SMAC Art Gallery 02

cape listings

True Colours

Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi
True Colours, 2013. Oil on canvas 900 x 700.

True Colours

Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi at Barnard Gallery

Barnard Gallery is proud to present True Colours – a solo exhibition by Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi. As the idiom suggests, the definition of true colours is to reveal the reality beneath the mantle of appearance. In this show, Ngqinambi deals with divergent discourses around truth, memory and history, as conveyed through the flag, one of history’s most semantically loaded emblems.

Denoting identity, belonging, unity and power, the flag represents the honour of a nation. Its defilement constitutes an act of sacrilege against the state it represents.  But a flag is also a signal to a vehicle or driver to take heed, slow down or stop. Using the flag as his thematic fulcrum against the backdrop of volatile narratives of oppression and liberation, Ngqinambi explores and interrogates the motives of governments in hoisting the flag for reasons other than national unity.

Ngqinambi’s personal, political and professional biographies are located within South Africa’s segregation and liberation histories. Born in Cape Town in 1977, a year after the Soweto Student Uprisings, he grew up in a conflict zone where the puny arsenal of stones and rubble was pitted against police nyalas and the military might of the apartheid state. In the absence of formal art tuition, Ngqinambi’s talent was nurtured at the Community Arts Project, one of the country’s indispensable cultural centres addressing the cultural and educational imbalances wrought by Apartheid. He witnessed the dawn of a new era and the promise of an equal and just society. Ngqinambi’s career has also benefited from the fecund fruits of cultural freedom heralded by South Africa’s political, social, economic and cultural reintegration into the global arena. He recently completed a residency in Stuttgart, Germany, during which he engaged with cultural activists in a febrile, multidisciplinary environment where intellectual discourse and critique melded with conceptualism, mixed media, performance art and installation. He feeds off these contemporary influences but ultimately his art remains grounded in the tradition of painterly figuration.

Ngqinambi’s epic scenes straddle the topography of cultural and visual history. His imagery evokes associations with the figurative traditions of 18th and19th European Romanticism, particularly the genre of sublime painting, as well as early 20th century Soviet socialist realism. His work also displays the influence of South African township art and protest art of the 1980s – the latter characterised by the strident imagery and saturated hues of posters carried aloft by anti-apartheid activists and liberation cadres during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle.

His canvases are animated by his trademark imagery: marching crowds depicted against precipitous backdrops, illuminated by celestial skies rendered in sweeping kaleidoscopic hues. Titanic, tumbling forms enact melodramas of both illustrative simplicity and baroque complexity. Through extremes of scale and recurring visual tropes Ngqinambi’s imaginary landscapes dazzle while presenting a damning critique. For, unlike the agitprop executed by his revolutionary forebears, Ngqinambi’s paintings do not celebrate the nationalistic idealism inherent in traditional flag symbolism. In much of his work the flag is depicted as a sullied symbol, as, literally, a rug being pulled from under the feet of the nation, or a carpet under which the messier bits of ideological supremacy are swept. The flag becomes, therefore, a parody of liberation movements that have lost their heroic lustre, as well as a metaphor for corruption justified through ontological arguments around entitlement and ownership. Although his references also extend to skewed power relations in the Middle East and beyond, Ngqinambi’s principal focus is on the specifics of South African history, politics and symbols.

In a profound sense, the South African flag symbolises an apogee in the quest for democratic ideals by a nation whose brutal past has been vanquished by the triumph of justice. But apartheid’s meta-narrative has been supplanted by another dominant narrative that celebrates some emblems and monuments as the primary bearers of truth, while shrouding or negating others. Ngqinambi’s art reinforces the ambivalent relationship between past and present, as well as competing histories of truth. It raises the vital questions of how to acknowledge the past without being limited by it and how to negotiate the paradoxes of change without resorting to propaganda or oppression. He does this, neither through polemics nor cultural theory, however, but through reflections on individual and collective memory.

In True Colours, Ngqinambi refigures the role of the flag within a broader discourse revolving around the distortions of power. Produced against a backdrop of escalating kleptocracy, the lingering memory of the 2012 Marikana massacre and South Africa’s volatile national elections, this show speaks, not of pride, but of betrayal through the excesses of gravy trains and ongoing violence. Ngqinambi’s images of conspicuous consumption and crass materialism, convey a dystopian vision of the unbalanced relationship between government and governed, ruler and subject. As such, his paintings issue a warning about flagging morale, sagging morality, suppressed or untold narratives and the lessons history reveals, yet which, at our peril, we choose to ignore.

Hazel Friedman, May 2014.

22 May - 10 July



more cape listings

  • 'Myths of Harare'

    'Myths of Harare'

    Wycliffe Mundopa

    at Commune.1

    Commune.1 is pleased to present an exhibition of large-scale oil paintings by Zimbabwean painter Wycliffe Mundopa. Combining personal iconography and allegorical imagery with harsh and gritty references to social reality, Mundopa’s paintin

    SEE MORE
  • ‘In the end, we're all to blame’

    ‘In the end, we're all to blame’

    Elize Vossgatter

    at Commune.1

    Commune.1 presents ‘In the end, we're all to blame’, an exhibition of new paintings by Elize Vossgatter and a collaboration with Berlin-based performance artist Hilla Steinert. Following an ongoing interrogation of the notions of the self

    SEE MORE
  • 'Suspension of Disbelief'

    'Suspension of Disbelief'

    Various Artists

    at Brundyn

    'I am an avid reader and follower of science fiction - and at times speculative fiction - narratives about forays into and encounters with the future - other worlds, other times and places, parallel universes, episodes of time travellers in far and d

    SEE MORE
  • 'Night Watch'

    'Night Watch'

    Gabrielle Raaff

    at Salon 91

    Working with the ephemeral qualities of watercolour and ink, Raaff explores certain spatial conditions of figurative and architectural form within the urban realm. Her latest works see a return to oil and a more intuitive, visceral exploration of the

    SEE MORE
  • 'Michaelis Galleries: Masters Graduate Shows'

    'Michaelis Galleries: Masters Graduate Shows'

    Alice Gauntlett, Ashley Walters, Madeline Groenewald and Christine Cronjé

    at Michaelis Galleries

    Michaelis Galleries showcases the work of garduating masters students; Alice Gauntlett, Ashley Walters, Christine Kronje and Madeline Groenewald.

