Mawande Ka Zenzile: Uhambo luyazilawula

Page 1

Mawande Ka Zenzile

Uhambo luyazilawula

Mawande Ka Zenzile Uhambo luyazilawula

Mawande Ka Zenzile Uhambo luyazilawula

With texts by Sinazo Chiya, Nkule Mabaso, Nomusa Makhubu and Kabelo Malatsie


Untitled: Scarecrow  2014  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  180 × 170cm


The Mythology of the Rape  2014  Cow dung, earth, buttons and oil on canvas  151 × 180cm



Portrait of Saddam  2015  Cow dung, earth, gesso and oil on canvas  85 × 85cm


Martyrdom: Geronimo  2014  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  85 × 85cm


ET  2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  170 × 200cm


The Man on the Trojan Horse  2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  120 × 185cm



Left Who’s watching the watcher (Snowden) 2016 Right Who’s watching the watcher (Data) 2016

Cow dung, oil and gold leaf on canvas 70.5 × 70.5cm Cow dung, oil and gold leaf on canvas 70.5 × 70.5cm



In self-defence  2016  Cow dung, oil and gesso on paper  73.5 × 74cm



Ityala lamawele  2017  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  75 × 74.5cm



A girl with a hoody  2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  70.5 × 70cm


Crazy  2017  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  91 × 80.5cm


Portrait of Darwin  2015  Cow dung, oil and gesso on canvas  140 × 91cm



Woman in Red Dress  2016-17  Cow dung and oil on canvas  183 × 127cm



Left Trap I 2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  70.5 × 70.5cm Right Trap II 2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  70.5 × 70.5cm



Suicide Note (The Honey Trap)  2015  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  150.5 × 90.5cm


Destroy This Mad Brute (Caliban and Miranda): The End of an Allegory  2015  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  150 × 90cm


They Don’t Give a Fuck About Us  2015  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  131.5 × 77.5cm



As nasty as they wanna be  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  150.5 × 179.5 cm



Untitled (Silence)  2015  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  166 × 182cm




Black man you are on your own  2014  Cow dung and oil on canvas  170 × 240cm


A Lesson  2013  Cow dung and oil on canvas  167.5 × 139cm



Double date  2014  Cow dung and oil on canvas  170 × 240cm



Cash Cow  2016-17  Cow dung and oil on canvas  110.5 × 161cm



The genie lamp: ayinethi iyadyudyuza  2016  Cow dung, oil and gold leaf on canvas  70.5 × 70.5cm


Frankenstein’s Man  2018  Cow dung, oil and collage on canvas  Triptych, 62 × 124cm


Imbongi Yomthonyama  2016  Digital video, sound



Homage to the Negritude  2016  Digital video, sound  2 min 28 sec



Anglophone/Francophone  2015  Two-channel video installation  2 min; 2 min 15 sec



Outwitting the Devil  2017  Digital video, sound  8 min 4 sec



Uzesazi  2018  Digital video, sound  25 min 30 sec



A Homage to the Magicians  2014  Performance with Buhlebezwe Siwani, 27 November 2014, Stevenson, Cape Town In background The Mythology of the Rape  2014



Performance with Zwelakhe Khuse, Stevenson, Cape Town, 26 April 2017



Silence  2014  Drums, metal, hessian, gloves and wood  Installation dimensions variable



Heritage of a noble man  2016  Stone  17.5 × 39 × 78cm



Iingcuka ezambethe ifele legusha  2016  Wood, hessian, fabric, found objects  140 × 35 × 55cm



Next Chapter  2016  Wood, cow dung, hessian, steel, rope, found objects  Dimensions variable




Ingqami (The end of an ideology)  2015  Rocks, enamel plates, hammer and sickle  Dimensions variable



Ingqami (The end of an ideology)  2015/18  Installation view, Both, and, 2018, Stevenson, Cape Town


Crime Scene  2016  Wood, hessian, brass, fabric, found objects  105 × 155 × 61.5cm






Previous spread and opposite  Rope Trick  2015  Wood and rope  Dimensions variable





Previous spread and opposite  uGologolo-indoda yaseKomani  2013  Commercial wood and stones (igoqo), money box, dimensions variable. Performance with Lihle Mananga, 28 November 2013, Stevenson, Cape Town




Previous spread Usoze 2015 Mud and mud bricks Dimensions variable Opposite Intsika 2018 Thatch, strap jacket, hessian, rope and wood Dimensions variable



50 Niggaz (isimalelo ne waku)  2016  Enamel bowl, tablespoons  20 × 70 × 70cm



Honoring the Flag  2014  Two American flags, sound  Installation dimensions variable



