Although art is often seen as something that is traditionally made from mediums like paint, ink, charcoal and marble, the ability to see the potential in what surrounds us has been a skill that human beings have had since the first time they picked up a shell and made a necklace or piled some stones on top of each other to construct a sculpture. The idea of using ordinary objects from our environment is not new as artists have been working with found objects since the last century.
Artists like Marcel Duchamp and Picasso used found objects in their art, yet these works are not always seen in the same way as their more traditional works.
The African Alchemy exhibition which opens on the 4th of March 2023 at the Artyli Gallery in Nelson Mandela Square will be show casing four talented young artists; Frans Thoka, Fumani Walter Maluleke, Morgan Mahape, and Pro Thusi, who have all excelled at combining “traditional” concepts of art with the more alternative idea of using found objects.
These found objects, which are prominent in their artworks, form a strong symbolic element in the conception of their work. They are used to directly connect the viewer with their personal experiences. Linked to their upbringing, lifestyle, traditions and daily experiences, these objects are used to highlight issues that are relevant to South Africans today. They are touchstones that speak to specific past events, memories, feelings, and hope for the future.
Frans Thoka creates artworks on traditional Basotho blankets and Prison Blankets. Universally a blanket is used for both warmth and safety. Metaphorically, Frans uses the blanket as a symbol for the relationship many South Africans have had with the land and their identity. Forced removals from ancestral land in apartheid times deeply affected many Black South Africans who had to experience these harrowing evictions. Frans’ powerful artworks resonate with the pain of this past and the lessons we need to take into our collective future. Through his artwork he suggests that as a person takes refuge under a blanket, the blanket conceals the past that is hidden within their soul, never to be forgotten, never to be brushed over by the sands of time.
Fumani Walter Maluleke uses traditional sleeping mats as his painting surface as a personal response to his own origins, traditions and quintessentially African experiences. Like Frans’ use of blankets, Fumani’ s use of mats reminds us of the everyday struggles his people endured in the past and still endure in the present. He unapologetically reminds us of this African narrative lest it be forgotten or discarded in the helter-skelter world of the 21st Century.
Morgan Mahape, unlike Frans and Fumani, uses the found objects as the medium to create his images. His works are made from beads, which are strung together to form a curtain which holds an image. He also sees the beads as a metaphor for the collective experience of the African community. Each bead represents an individual who is a unique part of the community, but when everyone is brought together, they create a greater and more powerful whole. The final product created from these strings of beads is a stunning representation of the inherent beauty and diversity of the peoples of Africa.
Pro Thusi uses found objects in a slightly different way as he manipulates single-use plastic and tin cans to create large portraits that are full of colour and texture. His works, transformed out of waste material, reflect the lively spirit and beauty of the African people he lives with and observes in his daily life.
The “African Alchemy” exhibition will be opened by Gordon Froud at 2pm on Saturday 4th March. We hope you can join us for this celebration of young Africa talent!