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“RESISTANCE IS US” opens at the ABSA Gallery

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Resistance Is Us aims to create an intergenerational conversation, revealing the different neo-resistance practices and approaches to artmaking adopted by these artists. 

Resistance IUs: An intergenerational visual conversation, curated by Aysha Waja and Simon Radebe offers two generations of artists a means to engage critically in dialogues pertaining to South Africa’s current state of affairs. 

The first generation is artists born between the 1940s and 1960s, and who produced art during the height of the apartheid era.  

They include David Hlongwana, Eric Lubisi, Garth Erasmus, Ike Nkoana, Manfred Zylla and Sifiso Ka Mkame. 

These artists overtly and clandestinely created imagery that became known as resistance art during the 1980s.  

The second generation of artists were born during the transitional phase in South Africa’s history, i.e. between the 1980s and 2000s.  

They include Bridget Modema, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Helena Uambembe, Keneilwe Mokoena, Lawrence Lemaoana, Nkhensani Rihlampfu, Setlamorago Mashilo, Shenaz Mohamed, Thabo Pitso, Themba Msiza, and Vusi Beauchamp. 

These artists were exposed to vastly different opportunities and context than the former but were nevertheless shaped by the apartheid disposition.  

However, both generations of artists exist in a contemporary South Africa that faces different ‘enemies of the people’. 

Resistance Is Us aims to create an intergenerational conversation, revealing the different neo-resistance practices and approaches to artmaking adopted by these artists. 

The exhibition is on at the ABSA Gallery in Johannesburg until 24 January 2020.

Image supplied by ABSA

 Using art as resistance 

The title of the exhibition was inspired by the song Glory by rapper Common and singer John Legend, recorded for the American historical drama film Selma that recounts the voting rights marches that lead to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Radebe said: “The exhibition catalogues the work of artists of different generations and is inspired by the idea of social and political exchange and interpretation. 

“The exhibition aims to spark an intergenerational conversation, between young and old, revealing the different neo-resistance practices and approaches to art-making adopted by these artists, whose creative careers collectively span across five decades of South Africa’s rich and complicated history.” 

Waja pointed out that 2019 marks exactly 25 years of democracy in South Africa, however, our youth are battling legacy issues. 

She said: “Social injustice, corruption and abuse of power, coupled with the widening income gap, limited job opportunities, and a weak economy have created a new ‘enemy of the people’. 

“The younger artists are exposed to vastly different opportunities than their predecessors, but these are still shaped by our history of apartheid.” 

Thabo Seshoka, Associate Art Curator at Absa Gallery, said: “Hosting an exhibition of this nature speaks to Absa’s commitment to being brave, passionate and ready. We’re brave enough to ask the important questions and ready to spark much-needed dialogue. 

Our big purpose is to provide a valuable platform for a younger generation of artists and give them a working space to nurture their natural talent. To this end, the annual Absa L’Atelier art competition gives aspiring African artists a real launchpad for their careers, and helps bring their purpose to life, supporting and driving visual arts across the continent.” 

Visit Resistance Is Us: An intergenerational visual conversation during the festive season at ABSA Gallery located at Absa Towers North, Johannesburg, open from Monday to Friday, from 08:00 to 16:00, and bring identification for free entry into exhibitions.  

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