Inyawo zinodaka  2016-17  Wood, hessian, earth and metal  125 × 131cm




Abangoma  2017  Cow hide, rope and metal oil drums  60 × 181 × 60cm


Umondlalo (Pause)  2017  Mixed media installation, dimensions variable



Udludlilali  2020  Installation with cladding stones and audio  300 × 150 × 40cm



Installation view, Udludlilali, with You’ve made your bed now lie on it, 2020,   industrial wood, bed, blanket, 105 x 238 x 92cm



Priesthood  Brotherhood  2020  Neon light  Diptych, 41 x 125cm; 36 x 118.5cm




Table-turning  2020  Taxidermied chicken, wood, hessian, leather and stone  124 x 30 x 40cm


The Gulag Archipelago  2017  Cow dung, earth, oil wood and hessian on canvas  181.5 × 180.5cm


Sibhala sicima  2016-17  Cow dung, earth, gesso and oil on canvas  133 × 184cm



Erratum  2017  Cow dung and oil on canvas  36 × 60cm



Don’t put your hopes in the future  2018  Cow dung, oil and gesso on canvas  100 × 150cm



Respectability  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  118 × 196.5cm


Blank Slate  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  134.5 × 196cm




Barking up the wrong tree  2018  Cow dung, oil and gesso on canvas  100 × 150cm



Tic tac toe  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  80.5 × 180cm


Untitled  2016-17  Cow dung and oil on canvas  115.5 × 225.5cm



Under Construction  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  39 × 39cm



Leviathan  2016-17  Cow dung and oil on canvas  62.5 × 200cm



A man with no history (an unmarked grave)  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  154 × 173cm


The Conundrum  2016-17  Oil on canvas  89.5 × 33.5cm


Linear Opposites  2018  Cow dung and oil on canvas  43.5 × 45cm


MK Ultra  2017  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  172 × 134cm


The Philosopher’s stone  2016-17  Cow dung and oil on canvas  41.5 × 78cm


Logos  2017  Cow dung and oil on canvas  90 × 70cm


Wei-wu-wei (wave)  2018  Cow dung and oil on canvas  49 × 118.5cm



Espionage  2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  170 × 170cm


Pandora’s Box  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  161 × 202cm



The Enigma  2016-17  Cow dung and oil on canvas  151.5 × 74.5cm


Blue Book, Brown Book (Grammar Police)  2016-17  Cow dung and oil on canvas  34 × 49cm


Linguistic  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  40 × 170.5cm



Feminine Mystique  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  40 × 180cm



Umzomkhulu  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  100 × 200cm



Elagcwabeni  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  100 × 200cm



Ingethe  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  100 × 200cm



Ozelwe embethe  2020 Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  170 × 300cm



Bathwebula idlozi lami kuba befuna libheke bona  2019  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  70.5 × 70cm


Vanity not Humanity  2019  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  70.5 × 70cm


Tenacity/Audacity  2015  Cow dung, earth, gesso and oil on canvas  90.5 × 60.5cm


Institutionalized Guilt  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  93.5 × 93cm


This page The Fringe Dweller Opposite Intellectual Convictions

2016-17 Oil and gesso on canvas 128 × 55cm 2018 Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas 90 × 179cm


Calling a spade a spade  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  154 × 172.5cm



Untitled  2014  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  Diptych, 90 × 90cm each



Leave your mind outside  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  162 × 202cm



Installation view, The Stronger We Become, the South African Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, 2019, with paintings by Mawande Ka Zenzile (installation on far left by Dineo Seshee Bopape).   Courtesy of the South African Pavilion/South African Department of Arts and Culture



Ubuza ibhasi ibhaliwe  2019  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas    Diptych, 200 × 100cm each



Installation view, solo presentation, Cape Town Art Fair, 2020



Trivium Quadrivium  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  61 × 61cm


Debunked  2016  Cow dung, oil and gold leaf on canvas  63 × 83.5cm


The Will  2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  70.5 × 70cm



‘The observer is the observed The analyzer is the analyzed’  2015  Oil on canvas  60.5 × 60cm



The Dialectical Fiasco  2017  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  Diptych, 76 × 51cm; 48 × 29cm



I am not that  2017  Cow dung, earth and oil on canvas  83.5 × 56.5cm


‘The Word is Not the Thing’ (after JK)  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  52.5 × 52cm


Untitled (chicken ’n egg)  2015  Cow dung and oil on canvas  Diptych, 70.5 × 70.5cm each



