By Ruvesen Naidoo
Transcending boundaries and capturing the human spirit are some of the central themes running through the University of Fort Hare exhibition at the Albany Science Museum.
This is the university’s first presentation at the National Arts Festival (NAF). The 75 pieces on display feature the work produced by the university’s students, ranging from their first to final year of study. The work, of which 90% is by women, is a remarkable conceptualisation of public art, complimented by a steady grasp of abstract realism as the primary motif.
By sketching out visual interconnections – in both selection and placement – curator, Lunga Mabongo, puts forward an exhibition that is diverse and captivating.
The exhibition showcases a relationship between the styles and themes, enticing viewers to explore the multifaceted positions on the human mind, society, historical events and culture. From the use of oils and acrylics on canvas, works of wire, tissue paper and pen or charcoal on paper, the works demonstrate a great use of different art mediums to convey their themes. The artists each show unique influences and perspectives, hailing from both contemporary and traditional contexts alike.
Six particular artworks were able to show effective use of clay. While artist, Thabiso Lutshetu presents four figures, each with a distinct focus on the size and structure of the male genitals, his work shows that the moulding of each sculpture is pertinent for the context of the titles of Heroic Pose, Not So Long, Fearless Size, Sitting in Style.
In contrast are the clay sculptures of Plam Siphosethu, titled Femininity and Goddess rise. She manifests the female anatomy, with specific moulding of their chest areas, to confer context to their respective titles. Siphosethu uses a combination of both red clay and polishing in her artworks.
As artists delved into personal narratives, artist Boitumelo Ntlonti depicts a faceless figure in an environment of vividly coloured, yet harsh brushstrokes of acrylic paint on canvas. Titled Borderline personality disorder, it attempts to convey the psychological impact of the disorder.
Themes of youth, identity, gender and body, memory, culture and historical significance resonated well throughout the exhibition. Artists, by virtue of their artwork, are seen questioning the complexities of their own experiences and the collective struggles faced by communities. From evocative paintings to multimedia inspired pieces, the exhibition holds testament to the enduring power of visual art for all to enjoy.