Local art lovers treated to Nicholas Hlobo’s latest installations

2009-12-04 00:00

HIS exhibition was one of the biggest drawcards at the 2009 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and now local art lovers will be able to see Nicholas Hlobo’s installations at the Durban Art Gallery.

Hlobo, who was chosen as the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art 2009, has drawn strongly on his Xhosa heritage in his work, invoking the rich idioms of the Xhosa language and exploring how traditions evolve in changing times.

Of equal interest to the artist is his own sexual identity and his place as a gay man within Xhosa culture. Where his previous shows have looked at ideas surrounding birth and sex, in this exhibition Hlobo takes as his theme the rituals that accompany the transition from youth to adulthood.

“The term umtshotsho refers to a traditional party for young people,” he explains. “The focus is on that time when children are beginning to think and act like adults; the desire to explore life, dating, going out at night and all the consequences of wanting to do things older people do.

“Umtshotsho rarely takes place in its old form any more and young people have found alternatives such as going to bars and clubs. The works are not trying to tell a story about an old way of partying for teenagers but look at the new conventions and draw similarities between different times.”

The central installation, Izithunzi (meaning shadows), comprises a gathering of eight figures resembling jellyfish, pumpkins or ghosts. Some are freestanding, others are suspended or seated on a sofa. Constructed primarily from rubber inner tubing, the figures sport details like lace, organza and ribbons — Hlobo’s signature materials.

Born in Cape Town in 1975 and based in Johannesburg, Hlobo graduated from the Wits Technikon with a B Tech degree in 2002. His first solo show, Izele, took place at the Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, in 2006, and in 2008 he had solo exhibitions in the Level 2 Gallery at the Tate Modern in London and at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, Massachusetts.

Recent group shows include Beauty and Pleasure in South African Contemporary Art at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, the third Guangzhou Triennial in China, Flow at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, and Home Lands/Land Marks at Haunch of Venison gallery in London.

The Durban Art Gallery, which is on the second floor of the city hall in Smith Street, Durban, is open Monday to Saturday from 8.30 am to 4 pm and, on Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm.

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