Phillemon Hlungwani’s latest exhibition is a contribution to the recent phenomenon amongst contemporary South African popular music and culture, where young, widely-celebrated musicians fully embed and embrace traditional culture in their work. Artists such as Sho Majozi and Sijava are prime examples of these cultural influencers, they are absolutely aware of this history, and have constructed their artistic practice in a way that emphasises their contemporary relevance, whilst addressing the negative social stereotyping of traditional culture and promoting a new-found pride in African history, music, fashion and dance.
Ntsako Wa Xibelani is an exhibition that is made up of several charcoal drawings that depict an unfolding day in Giyani (a village in Limpopo) that leads toward a big event. The body of work culminates in the celebration and the beauty of Xibelani, not only as a striking and colorful traditional garment, but also as a powerful uniform that represents a state of unity. Xibelani is predominantly worn by women, a phenomenon that is common not only in the Xitsonga culture, but by African women as a whole.
This exhibition is a celebration of Hlungwani’s own Xitsonga culture, but also speaks to the complex histories and suppression of African traditional cultures at large. The works have a particular focus on women, a long-running theme in Hlungwani’s oeuvre, as symbols of power, protectors of culture and as central figures who continue to galvanize communities as they rebuild themselves on their own terms.
Venue: Everard Read Gallery, 2 & 6 Jellicoe Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg
Time: Mon to Fri 9am to 6pm | Sat 9am to 1pm