Rich Mnisi: Dzuvula (Shedding Skin)
8 February – 18 April 2024
Southern Guild Cape Town presents Dzuvula (Shedding Skin), a solo exhibition of collectible design by Rich Mnisi, from 8 February to 18 April 2024. Comprising sculptural bronze furniture and lighting, as well as a hand-woven limited-edition rug, Dzuvula is an expansion on the cosmology of duality that emerged with the designer’s debut collection, Nyoka (2021). The body of work complicates the interplay of the mundane and the magical, the matriarchal and magisterial – themes that have emanated from the artist’s embrace of fluidity as a guiding philosophy and aesthetic approach.
The snake – with its embodiment of fear and beauty – makes a reappearance in Dzuvula, the undulating arcs of its movement distorting and disrupting borders and edges. A hiss resounds through this collection, a sensuous whisper hinting at something deviant, rubbing against boundaries, smoothing hard gradients, holding within its resonant sound conflicting truths and contrasts.
A polished bronze table, titled Mbhoni (Witness), bulges and swells outwards, held up on a serpentine limb that at once embraces and impales it. A pair of sculptural seats, Ripfumelo I and Ripfumelo II, combining bronze armatures and sheepskin seats, introduce a soft lushness to the collection, embodying fear/comfort dualities.
In Vutlhari II (Wisdom), a bronze chandelier, the serpent contorts over and into itself in a manner best described as swirling, consuming wisdom handed down by our forebears. In this edition of the chandelier – a collaboration between Rich Mnisi and designer Charles Haupt that debuted in Nyoka – the shades have been printed with an intricate snakeskin pattern.
Dzuvula also references Bumba, the Bushongo mythological god who created life by vomiting up elements of the natural world. Shiluva (Flower), a rug in Tibetan wool and silk, depicts the primordial soup of Bumba’s regurgitation of life. Nyoka II, a curved console which also first appeared in Mnisi’s 2021 solo, is punctuated by the winding form of a bronze snake, its storage cavity concealed by richly patterned beading inspired by Mnisi’s 2022 Mafamba Yexe fashion collection. Bursts of gleaming bronze are interwoven with insights from the past and the future.
Collaborating closely with Southern Guild, Mnisi brought his visions to life by working with various artists and artisans including Charles Haupt of Bronze Age Studio, who was instrumental in Monkeybiz, Paco Rugs and. This aligns with both Southern Guild and the designer’s commitment to promoting craft and South African handwork.
Collaboration is an incredibly intimate praxis, requiring connection and closeness before it can reach for comprehension. Intimacy as a theme runs throughout Mnisi’s works, in the way their forms hug the body and require the viewer to move around, their silhouettes changing with every view. Nwa-Mulamula’s Embrace (2021) is named after his great grandmother and models its form on the curved shape of the late matriarch. Reworked in concrete for this collection, it is a powerful evocation of the transfer of knowledge between generations, here transmuted into a gesture of peace, reflected in its title, Rhulani (Peace).
Where Nyoka attempted to hold the frictions and tensions of creation and life, Dzuvula expands on this world to draw parallels between the snake’s duplexity and our own conflicting nature. Nyoka spoke to creation through regurgitation and the drawing together of things; Dzuvula speaks to the things that quietly encroach in between. This new body of work is the spark created by that friction: the animation of life. Reflective surfaces refract and manipulate light, creating many forms from the teasing apart of one.
“We are at once faithful and faithless, bound and free,” Mnisi notes. “Sustaining existence within life’s many tensions defines the human experience. Dzuvula turns the acceptance of this immutable truth into a sensory journey. Every piece reflects the result of growing into oneself – risk and vulnerability, strain and ease – through a vocabulary of forms, patinas, patterns and textures.”
Born in Johannesburg in 1991, Rich Mnisi’s broad design vision embraces fashion and functional sculpture. His work flows according to the themes and motifs he returns to and continually pushes forward: the women in his life, queerness and the VaTsonga tribe.
Mnisi graduated from Johannesburg’s LISOF School of Fashion in 2014, following which he was named Africa Fashion International Young Designer of the Year at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa. He founded his eponymous label in 2015, creating genderless, seasonless collections infused with his own personal narrative and heritage.
His first solo exhibition of sculptural furniture, titled Nyoka (meaning snake in Xitsonga), was a bold exploration of shape and fluidity, brought to life through vivid contrasts of forms and materials, including bronze, wool, resin and glass. Mnisi’s work has been presented by Southern Guild at Design Miami and Investec Cape Town Art Fair.
