11–27 March 2009
The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA,Lagos) is pleased to present to a Durban audience its inaugural special projects initiative. “In the light of play” is an exhibition organised by Nigerian curator, Bisi Silva consisting of works by acclaimed artists; Berry Bickle (Zimbabwe) Sokari Douglas Camp (Nigeria/UK) Helga Kohl (Namibia) Bongi Bengu (South Africa), Pinar Yolacan (Turkey) and Monique Pelser (South Africa).
In the light of play eschews a prescribed conceptual framework to highlight multiple connections, interconnections and even disconnections in the work of individual artists. Through this format the exhibition communicates the way in which artists are dealing with some of the salient issues in contemporary society as they affect us individually and collectively; culture and tradition, identity, memory, presence and absence, the body, consumption and commodification as well as social injustice. The artists work in a diversity of media including scultpture, painting, photography and mixed media articulating a myriad of contextual and aesthetic concerns.
Pinar Yolacan presents works from her critically acclaimed series “Maria”, a collection of 22 stunning life size portrait photographs of African-Brazilian women. Taken over a twelve month period in Itaparica, Bahia, Maria portrays the women dressed in elaborate hand sewn couture costumes with trimmings of ‘unusual’ materials such as velvet, satin, tripe, placenta and liver. Through this series, Yolacan engages with issues of beauty , the female body, colonialism, and death. Yolacan was born in Ankara, turkey in 1981. She studied fashion at Central Saint Martins and Media at Chelsea School of Art, London. She graduated with a BFA from Cooper Union in New York, USA.
Monique Pelser presents a lyrical yet haunting series of close-up portraits, appropriated from South African newspaper photographs and taken with a Nokia 5200. In “Bystanders” (2008) the starting point is the images of ‘marginal’ bystanders instead of central characters involved in various historical ways in South African history. The images are taken from newspapers reporting on local and global events such as the oil embargo, Nelson Mandela’s release, the state of emergency, the rugby world cup and the resignation of Thabo Mbeki. By making the pixilation process visible, Pelser explores a potential association between the painter’s brushstrokes and the digital photographic technique. Pelser was born in 1976. She majored in photographic arts at the Rhodes University. She is a lecturer in fine art photography at Wits School of Art, Johannesburg.
Bongi Bengu’s work is from her recent “Emancipation” series in which she develops her themes on women’s rights, slavery, meditation, freedom of expression and the right to education and cultural imperatives. The individual emancipation leads to the freedom we desire to experience in our communities, our land and our continent. A renaissance of rebirth, renewal and freedom of choice. Bengu was born in Eshowe. She obtained a BA cum Laude from Mount Vern College, Washington DC and an MA from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town.
Berry Bickle calls her investigations of texts and language ‘rewrites’. She is particularly fascinated by the relationship of texts to history and memory. In her heavily layered works, in which she often prints, scratches, scribbles and even burns fragments of texts into and on a variety of surfaces, Bickle encourages us to reflect on the process of inscription. She draws on the decaying remnants of archival texts, anthologies, colonial travel narratives, family journals and the ubiquitous written messages on scraps of paper that inform our lives. Bickle was born in 1959 in Zimbabwe. She studied at the Durban Institute of Technology and Rhodes University.
Sokari Douglas Camp’s work observes both the British and Nigerian cultural realities from the perspectives described as ‘outside’. However, she believes that this position helps her to perceive both cultures with great clarity describing her work as being ‘about what’s going on in London’ whilst also celebrating her Kalabari culture. In the past her work has been biting political criticism of the inhumanities perpetrated in the oil producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Recently Douglas Camp has been moving away from violent imagery in her work, saying ‘I wanted to get away from violence and I thought by focusing on beautiful things I could change something. Going back to my Adire collection and making very simple flat images I discovered so much about Yoruba culture’. Her more recent works are playful and celebratory sculpture of African textile and fashion as an investigation of identity.
Douglas Camp CBE was born in 1958 in Buguma, Nigeria to a Kalabari family. She moved to the UK where she studied art, first at the Central School of Art (1980-1983) and then at the Royal College of Art (1983-1986) majoring in Sculpture.
Helga Kohl’s “Kolmanskop” series are beautiful haunting photographs of the desolate landscape of the Namib Desert. The neglected architectural structures of the former diamond-mining town of Kolmanskop and her attempt to recapture a ‘glorious’ past, belie a complex narrative of man’s greed and exploitation of nature’s resource to the point of depletion.
Kohl was born in Silesia. (1943). She studied the techniques of photography at the Christoph Bath Photo Studio in Munster, Germany.
Bisi Silva, Curator, is and independent curator and the director/founder of the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. Carol Brown, Project/Curatorial Consultant, was formerly Director of the Durban Art Gallery and currently works independently on a number of different international and national projects. She has collaborated with Bisi Silva to bring the exhibition to the Durban Art Gallery as a preview to the Johannesburg Art Fair.
Images: Installation view “In the Light of Play” exhibition at the Durban Art Gallery, South Africa. Images courtesy Durban Art Gallery.