ZAM Reporter

20.11 – 3.9.23, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town | When we see us

A Century of Black Figuration in Painting brings together artworks from the last 100 years in a dialogue between artists and thinkers around the world.

With a focus on painting, the exhibition celebrates the myriad ways in which artists from Africa and its diaspora have imagined, positioned, memorialised and asserted African and African-descent experiences. It contributes to the critical discourse on African and Black liberation, intellectual and philosophical movements. The title of the exhibition is inspired by Ava DuVernay’s 2019 miniseries When They See Us. Flipping ‘they’ to ‘we’ allows for a dialectical shift that re-centres the conversation in a differential perspective of self-writing as theorised by Cameroonian political scientist Professor Achille Mbembe.

The exhibition features more than 200 works of art from 74 institutional and private lenders located in 26 countries. It is organised around six themes; The Everyday, Joy and Revelry, Repose, Sensuality, Spirituality, and Triumph and Emancipation, and the resulting effect is one which celebrates the resilience, essence, and political charge of Black joy.

The exhibition includes works by artists including Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Zandile Tshabalala, Jacob Lawrence, Chéri Samba, Danielle McKinney, Archibald Motley, Ben Enwonwu, Kingsley Sambo, Sungi Mlengeya, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Cyprien Tokoudagba, Amy Sherald, Mmapula Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi and Joy Labinjo, to name just a few, and in many instances brings these artists and their practice into dialogue for the first time. A hardcover poetic catalogue edited by Zeitz’s chief curator Koyo Kouoh was published by Thames & Hudson in collaboration with Zeitz MOCAA to coincide with the exhibition. Richly illustrated with all of the works selected for the exhibition, it includes a contextual essay by the exhibition’s co-curator Tandazani Dhlakama alongside four specially commissioned texts by acclaimed female writers Ken Bugul (Senegal), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia), Robin Coste Lewis (United States) and Bill Kouelany (Republic of Congo). The exhibition is accompanied by a Sonic Translation compiled by South African composer and sound artist Neo Muyanga.

More information here.