Above Below

Spiritual/Material Body/Soul without the Mind

2018 2018

Cow dung and oil on canvas 27 × 40.5cm Cow dung and oil on canvas 27.5 × 43cm



The white man’s burden (after Kipling)  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  180 × 177.5cm



Note on Commercial Theatre (after Langston Hughes)  2017  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  177 × 112cm


Uchane Iintaka Ezimbini Ngelitye Elinye  2018  Cow dung, oil and gesso on canvas  44 × 99cm



Dis Poem (after Mutabaruka)  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  180 × 177.5cm


White (after Amy Edgington)  2017  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  183 × 122cm




Goals  2017  Cow dung and oil on canvas  190 × 135cm


When I Look At You My Spirit Leave My Body  2019  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  100 × 200cm



Hahaha (Motivation & Reward)  2016-17  Oil on canvas  180 × 86cm



Left Untitled Poster I 2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  70.5 × 70.5cm Right Untitled Poster II 2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  70.5 × 70.5cm


‘And then I went to school, a colonial school and this harmony was broken. The language of my education was no longer the language of my culture’ 2017  Cow dung and oil on canvas  60 × 61.5cm


We Describe Our Music as a Road to Consciousness  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  102.5 × 52cm


Behaviorism 101  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  90.5 × 49cm


The non-asymmetrical  2016  Cow dung and oil on canvas  70 × 90cm



Sibonwa Mhla Ligqwithayo  2018  Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas  71 × 59.5cm



Uhamba undibhala ematyeni  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  Triptych, 100.5 × 50.5cm each



Life without the Sacred  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  50 × 140cm



Misnomer  2020  Cow dung, oil stick and gesso on canvas  50.5 × 140cm


The analyzer  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  40 × 90.5cm


Stop making stupid people famous  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  40 × 180cm



Group think  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  115 × 170cm




Ugingqigongqo: After Comte  2020 Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  170 × 300cm




Previous spread Ascended Masters  2020  Cow dung, oil paint and gesso on canvas  20 panels, 40 × 40cm each This spread Installation view, Udludlilali, 2020





Why shape a human being according to a pattern  2020  Oil stick, oil paint and gesso on linen  43 × 100cm


Forgive them father they know not what they do  2020  Oil stick, oil paint and gesso on linen  54.5 × 100cm


Self-referentiality  2020  Oil stick, oil paint and gesso on linen  100 × 54cm



Mawande Ka Zenzile with his goat during installation of Udludlilali, March 2020. Photo: Alexander Richards

234 Introduction: Towards a new model of engagement Sinazo Chiya 238 Of Refusal, Creation and Assertion Nkule Mabaso 242 Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu Local Knowledge as Creative Rebellion Nomusa Makhubu 248 Muthala: Through Johnny Mbizo Dyani andˆ Mawande Ka Zenzile Kabelo Malatsie 253 Biography 254 Bibliography


Introduction: Towards a new model of engagement Sinazo Chiya


Necessarily, there are catalogue essays in this volume of selected works by Mawande Ka Zenzile. In What Happened to Art Criticism? James Elkins appraises the mode, saying: Few people read catalogue essays with concerted critical attention. A more typical experience, the kind catalogue essays are meant to foster, involves glancing over text, finding phrases and concepts that signal the work’s importance. Catalogue essays are generally best when they appear absolutely authoritative, studded with references to important names and works, and the best essays also exude enthusiasm about the artist’s importance. The arguments should not be too complex, because they need to buoy a reader who may only be skimming the text. At the same time the arguments should not be wholly obvious because they need to sustain a reader’s faltering confidence in the work. If an essay is too simple, a reader may conclude there isn’t much to the work after all: hence the need to be just a little extravagant. (2003: 20) Evidently, for Elkins the appearance of authority is used to signify the presence of power – it conveys a believability that gives opinion the veneer of fact. He suggests ‘worldliness’ and knowledge are signposted through the tincture of communally weighted references and concepts. In his view, the cultural impact and intellectual lives of others, canonical or not, function as totemic objects used to elevate rudimentary arguments and validate objects of institutional sanction. His generalisations are glib but not untrue. Texts, like other forms of bodies, can become vessels for connotation. Just as a certain mode of dress can communicate an affinity with a specific subculture, Hegelian terms and evocations of bell hooks make allusions to the perspectives of the writer and the text. Even if it’s not familiar to you, reader, this phenomenon is wholly foreign to none. It is the textual manifestation of the impulse responsible for name-dropping in a group of strangers, and deference to the tallest and loudest during an emergency. Balancing manufactured ease and contrived complexity, the typical experience thus becomes a banquet of artificial critical richness. Uhambo luyazilawula proposes a different sort of material in order to propose a different kind of experience; translated from isiXhosa or isiZulu, the title means ‘the journey governs itself’. Initially, the contents of this volume were gathered under a different heading, yet this linguistic alteration had no ripple outside itself. Just as a destination is unchanged by shifts in the pathways carved towards it, the substance of this book is unaltered by functional adjustments because these are not ideological assemblages in the service of arbitrary value. These are signposts in service of the ungovernable journeys we all inevitably undertake alone. The texts that follow belong in the world of metonym rather than symbolism; they function in a milieu of contracted immensity rather than the allegorical



