By LIKHAPHA THAATHAA and JOY HINYIKIWILE
When you enter the Raw Spot Gallery, you are transported to a new location. You are surrounded by a river, thick, long, wet grass. There is a ritual performance. The site is sacred. You hear the musical vibrations of vocal cords. It sounds like a prayer – a summoning of spiritual beings.
The air is not clear. Something is burning. The smell says the burning is purposeful. Is it a sacrifice? Is this meant to get rid of something?
On the other side of the river are giant rocks. Visual artist Viwe Madinda stands on the rocks. It is somewhat daunting to describe her clothes, hair, makeup, and props, which change in different pictures. In some images, she is on a statue. She looks majestic.
It looks like the showcasing of a reborn. There has been a transformation. Viwe is re-entering the world with clarity of purpose. She is being welcomed and embraced by similar beings.
We are looking forward to this happening.
Viwe is a final year Fine Arts Master’s student at Rhodes University. She has been showcasing her artwork at the Raw Spot Gallery since Saturday, 25 June. The 28-year-old was born and raised in Makhanda. She is a Victoria Girls alumnus.
A Chat with Viwe Madinda
Q: Tell us about your exhibition
Viwe Madinda: This exhibition was originally part of my undergrad. In my final year assignment, we had to create an exhibition and write a research paper. I used the exhibition to showcase my journey through undergrad (from 2016 to 2019), the premonitions I used to have and how I met my spirit guides. The exhibition was showcased at the Settlers Monument.
I named the exhibition Izintombi zami Zenani, which is my second name and means ‘my many girls’. My mother gave me this name because she wanted to have many girls and many children. Though I am her only child, I feel like my spirit guides (isthunya) are my siblings. We are like sisters. My mother might not have met or known them, but I feel like I share a sisterhood bond with the spirits. This tells me that I am never alone —the name kind of echoes that.
I wrote my research paper on returning to the source, which is returning to your culture and maybe finding answers that inform your purpose. In the paper, I focused on iziduko, which are clan names. The banners in the exhibition are kind of a practical response to that. So, I was looking at that, and something came up while researching ubuntu.
One writer explains that the deeper meaning of ubuntu is to understand uqobo, which means essence. The proverb initially implied that to respect people and nature, you need to respect yourself, and you need to be able to know yourself, which is uqobo, your essence. And then I got into this rabbit hole of trying to understand the meaning of uqobo.
I arrived at a point of understanding that we are one with the earth. So how do you explain yourself to the environment you live in, which was the way of living in the past? My research was about responding to this question. I unpacked this to create an understanding.
The exhibition is about understanding myself and being through a journey of knowing myself to be fully present in the world and positively impact the world and other people.
Q: What do you hope to achieve through the exhibition?
I hope to inspire black girls and give them imagery, urgency, pride and hope to girls like me.
Q: Tell us about your work as an artist.
Viwe Madinda: There is a common thread in my work: African spirituality. My work primarily discusses decolonizing my senses and how my perspectives have changed over time. Much of it talks about healing and how we are one with nature. Whatever I do as a person influences my art.
Q: How do you feel about the return on the NAF?
Viwe Madinda: This is my first solo act at the exhibition, so I’m pretty excited. I’ve performed twice in a group before, but this is the first time I get an entire gallery to showcase my work.
Q: Have you done other events or exhibitions before the current exhibition?
Viwe Madinda: I did a screening with a friend where we’re trying to engage with the community about things that concern healing and create a space to relax. I had an exhibition just a week before lockdown in 2020 here at Arts Lounge. Nobody got to see it.
Q: What do you hope to achieve as an artist beyond NAF?
Viwe Madinda: To show that there is love in the world. I grew up in a township – eJoza. It’s not a kind place to grow up in. There’s a lot of violence. Seeing children and young people surrounded by such violence, explicit or not, I wanted to inspire a sense of softness. A sense of love. I believe that the core of my being is love. I want to use myself to share that with other people.
Q: Could you kindly explain some of your art?
Vive Madinda: I was introduced to three guides that exist in me, and I represent them in different ways in my work with three colours: black, red, and white. Usbane means light.
Inkwenkwezi is represented by white and is my spirit guide, the star, and the journey’s light. She gives direction and perspective. I met her at a time when it was dark in my life. The guide to come to Rhodes was from her. She was a leading light to where I am now.
Is’hlwele: An evolution of an actual multitude of spirits which allowed me to meet uGokra, the activist in me. She is represented by the colour black; as you can see, I have a dark skin colour. Through uGokra, I can engage and address the challenges I face with academics, art, and society in general. Inkwenkwezi shed light on all injustices I have faced as a black woman.
Is’hlwele uMkhungi is my spirit guide living in the water. She comes from water. She establishes the relationship with water, meaning, and knowledge about water.