Resistance is us: an intergenerational visual conversation, curated by Aysha Waja and Simon Radebe, has opened at the Absa Art Gallery. The exhibition will run until 24 January 2020.
The title of the exhibition was inspired by the song Glory by rapper Common and singer John Legend, recorded for the American historical drama film Selma that recounts the voting rights marches that lead to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“The exhibition catalogues the work of artists of different generations and is inspired by the idea of social and political exchange and interpretation,” says Radebe. “The exhibition aims to spark an intergenerational conversation, between young and old, revealing the different neo-resistance practices and approaches to art-making adopted by these artists, whose creative careers collectively span across five decades of South Africa’s rich and complicated history.”
2019 marks exactly 25 years of democracy in South Africa, however, Waja points out that our youth are battling legacy issues. “Social injustice, corruption and abuse of power, coupled with the widening income gap, limited job opportunities, and a weak economy have created a new ‘enemy of the people’, says Waja. “The younger artists are exposed to vastly different opportunities than their predecessors, but these are still shaped by our history of apartheid,” she says.
The first generation of artists are born between the 1940s and 1960s and produced art during the height of the apartheid era, creating imagery that later became known as ‘resistance art’ during the 1980s. The second generation of artists were born during the transitional phase in South Africa’s history, between the 1980s and 2000s. Those born after 1994 are known as Born-Frees.
The exhibition’s first generation of featured artists include David Hlongwana, Eric Lubisi, Garth Erasmus, Ike Nkoana, Manfred Zylla and Sifiso Ka Mkame. The second generation of artists include Bridget Modema, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Helena Uambembe, Keneilwe Mokoena, Lawrence Lemaoana, Nkhensani Rihlampfu, Setlamorago Mashilo, Shenaz Mohamed, Thabo Pitso, Themba Msiza, and Vusi Beauchamp.
The exhibition asks important questions – what type of neo-resistance images are the first generation of resistance artists creating today, and how do these images compare with the type of aesthetics the current generation is producing?
“Hosting an exhibition of this nature speaks to Absa’s commitment to being brave, passionate and ready. We’re brave enough to ask the important questions and ready to spark much-needed dialogue,” says Thabo Seshoka, Associate Art Curator at Absa Gallery. “Our big purpose is to provide a valuable platform for a younger generation of artists and give them a working space to nurture their natural talent. To this end, the annual Absa L’Atelier art competition gives aspiring African artists a real launchpad for their careers, and helps bring their purpose to life, supporting and driving visual arts across the continent.”
Housed in the Absa headquarters in central Johannesburg, the Gallery provides a light, open air space for artists to exhibit their work. As proud proprietors one of the largest corporate art collections in the world, up-and-coming artists can find their works alongside some of the 16,00 artworks showcased by Absa. Located in Absa Towers North, the Gallery is open from Monday to Friday, from 08:00 to 16:00, and visitors need to bring identification for entry into exhibitions. It is free to visit.