    SEE MORE
  • 'Forming Impressions: The Ghost in the Machine'

    An exhibition of original prints from the Artist Proof Studio and Warren Editions Featuring: Doris Bloom, Jan-Henri Booyens, Katherine Bull, Paul Edmunds, Georgina Gratrix, William Kentridge, Mongezi Ncaphayi, Christian Nerf, Nkosana Nhlapo, Lucas

    SEE MORE
  • 'The Refusal of Time'

    'The Refusal of Time'

    William Kentridge

    at Iziko South African National Gallery

    The Iziko South African National Gallery in association with the Goodman Gallery will host 'The Refusal of Time' (made in collaboration with Philip Miller, Catherine Meyburgh, Dada Masilo and Peter Galison), a 5-channel video installation with a movi

    SEE MORE
  • GRID Cape Town Photo Biennial

    GRID Cape Town Photo Biennial

    Various Participants

    at Various venues around Cape Town

    GRID is an international photography biennial which is to be organized in several important upcoming creative cities in the world. GRID brings together formal country exhibitions and statements from the creative industry. Anticipating on a changing s

    SEE MORE
  • 'An Eclectic Mix'

    'An Eclectic Mix'

    Various Artists

    at Eclectica Modern Gallery

    Various artists are showcased creating an interesting mix of modern art . Amos Letsoalo, Bettie Cilliers-Barnard, Peter Pharoah, Simon Jones, Lolly Hahn-Page, Simon Addy, Jana Prinsloo and more.

    SEE MORE
  • Solo Exhibition

    Solo Exhibition

    Kurt Pio

    at Smith

    SMITH opens its doors with a solo show by KURT PIO. Pio’s ardent love affair with Cape Town is explored, expressed and communicated through his paintings and artistry. This particular body of work looks at materialising Cape Town as a globally recog

    SEE MORE
  • 'Undo All'

    'Undo All'

    John Murray

    at Whatiftheworld / Gallery

    WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present 'Undo All', a new exhibition of painting by John Murray.John Murray is a South African painter living and working in Cape Town South Africa. Working in oil on canvas he creates abstract compositions rendered in a

    SEE MORE
  • 'Somewhere'

    'Somewhere'

    Lou Ros

    at The Christopher Moller Art Gallery

    The Christopher Moller Art Gallery is proud to present 'Somewhere', an exhibition of paintings by the young emerging Parisian painter, Lou Ros. This will be his first visit to the African continent and we are delighted to host his show in Cape Town,

    SEE MORE
  • 'Cross My Heart'

    'Cross My Heart'

    Hannalie Taute

    at Erdmann Contemporary

    Taute’s work is in a constant state of evolution, which in itself mirrors many of the ideas behind her art. One central theme or unifying characteristic is the repeated exploration of identity.She explores this concept by means in which people

    SEE MORE
  • 'The Fallen and the Drowned'

    'The Fallen and the Drowned'

    Pierre Fouche

    at Whatiftheworld / Gallery

    WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present 'The Fallen and the Drowned' a new solo exhibition by Pierre Fouché.'The Fallen and the Drowned' is an exhibition of intimately scaled laces, embroideries, drawings and video in which Fouché revels in the traditio

    SEE MORE
  • 'C-Stunners and Black Mamba'

    'C-Stunners and Black Mamba'

    Cyrus Kabiru

    at SMAC ART GALLERY CAPE TOWN

    Cyrus Kabiru is a self-taught emerging Kenyan artist, best known for his elaborate and detailed sculptural spectacles or “C-Stunners”, made from found objects and recycled material sourced on the streets of Nairobi. A confident and ind

    SEE MORE
  • 'Rembrandt in South Africa: Pioneer Printmaker of Humanity and Modernity'

    'Rembrandt in South Africa: Pioneer Printmaker of Humanity and Modernity'

    Rembrandt van Rijn

    at Iziko Michaelis Collection at the Old Town House

    For almost two centuries after his death, the reputation of one of the world’s most revered artists of the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was not rated very highly at all. His ‘rediscovery’ had to wait until the mi

    SEE MORE
  • 'Time and Again'

    'Time and Again'

    Penny Siopis

    at Iziko South African National Gallery

    Iziko Museums of South Africa are delighted to announce the first retrospective exhibition by Penny Siopis titled ‘Time and Again’, which is scheduled to open its doors to the public on the 18th of December 2014. One of the most anti

    SEE MORE
  • 'Thinking, Feeling, Head, Heart'

    'Thinking, Feeling, Head, Heart'

    Group Show

    at The New Church

    In November 2012 The New Church Museum, South Africa’s first contemporary art museum, opened its doors to the public with an exhibition from its permanent collection, ‘Subject as Matter’ curated by Penny Siopis. Two years on, the museum is delighted

    SEE MORE

art events calendar

VIEW FULL CALENDAR

buy art prints

Athi Patra Ruga ...elipsis in three parts

edition of 25: R3,500.00

About Editions for ArtThrob

Outstanding prints by top South African artists. Your chance to purchase SA art at affordable prices.

FIND OUT MORE Editions for artthrob