Sinazo Chiya

agreement between object and meaning. Provided the same catalogue of paintings, sculptures, performances, videos and commentary, Nkule Mabaso, Nomusa Makhubu and Kabelo Malatsie undertook different voyages and arrived at different destinations. Mabaso’s ‘Of Refusal, Creation and Assertion’ approaches the artist’s oeuvre as a project beyond decoloniality. Her emphasis is not on the consequences of the encounter with the colonial other but Ka Zenzile’s affirmation of Africanist epistemes – the ways in which he asserts ‘enduring, localised ways of being’. Makhubu’s ‘Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu – Local Knowledge as Creative Rebellion’ observes Ka Zenzile’s relationship with institutions and bureaucratised knowledge practices. Using the motif of the inverted house, probing the dividing line recurrent in Ka Zenzile’s figurative and non-figurative creations, she observes the role his work plays in the battle between incommensurability and compatibility. For Malatsie, Ka Zenzile’s process is as yielding as the final object. She makes a comparison to fellow Eastern Cape native, jazz musician Johnny Dyani. She concentrates on how both artists ‘go latela muthala’, following traces and fragments rooted in indigenous practices ̂ to form constellations that motivate them to push beyond the temptation to be legible to an other. In both artists she identifies a commitment to helping others upend myopic paradigms ‘even if that means that we become uncertain and are a people in perpetual pursuit’. In a 2018 conversation with Lois Anguria, Ka Zenzile stated, ‘For me it was just to throw clues in my art and in my writing, and whoever is sensitive enough to perceive these clues, and willing to let go of what they know, can begin to engage with my work.’ Uhambo luyazilawula is a collation of such visual and textual clues. In these divergent journeys the thoughts and stances expressed operate in tandem and individually. Ideas contest, overlap and distort one other, and the artworks presented amplify, fragment and cohere these discernible lines of thinking. We are not far from cacophony, but perhaps, in a climate where knowledge is considered an agent of power, a boisterous offering might be looked at as an elaborate device of kindness. If the artist’s catalogue is a receptacle for benign apathy as has been suggested by Elkins, form has not followed function in Uhambo luyazilawula. This has not been packaged for the satiety of a glance or the seasonal rearrangement of a coffee table. This volume spans history, philosophical thought, repeated narratives in Nguni lore, institutional critique, isiXhosa, the precepts of perception, music, an examination of the critical impact of nostalgia, the motives behind colonial directives towards the indigenous community, permutations of spirituality, economics and other notions in a reckoning with the expansiveness of possibility. The cues and references used are indexes for other ways of thinking, propositions towards healing, catalysts for the shifting of paradigms, a primer for the experience of wayfinding. In the words of one clue blurring even the boundary between text and image, ‘Come inside and leave your shoes and your mind outside’ …



Sinazo Chiya

References Anguria, L. 2018. ‘Art practice beyond theoretical learning: An interview with Mawande Ka Zenzile’. Conversation X. mawande-ka-zenzile/ Elkins, J. 2003. What Happened to Art Criticism? Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press Sinazo Chiya is an associate director at Stevenson and the author of 9 More Weeks, a book of interviews with artists. She has contributed to the publications Adjective, Art Africa and ArtThrob, and is a 2019 writing fellow at the Institute of Creative Arts, University of Cape Town.


