Southern Guild presents An Order of Being by South African artist Manyaku Mashilo and Black Exodus by Nigerian-Canadian artist Oluseye, opening on 23 November 2023 (until 25 January 2024). These are the artists’ first solo exhibitions with the gallery.
An Order of Being | Manyaku Mashilo
In An Order of Being, Manyaku Mashilo constructs an imaginative future realm – expansive in its capacity to heal, liberate and reinvent – occupied by a collective of fluid, dreamlike figures. The series of figurative paintings includes a new multi-panelled triptych, comprising three large-scale arched canvases. Mashilo’s artworks stand as liminal spaces for synthesising elements of her religious upbringing, ancestral heritage, both real and invented myth, folklore, science fiction, music and sourced archival photographic images. An Order of Being is a gentle confrontation with the multiplicity of the artist’s past, present and future facets of selfhood.
Though her work is rooted in the historically charged mode of portraiture, Mashilo regards her paintings as abstractions. Ethnographic photography from the 19th and early 20th centuries disseminated distorted representations of the depicted bodies, with each subject diminished through the colonial eye of Eurocentrism. Mashilo’s figures have been crafted anew, free of projection or historical reduction. “I invent characters,” she states, “I have had to create these subjects from scratch – make skin tones, plan similarities, consider race, exaggerate features – blank my slate while contending with the reality that I cannot unsee or un-know.”
The recurring use of red ochre in this body of work connotes clay, blood and the traditional ointment of “imbola”, a thick paste of burnt earth pigment applied to the faces of Xhosa women and newly initiated youth. Akin to the Astro-Black mythology of American composer Sun Ra’s musical language, Mashilo’s paintings traverse a peripheral alternate space, blending the real and unreal, correcting the burdensome weight of historical injustices with the lightness and hope of what may still be yet to come.
Black Exodus | Oluseye
Black Exodus by Oluseye spans sculpture, installation and photography created over the past five years that weaves the artist’s personal narrative, trans-Atlantic journeys and artistic evolution into a broader exploration of historical and contemporary Black life.
Over the past year, Oluseye’s artistic practice has seen him moving between New York, Toronto, Lagos and Cape Town, where he spent a two-month stay at the GUILD Residency earlier this year. He re-animates found objects and detritus collected from his travels – which he terms “diasporic debris” – to trace Blackness through its multifaceted migrations and manifestations.
Taking inspiration from the role of the “nganga” (spiritual worker in traditional Kongo religion), he imbues his everyday relics – car parts, rubber debris, electrical scrap, domestic items, synthetic hair – with the mystical, transforming his finds into “eminado” (the Yoruba word for good luck charm). One of two key installations in the show, the Eminado Series encompasses over 100 of these palm-sized talismans while another installation, Patra (Mothership), contemplates the symbolism of a ship as a woman.
Through the creation of Black Exodus, the artist sought to explore and honour everyday African ingenuity as a means of livelihood and survival. His chosen materials – hair, rubber, cotton, cowrie shells and mirrors – are often a medium through which to reimagine the diasporic debris he gathers. Oluseye notes: “These are loaded materials that carry with them brutal histories of enslavement and colonial conquest, oppression and pillaging but are reclaimed anew as symbols of power, resilience and good omen.”
‘An Order of Being’ and ‘Black Exodus will run from 23 November 2023 until 25 January 2024, at Southern Guild Gallery, Cape Town
About Southern Guild
Established in 2008 by Trevyn and Julian McGowan, Southern Guild represents contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora. With a focus on Africa’s rich tradition of utilitarian and ritualistic art, the gallery’s programme furthers the continent’s contribution to global art movements. Southern Guild’s artists explore the preservation of culture, spirituality, identity, ancestral knowledge, and ecology within our current landscape. Their work has been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, LACMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum, Mint Museum, Harn Museum, Denver Art Museum, Vitra Museum, Design Museum Gent and National Gallery of Victoria. Since 2018, the gallery has collaborated with BMW South Africa on a year-round programme of meaningful activations that promote artist development and propel their careers. Located in Cape Town, Southern Guild will expand internationally with a 5,000 sqft space opening in Melrose Hill, Los Angeles in February 2024.
Press release courtesy of Southern Guild