VIGIL & Dzuvula: Dual Exhibitions Redefining Southern African Art

Embark on a captivating journey into the realms of artistic mastery as Southern Guild Cape Town proudly presents two concurrent exhibitions that redefine the boundaries of contemporary art.

“VIGIL” by the visionary Justine Mahoney and “Dzuvula (Shedding Skin)” by the acclaimed Rich Mnisi converge at the intersection of Jungian archetypes, mythopoetic imagination, and fluid design.

From Mahoney’s profound exploration of the collective human unconscious to Mnisi’s fusion of mythology and functional sculpture, these exhibitions promise an immersive experience that transcends conventional artistic boundaries.

Join us as we delve into the enchanting narratives woven by these two distinguished artists, each bringing a unique perspective to the canvas of Southern African artistry.

Journey into the Jungian Landscape: Mahoney’s Mythopoetic Imagination

During an extended period of isolation amid the pandemic, Mahoney engaged in a daily practice of self-enquiry through Jungian meditation. Her encounters with the “Mythopoetic Imagination,” as coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, led to the manifestation of vivid archetypes.

VIGIL & Dzuvula: Dual Exhibitions Redefining Southern African Art

Drawing inspiration from Tarot, Plato’s theory of forms, and Jung’s own writings, Mahoney sculpted these figures as messengers from the invisible terrain within, embodying the collective human unconscious.

From Disruption to Reconfiguration: Mahoney’s Artistic Process

Mahoney’s sculpting process mirrors her previous digital collages, involving shaping clay, deconstruction, and reassembly. This disruption and reconfiguration, a consistent theme in her three-decade career, showcase a preference for transgressive, hybridized figuration. Each figure in VIGIL becomes an amorphous vessel, portraying the dualities and rapture of universal humanity.

The painted earthenware figures in VIGIL stand on ebonised plinths crafted from indigenous cedar and pine. Mahoney employs the centuries-old Japanese wood-burning technique, Shou Sugi Ban, to treat these plinths.

VIGIL & Dzuvula: Dual Exhibitions Redefining Southern African Art

Torching the wood with a flamethrower results in a striking ebony stain, providing a visually captivating contrast to the sculptures.

The Resurgence of Enamel Paintings: A Return to Painting Roots

After years of working exclusively in bronze, clay, and digital collage, Mahoney returns to painting with a series of enamel paintings on large fabric segments.

These two-dimensional representations, hanging almost from floor to ceiling, engage in a visual dialogue with the clay bodies, presenting deliberate silhouettes of line and colour that retain each archetype’s energetic weight.

In the midst of global upheaval, Mahoney’s VIGIL takes on renewed significance, elevating ancient, inner knowing. The body of work serves as a poignant reminder of our collective humanness and shared mythologies, offering a unique perspective amidst the chaos of the modern world.

Dzuvula (Shedding Skin) by Rich Mnisi: A Fusion of Design, Mythology, and Fluidity

Presenting a solo exhibition of collectable design, Rich Mnisi’s “Dzuvula (Shedding Skin)” at Southern Guild Cape Town, from 8 February to 18 April 2024, expands on the cosmology of duality introduced in his debut collection, Nyoka (2021).

VIGIL & Dzuvula: Dual Exhibitions Redefining Southern African Art

This body of work delves into the interplay of the mundane and the magical, the matriarchal and magisterial, reflecting Mnisi’s commitment to fluidity as both a guiding philosophy and aesthetic approach.

The snake, embodying fear and beauty, reappears in Dzuvula, with undulating arcs distorting borders and edges. Mnisi’s collection introduces a sensuous whisper, hinting at deviance and challenging boundaries.

A polished bronze table, Mbhoni (Witness), and sculptural seats, Ripfumelo I and Ripfumelo II, symbolize the dualities of fear and comfort, adding a soft lushness to the overall narrative.

In “Vutlhari II (Wisdom),” a bronze chandelier, Mnisi incorporates a swirling serpent motif, symbolizing the consumption of wisdom from our forebears. This edition features shades printed with an intricate snakeskin pattern, emphasizing the mythological references woven into the collection.

Dzuvula also pays homage to Bumba, the Bushongo mythological god, through “Shiluva (Flower),” a rug in Tibetan wool and silk. This exquisite piece depicts the primordial soup of life, reflecting Mnisi’s ability to intertwine historical references with contemporary design.

Collaborative Craftsmanship: Mnisi’s Intimate Praxis with Southern Guild

Collaborating closely with Southern Guild, Mnisi brings his visions to life by working with various artists and artisans, including Charles Haupt of Bronze Age Studio. This commitment aligns with Southern Guild and Mnisi’s dedication to promoting craft and South African handwork.

VIGIL & Dzuvula: Dual Exhibitions Redefining Southern African Art

Intimacy remains a central theme in Mnisi’s works, where forms hug the body and require viewer movement for a dynamic experience. Pieces like “Nwa-Mulamula’s Embrace (2021)” and “Rhulani (Peace)” exemplify the designer’s ability to infuse personal narratives into functional sculptures.

Mnisi acknowledges the inherent tensions within the human experience, emphasizing the acceptance of immutable truths. “Dzuvula” transforms this acceptance into a sensory journey, where each piece reflects the nuanced nature of life’s tensions through varied forms, patinas, patterns, and textures.

Born in Johannesburg in 1991, Rich Mnisi’s design vision spans fashion and functional sculpture. A graduate of Johannesburg’s LISOF School of Fashion, Mnisi founded his eponymous label in 2015, producing genderless, seasonless collections infused with personal narrative and heritage.

“Dzuvula (Shedding Skin)” by Rich Mnisi runs concurrently with “VIGIL” by Justine Mahoney at Southern Guild Cape Town from 8 February to 18 April 2024. This dual exhibition promises a captivating exploration of design, mythology, and the intimate narratives woven into the fabric of Southern African artistry.

VIGIL & Dzuvula: Dual Exhibitions Redefining Southern African Art

Conclusion: A Tapestry of Artistic Brilliance

In the embrace of Southern Guild Cape Town’s dual exhibitions, “VIGIL” by Justine Mahoney and “Dzuvula (Shedding Skin)” by Rich Mnisi, a tapestry of artistic brilliance unfolds.

Mahoney’s Jungian archetypes and Mnisi’s design alchemy harmonize, transcending conventional boundaries and inviting viewers into a world where mythology, fluidity, and introspection converge.

From Mahoney’s esoteric journey into the collective human unconscious to Mnisi’s fusion of cultural narratives in functional sculptures, these exhibitions paint a vivid portrait of Southern African artistry.

As VIGIL and Dzuvula run concurrently from 8 February to 18 April 2024, they beckon art enthusiasts to explore the profound stories embedded within each creation, forging a lasting impact on the landscape of contemporary art.

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