Of Refusal, Creation and Assertion Nkule Mabaso


The interpreters were bewildered at the too many meanings that the work suggested, and the more they discussed it the more meanings and hints and warnings it threw out. Things got so bad that three interpreters fought over their interpretations of the work, and one of them was killed. It was the first time ever that a man had died because of the impossibility of understanding a work of art of the tribe. Ben Okri, Starbook Everyone in the tribe was an artist. They were born into art, and they were born of art. Art conceived them; art gave birth to them; art nourished them; art helped them grow, sustained their lives, and guided them to the mighty mysteries and to illumination. Art aged them, art devoured them, art made them old. They grew old in art, and they died of art. They were buried in art. And in art they were remembered and immortalised by its continual practice and renewal in the great rituals and initiations of the tribe. Ben Okri, Starbook Ben Okri’s Starbook is a novel about art, and the

epistemology, Ka Zenzile asserts enduring,

passages quoted above suggest a people situated

localised ways of being. Aesthetically too,

within a visual sovereignty, maintained by a

Ka Zenzile’s practice confronts neo-liberal,

regime of active artistic practices in the service

global imperial tendencies in art that manage

of resisting dispossession and erasure (2008: 85,

to homogenise and erase difference. His

94). In this imaginary, mythical environment,

methodology of epistemic disobedience speaks to

regimented by the capacity of art, the cruelties

other genealogies in artistic practices and as such

of the world are reconfigured as a paradise

is firmly situated within what Walter Mignolo

found and then putatively lost. The many direct

terms ‘decolonial aestheSis’ (2011).

references to art in the novel, while broad and platitudinous, are Okri’s attempt to present

‘world sensing’ (Mignolo, 2011), and offer

‘whole’ persons who deal with the nature of

futurity by operating in resistance to those

reality, with a historical loss – a loss of ancestral

assumptions that consign native traditions to

wholeness, of life ways. The idea of an untouched

the past. His practice confirms the persistence

indigeneity appeals as much to Okri in Starbook as

and anti-fragility of spiritual awareness

it does to any subject at the wretched interstices

and connection to ancestral land as well as

of settler colonialism.

community in all its complexity. This offers up

The wholeness experienced and lost in Okri’s


His motifs draw from Xhosa traditions and

black subjectivity as the bearer of knowledge that

novel is affirmed as never lost in Mawande

is enough to sustain a fragmented navigation

Ka Zenzile’s practice. Acutely aware of the

of a shared dysfunctional world, a world that

confinement that Euro-centred concepts of

continuously fails to see black people as whole.

arts and aesthetics have imposed on creativity,

Ka Zenzile’s work is an intimate invitation into

through the destructive processes of settler

his personal experience of finding voice in

colonial intrusions, territorial and imperial

this hostile terrain.

Of Refusal, Creation and Assertion

Nkule Mabaso

Articulated through interiority and an attachment to his self, his practice delinks from

render form and shape and give them their

and debunks accepted covert and coercive

function – skills that presently are not taught in

worldviews. In their place, Ka Zenzile demands

Westernised learning environments, but passed

a space in which indigenous bodies and their

on as living cultural practices. Intsika (2018, p85)

cosmologies are afforded equal space to assert

is a straitjacketed thatched roof, the title referring

their cultural modalities.

to the support staff that holds up the roof and

Placing himself at the centre of his academic

makes it steadfast. The straitjacket is made from

and creative inquiries, his work draws from Xhosa

canvas, and holds the intsika lying on the ground,

ways of being in the world and aesthetically

preventing it from performing its function of

embraces a liminal exploration in order to arrive

standing straight and tall and providing protection.

at a visualised, non-representative resistance. In

It almost looks like a spinning top, albeit one kept

his sampling of popular culture, rendered with

from spinning off on its axis. Intsika also refers to

the unconventional mixing of mud, cow dung

the head of the household, and the straitjacket can

and other natural elements as well as synthetic

be read as the placeholder for any and all possible

paints, the liminal nature of the work harkens to

restraints and pacifying mechanisms that keep

the past in order to produce a set of ideas about

black breadwinners labouring but never able to

the present. This is an aesthetic articulation of

meet their familial obligations. This entrenched

interiority that can bring about a regenerative

futility can also be read in Tic Tac Toe (2018, p118),

reconfiguration of sensibilities for the person

a game that nobody wins.

experiencing it. In the encounter with the

In the video work Uzesazi (2018, p54), the

work, the viewer experiences a moment of self-

huge ‘capacity for suffering’ of black subjects is

identification; all the smells, colours, shapes and

explored as in a treatise. Tea overflows from the

patterns are familiar and one is lulled by this

cup into the saucer; never reaching the table,

sense of affirming familiarity.

never making a mess, it is held in a continuous

In his exhibition Uhambo luyazilawula (2018),

loop of suspense. The pouring of the tea and

Ka Zenzile paints the gallery walls with ochre.

the low chorus of voices, the ebbing of the tea

The red earthiness of the pigment cocoons one

in the saucer as it threatens to spill over, convey

in a familiar place that has nostalgic attachments.