Justine Mahoney: VIGIL
8 February – 18 April 2024
Southern Guild Cape Town presents VIGIL, a solo exhibition of ceramic sculptures and paintings by South African artist Justine Mahoney, from 8 February – 18 April 2024. The artist reimagines the 12 Jungian archetypes in a series of sculpted figures and large-scale paintings on heavy-weight fabric. Rooted in a wealth of esoteric theory, Mahoney’s archetypes embody and mythologise facets of the collective human unconscious.
Over an extended period of isolation during the pandemic, Mahoney began a daily practice of self-enquiry through Jungian meditation. Encountering what Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung referred to as “Mythopoetic Imagination” – the dark and fertile landscape of active imagination – the artist conjured vivid manifestations of each archetype. Jung believed these archetypal models underpinned man’s innate and universal personas, behaviours and motivations. They appeared to Mahoney as messengers, carriers from the invisible terrain, arriving as “giant psychic forces” from within. She crystallised their final forms after extensive research into Tarot, Plato’s theory of forms, and a close reading of Jung’s journals (The Black Books) and manuscripts (The Red Book: Liber Novus). She also drew heavily from esoteric knowledge systems that pre-date the advent of Judeo-Christianity. Treating imaginative thought and fantasy as vital creative functions, VIGIL surfaces from a subversive reality; one that belies rationality to ground itself more freely in the ancient, essential and human.
Mahoney’s process of sculpting this body of work echoes the digital collages in her previous series. Shaping the clay into the desired form, each figure was then deconstructed – bisected, hollowed out, interchanged and reassembled to take their final expression. This act of disruption and reconfiguration extends throughout Mahoney’s three decades-long career, which has been characterised by a preference for transgressive, hybridised figuration. This hybridity is the result of a distinct self-awareness that has seen the artist remain active in and awake to both the making of her work and the larger examination of her own identity.
The works in VIGIL regard the figure as an amorphous vessel, transforming each body into irregular contortions. Mother arches backward, life-giving milk flowing from her breasts as 10 fingers reach through her stomach as if growing from within. She is the creator and destroyer, both the abundant life-force and the abyss. The Child looks skyward, mouth agape, holding up two large hands in what could be interpreted as either acquiescence or protest. The figure stands at the precipice of a new beginning, the cosmic infant of boundless possibility. The Wanderer, wearing a hooded cloak, eyes peering out from a painted face of red, holds the head of a wolf. They are the hungry seeker, returning with the spoils from the divine hunt. Some figures read as plant-like, with braided hair or limbs reaching downward to ground themselves in the earth. Mahoney considers these apparitions as the denizens of our inner worlds, encompassing the duality and rapture of our universal humanity.
The painted earthenware figures stand on ebonised plinths of indigenous cedar and pine, which Mahoney treated using the centuries-old Japanese wood-burning technique of Shou Sugi Ban. Each plinth has been torched with a flamethrower, blackening the wood before being sealed with an ebony stain. Returning to painting after years of working solely in bronze, clay and digital collage, the artist created a corresponding series of enamel paintings on large segments of fabric. The two-dimensional figures appear flattened, reducing the form of their sculptural likenesses to deliberate silhouettes of line and colour. The immense paintings – hanging almost from floor to ceiling – converse with the clay bodies, retaining each archetype’s energetic weight in a reimagined graphic figure.
In a moment of epistemic restlessness and global upheaval, Mahoney’s VIGIL finds renewed meaning in ancient, inner knowing. The body of work elevates the primal and perhaps forgotten knowledge of our collective humanness and shared mythologies.
VIGIL by Justine Mahoney runs concurrently with Dzuvula (Shedding Skin) by Rich Mnisi at Southern Guild Cape Town from 8 February – 18 April 2024.
COMING UP AT SOUTHERN GUILD
Cape Town Gallery
Justine Mahoney: VIGIL, 8 February – 18 April 2024
Rich Mnisi: Dzuvula (Shedding Skin), 8 February – 18 April 2024
Los Angeles Gallery
Zizipho Poswa: Indyebo yakwaNtu (Black Bounty), 22 February – 18 April 2024
Mother Tongues, Group Show, 22 February – 18 April 2024
Investec Cape Town Art Fair, 15-18 February 2024
Solo Section: Kamyar Bineshtarigh
Generations: Terence Maluleke
Expo Chicago, 8-14 April 2024
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