Art

KZN's 'In Bloom' exhibition reveals dynamic voices asking the right questions

11 October 2017 - 10:43 By Shubnum Khan
A wall at the 'In Bloom' exhibition.
A wall at the 'In Bloom' exhibition.
Image: Jackie Clausen

Aptly titled 'In Bloom', the exhibition this month at Durban's KZN Society for the Arts gallery is a celebration of a new wave of creativity that’s not only emerging in KZN but also nationally. Ja.Magazine is hosting their first group exhibition in Durban featuring a range of works from the publication’s past and present contributors.

The exhibition features a select group of photographers, painters, illustrators, multimedia artists and poets which makes for an explosion of art and ideas that portray a vibrant and changing landscape in the country. 

Maya Surya Pillay’s A Coolie Reads Knausgaard are the haunting words that lead you to the first floor of the gallery where the exhibition is held. Her words which echo a history of memory, women and heritage are aptly draped across the transitory space of the stairwell. It is these lingering phrases of ‘bruise-coloured smoke’ and burning women that follow you as you enter the exhibition.

While the exhibition is diverse and deals with many concepts it is the pieces on women that compel. At first Robyn Perros’s collection of photographs seem random and inconsequential but on closer inspection they are layered pieces that grapple with the position of women in urban society. They are part of her earlier multimedia exhibition titled (wo)mannequin which was an experimental performance of a mute mannequin walking through Durban’s CBD.

The photos by themselves are seemingly obscure shots of mannequins in the city that reveal Perro’s interest in trying to understand the urban female form through the mannequin. One particularly disturbing image has discarded mannequins on a side street; their exposed bodies reveal damage, wear and tear and the holes in the feet play on ideas of women who work so hard they wear out their feet, or in such an urban context perhaps they can be seen as ‘street walkers’.

An artwork by Nosipho Nxele.
An artwork by Nosipho Nxele.
Image: Jackie Clausen
An artwork at the 'In Bloom' exhibition.
An artwork at the 'In Bloom' exhibition.
Image: Jackie Clausen

In the background of the photo - almost unnoticed - is a faded advert for safe abortions, once again highlighting the role of women’s bodies in urban spaces. Nothing is ever directly stated and perhaps Perros is commenting on the invisible yet inherent ways women are positioned in society.

Nosipho Nxele’s collection of illustrations that deal with women and identity portray seemingly beautiful and obedient women, reminiscent of housewives circa 1950s, but their faces (with serene expressions) are split into many parts implying a crisis of identity that is so controlled that even the disintegration is organised. There is a quiet terror in each illustration that captures the reality of the daily struggle of those who must pretend to be in control even when they are not.

Then there are other works like paintings that delve into the fantastical imagination of Werner Gross-Ross, the documentary addressing white masculinity by Dani O’ Neill and the quiet commentary on social concerns in contemporary South Africa by Shalom Mushwana.

Niamh Walsh-Vorster, one of the magazine’s editorial team said the aim of the exhibition was to let people have a space to create and to help them grow their ideas.

'In Bloom' reveals dynamic voices asking the right questions.

• 'In Bloom' runs at the Mezzanine Gallery, KZNSA, Bulwer Road,  from 26 September – 15 October