the ‘capacity to endure’. You are left to draw

It reminds one of the dark enveloping interior

your own metaphors from the red tea, the brown

of the rural homestead, perhaps a grandmother’s

colour of the hand, the tea cup and pot with their

home, with its walls of plastered mud and

delicate inscription of roses …

cow dung. Through this creative intimacy, the


elements and require specialised labour to

Including bold and suggestive clues in the

exhibition becomes a holding space without

naming of his works, Ka Zenzile plays with the

reserve, a space with a visual vocabulary that

viewer’s desire for an entry point, the desire to

centres Xhosa, Africanist epistemes as legitimate,

understand. Read together, the title and the work

needing no translation. Ka Zenzile works to

form a dialogue. Liminality is traversed severally,

remove the veil of the covert mechanisms and

from a disturbance of the traditional/modern

histories of colonialism and re-articulates these

binaries through text-based conceptual paintings

narratives within the prized space of modernity,

against a background of cow dung and pigment.

the white cube.

In Body/Soul without the Mind (2018, p185), ‘Body’

The spatial dimension and scale of his

is placed above ‘Soul’, the two divided. The

installations take into consideration formal

distinction appears absurd and unnecessary;

Of Refusal, Creation and Assertion

Nkule Mabaso

by offering both concepts on the same canvas they are married, and one can accept the invitation to consider them as not separate from each other, as part of the same whole, transcending the Western schemas of duality that separate the mind and body, the splitting of oneself from emotion and spirituality. The work offers itself as an entry point to a liberatory practice of art that can contribute to the revitalisation of an indigenous self, rooted in a politics of land and place. Ka Zenzile’s articulation of an inner world, and his effort to grapple with an exterior world that is out of sync with the experience and expectation of that internal world, beckon us not simply to offer amendments or edits to this current world, but to sabotage it. The work seems to suggest that

References Mignolo, W. 2011. ‘Geopolitics of Sensing and Knowing: On (De)Coloniality, Border Thinking, and Epistemic Disobedience’. Transversal 09 2011: Okri, B. 2008. Starbook: A Magical Tale of Love and Regeneration. London: Ebury Press This text forms part of a larger paper: ‘Globaphobia’. In Curating After the Global: Roadmaps for the Present, edited by Paul O’Neill, Simon Sheik, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press with the Center for Curatorial Studies Bard College/ Luma Foundation, 2019 Nkule Mabaso graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the University of Cape Town (2011) and a Masters in Curating, Post-graduate Programme in Curating, Zurich University of the Arts (2014). Mabaso currently works as curator of the Michaelis Galleries, University of Cape Town, and was cocurator of the South African Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Recent projects are archived on

the prevailing regimes of power are not infallible, and we do not have to accept the options that are ‘available’. There is a way out of the clutches of coloniality, and in some ways we already have the reference book. If there is a story that Ka Zenzile is trying to tell us, it is an intimate one. One articulating a wholeness that he lays claim to, while upholding indigenous resistance and circulating it in commodity form in the capitalist art market as evocative pieces of work. One in which systems of power impact and overlap with individual and collective aspirations; that creates space in which fictions of inferiority are not resignedly accepted or assimilated. One that keeps us collectively awake at night as we wonder over the futures our children will inherit as global universalism and state multiculturalism take us further and further from ourselves into more fragmented subjectivities.


Of Refusal, Creation and Assertion

Nkule Mabaso

Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu* Local Knowledge as Creative Rebellion Nomusa Makhubu


* Zulu proverb meaning that there is no home without internal conflicts


Come inside and remember to leave your shoes and your mind outside Mawande Ka Zenzile’s work Leave your mind

house) and umzi (a commune, homestead or

outside (2018, p164) illustrates epistemic

an establishment). Ka Zenzile presents the

incommensurability, ‘the divergence between

predicament of (un)belonging by inverting the

different styles of reasoning and methods of

house, demonstrating the dislocation of the

justification’ (Baghramian 2004: 150). To enter

gallery through casting it as a mud house and

one house of knowledge, the work suggests, one

questioning the power structure of the university

must abandon other incommensurate ways of

– an act of creative rebellion.

knowing. Ka Zenzile illuminates a very specific predicament: the sanctuaries of learning in South

response to an experience he had while studying

Africa seem to be places of negation, alienation

towards an undergraduate degree a few years ago.

