Artist of Interest
by Mawande Ka Zenzile
New works by Mawande Ka Zenzile, including paintings and installation, are on view at Stevenson in Cape Town. Titled uZenzile akakhalelwa, the exhibition follows Ka Zenzile’s meditations on choice and consequence. A deeply personal reflection on cause and effect, the exhibition title draws from the adage; ‘Uzenzile akakhalelwa, kukhalelwa uzumekile’, suggesting that those who are unaware or ignorant deserve compassion and empathy over whoever puts themselves in harm’s way. Ka Zenzile is moved by his spiritual experiences of living as an artist and healer. The work challenges the physical, spiritual, psychological and political entities that are often seen as disparate and distinct, blurring and conflating whatever demarcations are assumed in each.
“My purpose is to become a mystic, healer and diviner. My life’s goal is to use these gifts to heal and devote myself to my gift and reverence for my ancestors. Therefore, my actions and decisions must always be in harmony with this purpose. Whenever I deviate from this path, things tend to go wrong in my life.”
Formally, the works embody the artist’s characteristically expansive approach as he questions the lines that attempt to frame a particular medium. Taking a conceptual approach to painting, Ka Zenzile employs both traditional and non-traditional materials in consonance. Cow dung, oil paint, oil stick and gesso are laid on canvas, resulting in sensual and sometimes geometric expressions, deeply embedded in pinks, purples, blues and browns.
uZenzile akakhalelwa follows his practice of fusing references from different sources — history, popular culture, literature and personal experiences — and sometimes elucidating interesting and unseen connections. A brave and tender exploration of the relationship between each creates a complex dialogue around place and belonging.
With poetic and evocative titles, the works exist behind a thin veil of opacity, which the viewer is invited to peer through contemplation. The Hero’s Journey, Babylon tower in smoke and The Golden Goose (An Autobiography of an Artist) echo the artist’s contention with sense, meaning-making and the making of self.
uZenzile akakhalelwa offers a powerful insight into Ka Zenzile’s process, about which he reflects; “Over the years, I have produced paintings, sculptures, performances and installations, and have had the privilege of curating my creative output into numerous bodies of work and solo exhibitions. uZenzile akakhalelwa serves as a celebration of my creativity thus far. Throughout my artistic journey, my work has evolved from figurative paintings to abstract expressions, reflecting my growth and development as an artist.”