Dying to be MenKudzanai Chiurai at Goodman Gallery
Zimbabwean-born, Johannesburg-based artist Kudzanai Chiurai’s recent exhibition ‘Dying to be men’, shown at the Goodman Gallery Cape, elicited mixed responses from Cape audiences. While Chiurai’s rich, humorous images of an imaginary cabinet seduced some commentators, others were less impressed by the somewhat cartoon-ish stereotypes. Over at ArtHeat, meanwhile, Chiurai’s exhibition cropped up in a heated debate around race.
ArtThrob chatted to the artist, to find out how he felt about the rumpus.
Katharine Jacobs: First off, I wanted to ask you about the figure in the photographs of the imaginary cabinet. When I visited your show at Goodman Gallery Cape, curator Storm Janse van Rensburg told me many people tended to assume that the character in the imaginary cabinet series was played by you. I was surprised: it was an assumption I had made too. Actually, the character is played by Siyabonga Ngwekazi. Yet, the tradition with this kind of work, has been for the artist to use their own image in the shots. Why did you decide to use Siyabonga rather than yourself in the images?
Kuzanai Chiurai: Well, Siyabonga is a television presenter, and he also owns a clothing range – amakipkip tshirts – and I was interested in what he stood for. A younger generation… It was easier for Siya to play out those roles, those stereotypes, than anyone else.
KJ: I believe David LaChappelle was an influence for the shoot, who else are you into? Were there painters who influenced your layering technique?
KC: Well, William T Wiley, and a painter, Kerry James Marshall. His subject matter deals a lot with African American issues.
The layering actually it comes out of the mistakes I make. In most of the paintings, there are about four layers under the one you see. Beneath all those paintings there are three others. I would first have a couple of ideas, and then if that didn’t work out, if I couldn’t get what I wanted, then I would play with all these things, and what you see is the final thing.
KJ: There are some fairly specific cultural references in the paintings. The phrase 'Well Oprah said he was a cookie monster', appears in one painting, for instance…
KC: I was watching that specific episode of Oprah, and they were talking about relationships, and there was this guy on the show who had written kind of a self-help book for women. I thought it was quite interesting – a strange shift – that a guy wrote a self-help book for women – it seemed kind of strange – what men want. I got that quote [WELL OPRAH SAID HE WAS A COOKIE MONSTER] from one of their conversations. And Oprah actually uses the word cookie, instead of pussy.
16 July 2009 - 15 August 2009
Dying to be MenKudzanai Chiurai at Goodman Gallery
Dying to be Men continues Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai’s interest in the aesthetics of propaganda, and interrogates the visual legacy of political representation. At the convergence of major political events – elections in South Africa, the USA and Zimbabwe – Chiurai homes in on aspects of the image of the black president and his cabinet in particular. As such, the works on show unpack notions of masculinity and power, as evocatively suggested by the title of the exhibition.
16 July 2009 - 15 August 2009
12th International Cairo BiennialSam Nhlengethwa, Joel Andrianomearisoa, Marco Cianfanelli, Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse and Kudzanai Chiurai at Various Venues around Cairo
Since its inception in 1984, the Cairo Biennale has been considered one of the most important cultural events in the Middle East. Conceived and initially designed to explore contemporary art in the Arab world, the concepts of the successive artistic directors expanded the interest to the global international arena. The biennale is produced by the fine arts sector of the Egyptian ministry of culture, and the exhibition is spread over the entirety of all public spaces managed by the sector.
12 December 2010 - 12 February 2011
'ARS 11'Mary Sibande, Pieter Hugo, Steven Cohen, Kudzanai Chiurai, Nandipha Mntambo and Andrew Putter at Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
'ARS 11' is a major international art event filling Helsinki's Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art with artworks, performances, screenings, discussions and workshops, and extending to eight cities in Finland as well as to Stockholm, Sweden. Investigating Africa in contemporary art, the exhibition includes not only artists living in Africa, but also those who live outside the continent; artists of African descent as well as Western artists who address African issues in their work. The exhibition features some 300 works by a total of 30 artists, including Mary Sibande, Kudzanai Chiurai, Nandipha Mntambo, Andrew Putter, Steven Cohen and Pieter Hugo.