and violence. The paradoxes in Ka Zenzile’s work

Ka Zenzile identified this experience as epistemic

– the mud house in the gallery, the iconic cultural

violence, to use Gayatri Spivak’s nomenclature

images composed in cow dung, and the rebellion

(1988). An assessment task for his class asked

so inextricably bound to the institution it refutes –

learners to look outside a window of their home

are indicative of the urgent crises arising from

and discuss the landscape they saw. Ka Zenzile

multiple and reinforced racial and socio-economic

pointed out that such a task failed to acknowledge

disparities. His work asks: which worldviews,

the difference between what a window of a house

epistemologies or ways of knowing, modes of

in the township would show compared to a

living, are more relevant than others? Which are

window of a house in a suburb. This oversight, he

more truthful or scientific than others? Which are

contested, revealed an ideological battle in which

more valuable? Are certain ways of knowing and

experiential local, rural or township knowledges

living really that incompatible with others?

are to be not only transcended but forgotten

Among other themes, one significant trope


This rebellion is also demonstrated by his

or erased. Once one is in the university, the

in Ka Zenzile’s oeuvre is the inverted house. It

experience of the township or rural area seems

is symbolised in the explicit rendition of mud

‘out of place’ or dislocated. The window becomes

walls or his cynical critique of umzi wemfundo,

an allegory for knowledge frameworks connoting

the house of learning or university institution.

the distanciation and configuration of the world

He does this through interrogating the

‘out there’ beyond one’s own position. His oeuvre

pyramidal structure of power, with its centralised

asks us to question how we know what we know,

hierarchies, or the triangular complex of the

how we assign value to some forms of knowing

seven liberal arts defined by the trivium and

and not others. It also asks why local knowledge,

the quadrivium. By using the metaphor of the

particularly Xhosa, which is more responsive to

house, his work also posits the contemporary

and reflective of its African context, is neglected

South African nation not as a singular house

in favour of knowledge that is transposed from

but as divided and incongruous establishments

colonial Europe and therefore dislocated or

with divergent ways of knowing. After all, Nguni

misplaced in the postcolonial context, appearing

languages distinguish between indlu (singular

out of time and out of place.

Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu

Nomusa Makhubu

Who No Know Go Know

And then I went to school, a colonial school, and this harmony was broken. The language of my education was no longer the language of my culture In a 2017 work titled with the above quote,

in that space one has to perform outside of

Ka Zenzile makes reference to Ngũgĩ wa

one’s own local knowledge, finding oneself

Thiong’o’s experience of writing in English

simultaneously alienated from Eurocentric

and writing in Gikuyu. Wa Thiong’o asserts

knowledge and from the indigenous knowledge

that ‘language, through images and symbols,

that is undermined and eroded in universities.

gave us a view of the world’ (1986: 11). He

Ka Zenzile’s work functions as a form of

states: ‘the home and the field were then our

creative protest, seeking to reveal and challenge

pre-primary school, but what is important for

the disjuncture.

this discussion, the language of our evening teach-ins, and the language of our immediate

figurative and abstract works can be understood

and wider community, and the language of our

as one strategy to visualise this fundamental

work in the fields were one’. Colonial school,

rupture. It critiques Western humanism, founded

Wa Thiong’o asserts, disrupted this consistency.

on Renaissance empiricism and rationalism.

This irony, in which school enacts violence or

Unlike the animist thought entrenched in

‘breaks’ the harmony, lies at the core of the

local knowledge systems, humanist Cartesian

sense of loss and dislocation in Ka Zenzile’s

philosophy and dualism theoretically divide the

work. Suggested in the statement is that this

body from the soul and the spiritual from the

disruption lies not only in having to articulate

material. The works Spiritual/Material (2018,

one’s knowledge in the English language, but


and Body/Soul without the Mind (2018,

also in experiencing the loss of the particular


draw a link between Enlightenment-era

worldview offered by one’s own language.

theoretical postulations in which the body is

The language of one’s own culture ceases to

disfigured or separated from the mind and

resonate with one’s education in the proverbial

the deformation of the exploited body under

colonial school. Ka Zenzile astutely juxtaposes

colonialism. The dividing lines in his abstract

the tropes of the ‘home and the field’ with that

works, like lacerations, dissect the canvas as

of the ‘colonial school’, marking a fault line,

body, extending dialogues with earlier works

a rupture and disconnect. The (mud) house

where the body is literally disfigured, mutilated

inside the gallery building evokes the kind of

and defaced, as in Crime Scene (2016, p72).

alienation defined by Wa Thiong’o who argues


The dividing line that recurs in Ka Zenzile’s

In this reading, the adage ‘Come inside and

that ‘the disassociation of the sensibility of

remember to leave […] your mind outside’

