends its linguistic definition; it symbolizes the core of one’s identity and connection to the world. It’s more than a language; it’s a border, a point of intersection and negotiation.
Southern Guild, in its Californian expansion, treads the path paved by artists who sought refuge in the wake of historical turbulence, fostering a rich exchange of knowledge between South Africa and California.
In the late 1960s, the exodus of artists from South Africa found a resonating echo in Los Angeles. Hugh Masekela, a cultural icon, planted the seeds of Afro sounds in the city, leaving an indelible mark on the global music landscape.
The artistic migration, now embodied by Southern Guild, seeks to continue this legacy, creating touchpoints for the convergence of diverse “mother tongues” and emergent vernaculars.
Diverse Expressions: The Multigenerational Lens
Southern Guild’s inaugural exhibition transcends traditional boundaries, navigating multiple contact zones that traverse visible surfaces and interior states. Zanele Muholi’s arresting portrait, “Siyikhokonke,” encapsulates the heterogeneity of human existence, challenging dichotomies through the lens of multiplicity.
Jody Paulsen’s corporeal collage and Jozua Gerrard’s masked figures disrupt conventional modes of observation, offering entry points to diverse narratives. Justine Mahoney’s collage sculptures, while intriguing, defy easy contextualization, inviting viewers to explore the lexicon of fragmented narratives.
Bodies Laden with Stories
In Tony Gum’s portraits, the body becomes a continent burdened with stories, a testament to the rich tapestry of African experiences. The exhibition delves into the intricacies of artists like Manyaku Mashilo and Oluseye, whose works blend historical references with contemporary expressions.
Andile Dyalvane, a renowned South African ceramicist, finds his connection to home through the medium of clay. His artistic journey, intertwined with the essence of “umhlaba” (mother earth), serves as a narrative link to his past, present, and future.
Patrick Bongoy’s rubber wall hangings, Dominique Zinkpè’s intricately carved Ibéji dolls, and Usha Seejarim’s use of everyday objects challenge the boundaries of sculptural expression. Their works exemplify the transformative power of art, turning inert materials into dynamic narratives.
Rich Mnisi’s Nwa-Mulamula’s Chaise, inspired by organic curves, intertwines familial narratives with artistic expression. Mnisi, a master storyteller, transforms intimacy into both practice and aesthetic, weaving personal and familial tales.
Nigerian-British ceramicist Ranti Bam’s terracotta torso vessels stretch the boundaries of language, embodying the artist’s fascination with etymology. Her creations become a form of communication, a tangible expression of shared experiences.
Luyanda Zindela’s meticulously sketched drawings explore the theme of close friendships as metaphorical mark-making processes. Each line becomes an imprint of tenderness, reflecting the artist’s dedication to the traditional art of cross-hatching.
Language and Rituals of Memory
In Kamyar Bineshtarigh’s large-scale paintings, language becomes a fluid entity, echoing Africa-centric notions of time. His fascination with calligraphy and script transforms lines into abstract forms, layered in a way that defies clear stratification.
Chaos/complexity theorists argue that language development mirrors Africa-centric understandings of time – a sloshing, not an ordering. The intimate vernacular, our mother tongues, plays a pivotal role in observing and preserving rituals of memory and meaning, creating a politic veiled in the familial, the traditional, and the magical.
Conclusion: Southern Guild’s Artistic Odyssey
Southern Guild’s foray into Los Angeles marks a significant chapter in the global dialogue of contemporary art. With “Mother Tongues” as its inaugural statement, the exhibition transcends linguistic boundaries, offering a profound exploration of diverse narratives, experiences, and expressions.
As Southern Guild opens this new chapter of exchange, it not only establishes itself as a beacon of artistic prowess but also paves the way for a richer, more interconnected artistic future.