15 April 2011 - 27 November 2011
'Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now'Sue Williamson, John Muafangejo, Cameron Platter, Sandile Goje, Senzeni Marasela, William Kentridge, Kudzanai Chiurai, Claudette Schreuders and Bitterkomix at MoMA
During the oppressive years of apartheid rule in South Africa, not all artists had access to the same opportunities. But far from quashing creativity and political spirit, these limited options gave rise to a host of alternatives—including studios, print workshops, art centers, schools, publications, and theaters open to all races; underground poster workshops and collectives; and commercial galleries that supported the work of black artists—that made the art world a progressive environment for social change. Printmaking, with its flexible formats, portability, relative affordability, and collaborative environment, was a catalyst in the exchange of ideas and the articulation of political resistance.
Drawn entirely from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, 'Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now' features nearly 100 posters, books, and wall stencils created over the last five decades that demonstrate the exceptional reach, range, and impact of printmaking during and after a period of enormous political upheaval. From the earliest print in the exhibition, made in 1965 (the Museum’s first acquisition of work by a South African artist), to printed posters from the height of the antiapartheid movement in the 1980s, to projects by a younger generation that reflect new and evolving artistic concerns, these works are striking examples of printed art as a tool for social, political, and personal expression.
23 March 2011 - 14 August 2011
dOCUMENTA (13)Zanele Muholi, William Kentridge and Kudzanai Chiurai at Various venues around Kassel
dOCUMENTA (13) is conceived as a series of artistic acts and gestures that are already taking place, as well as the main exhibition in Kassel. According to Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, dOCUMENTA (13) does not follow a single, overall concept but engages in conducting, and choreographing manifold materials, methods, and knowledges. Questions of personal and collective emancipation through art emerge in the process of making dOCUMENTA (13) by thinking through a number of composite ontologies that generate paradoxical conditions of contemporary life and artistic production. Exploring this set of composite ontologies and considerations, the exhibition will be held in various locations and places, and will include new works by more than 100 artists from around the world. In some cases, these will be presented as parts of projects with other artists, agents, or persons active in cultural fields including science and literature. Furthermore, a number of historical artworks will be exhibited in these interrelated ideas, conversations, and parallel stories.
09 June 2012 - 16 September 2012
'Harvest of Thorns'Kudzanai Chiurai at Goodman Gallery
Goodman Gallery presents an exhibition of new and recent work by Kudzanai Chiurai in our Johannesburg space. The show, titled Harvest of Thorns, is a culmination of Chiurai’s projects around public acts of violence as documented and represented by the media. Harvest of Thorns is loosely based on the book of the same title by author Shimmer Chinodya.
Chinodya gives insight into the guerrilla warfare that ensued after Rhodesia’s split from Britain in 1965. Through various conversations with family members. His interest in public acts of violence is thus a real issue of personal relevance. Chiurai asks us to consider subjective mourning for these public acts of violence including the recent events that took place in Marikana. His film 'Moyo' is the third in a series including 'Iyeza' and 'Creation'. 'Moyo' – meaning air – tenderly articulates the moment in death when the air or spirit leaves the body. The woman in the film witnesses this moment and cries ‘Warazulwa ngenxa yami’ (you were ripped and torn for my sake) as she wipes the wounds of a lifeless figure.
The exhibition interrogates a contemporary African notion of sacrifice, though not enquiring into its necessity. Violence and sacrifice are evidenced through Chiurai’s use of sheepskin, bandages, wood, blood-red beads and bronzed horns. Chiurai alludes to ritual practices of war, cleansing and burial.
'Harvest of Thorns' will also feature drawings and films shown on dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012, which formed part of Chiurai’s series titled 'Conflict Resolution'. The series, Chiurai explains, “grapples with the issue of conflict in the contemporary moment in Africa. The spaces within which conflict has been taking place vary to the extent of our own understanding of what defines conflict. Our understanding of resolution is therefore also brought to the fore as we question the validity and nature of force used in our attempts at peace.”
10 October 2013 - 09 November 2013