Shedding light in art

2009-03-19 00:00

“THESE are the voices of the givers of life and their voices should be listened to. They have something to say.”

With these passionate words, Durban author, storyteller and activist, Gcina Mhlophe, opened In The light Of Play, an exhibition by contemporary African women artists at the Durban Art Gallery.

The exhibition, curated by Nigerian Bisi Silva, from the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, with the assistance of Durban’s Carol Brown, includes works by Berry Bickle (Zimbabwe), Sokari Douglas Camp (Nigeria/UK), Helga Kohl (Namibia), Bongi Bengu (South Africa), Pinar Yolacan (Turkey) and Monique Pelser (South Africa).

Yolacan’s works are from the acclaimed series Maria, a collection of 22 life-sized portrait photographs of Afro-Brazilian women taken over a 12-month period in Itaparica. They are in sharp contrast to Pelser’s photographs, titled Bystanders, which have been taken from newspaper images chronicling the oil embargo, Nelson Mandela’s release, the state of emergency, the Rugby World Cup and the resignation of Thabo Mbeki.

Bengu’s work is from her recent Emancipation series in which she explores themes around women’s rights, slavery, meditation, freedom of expression, the right to education, and cultural imperatives; while Douglas Camp’s work reflects both the British and Nigerian cultural realities in a playful and celebratory way.

Bickle’s works are heavily layered with scratches, scribbles and even burned fragments of texts on a variety of surfaces; and Kohl’s Kolmanskop series offers beautiful haunting photographs of the desolate landscape of the Namib Desert.

Mhlope said she was “very excited” to hear about the exhibition adding: “These works show the feminity and the strength of women. If you are born on this continent and come from the history I come from, you know that women are the backbone of the country, the continent.

“I hope the works being shown here will open doors, open minds and will shed light on serious issues. Let us look at these works and listen to what the voices have to say and let us encourage young people to learn from the pathfinders, those who walked ahead.”

In The light Of Play is at the Durban Art Gallery until March 27. Gallery hours: Monday to Saturday, 8.30 am to 4pm and Sundays, 11 am to 4 pm. Admission is free. Inquiries: 031 311 2262.

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