[the colonial child] from his natural and social

can be seen to evoke the British colonial

environment’ resulted in ‘what we might call

strategy to limit the forms of education that

colonial alienation’ (1986: 17). The university

could be offered to Africans. British indirect

for Ka Zenzile is one such alienating space

rule saw educated Africans as a threat. Chika

and the white-cube gallery another. One is

Okeke-Agulu points out that ‘early twentieth

surrounded by knowledge, but to be assimilated

century British Colonial Administration

Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu

Nomusa Makhubu

was particularly suspicious of what was then

song. The words ‘Who No Know Go Know’

called literary education – social science and

emphasise the need to understand the intricacy

humanities courses (including fine art) –

of African knowledge within the entangled

because such education was believed to breed,

histories of colonialism and post-independence

in the colonized subjects, critical thinkers and

neo-colonialism. Only in this way can we see

“troublemakers” who constituted a formidable,

the dislocation of African paradigms and how

even mortal threat to the entire colonial system’

this hinders meaningful ways of knowing. It is

(2015: 22). It is through inferior education

no wonder that this phrase became the motto

systems that the colonised could be reduced to

of the pan-African Chimurenga magazine.

soulless, mindless bodies as units of labour.

The emphasis on locally produced knowledge

A striking example of this is Head of an

is an antithesis to the narratives fabricated

Anonymous Moor (2011), which is an illustration

to reinforce imperialism and foster racist

of the drawing formula used by Albrecht

colonialism. Ka Zenzile’s works can be read

Dürer to gauge human proportions. This

as declarations and protest slogans, written as

particular diagram is aimed at establishing the

though they were protest signs. However, like

proportions of an African’s head. In the original

the rebellions of musicians Fela Kuti and Bob

diagram, the head is depicted, and the lines

Marley, this kind of protest takes the form

cut across its profile. In Ka Zenzile’s work, the

of creative rebellion.

diagram consists only of the lacerating lines, which reduce the face to illegible sections and dehumanise the portrayed African.1 In this

Eating the Elephant

work, ‘rationalised knowledge’, upon which the scientificisation of the human body is based, is

If Ka Zenzile’s work is a form of rebellion, the

a particular form of violence. As the foundation

question arises: how does one fight an institution

upon which most disciplines are formed,

that one is already subsumed by?

scientific racism constitutes both symbolic and

spaces one questions and is suspicious of?

violence in institutions of higher learning, Ka

This paradox has been faced by artists globally

Zenzile discloses the crudeness of scientific

who engage in institutional critique. While

racism in general.

Ka Zenzile’s work differs from conventional

Ka Zenzile’s work brings to mind the classic


strategies of institutional critique, the question

song by the Nigerian musician and activist Fela

remains. Ka Zenzile once defined his artistic and

Anikulapo Kuti, Who No Know Go Know. In it:

intellectual work as a process of eating, from

ignorance is the opium of those who think they

the inside, the elephant that has swallowed him.

know it all. Music, in Ka Zenzile’s We Describe

The elephant, in this case the institution, has

Our Music as a Road to Consciousness (2018, p204),

overpowered and consumed him but, now that he

is described – here quoting Bob Marley (1979)

is inside it, he must in turn consume it internally

– as the revolution of the mind. In Who No

and eventually dismantle it.

Know Go Know, Fela Kuti laments the ignored 1 Head of an Anonymous Moor is reproduced in Ka Zenzile’s 2015 catalogue, The Problem We Didn’t Create, p79

What does it mean to practice in the very

material violence. Rebelling against systemic

Ka Zenzile’s approach reverberates with

narratives of African historical figures. He names

Audre Lorde’s well-known assertion that ‘the

Sekou Toure and Kwame Nkrumah. He also

master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s

refers to Idi Amin Dada whose brutal regime

house’ (1984). But perhaps for Ka Zenzile the

sets him apart from the others mentioned in the

master’s house can be turned inside out, where

Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu

Nomusa Makhubu

the fissures in the walls become clearly visible.

dialectic. As a place of knowing, the mud house

Perhaps the insertion of one architectural

is antithetical to ‘the institution’ but as its

language into another reciprocates the

inverse, represents the two as inseparable sides

dislocation of European architecture in an

of a coin.

African landscape by its inverse: the Xhosa

When Rasheed Araeen wrote the article ‘Our

architectural style in a gallery. In this way, the

Bauhaus, Others’ Mudhouse’, he was critiquing

words ‘the observer is observed, the analyzer

the exhibition Magiciens de la terre. This

is analyzed’, in a 2015 work of the same title

exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou

(p177), are cunning ways of engaging with the

in 1989 was aimed at exhibiting Western art

dialectic of the consumer as the consumed.

alongside ‘non-Western’ art to provide an antithesis to the colonial view that African and Oceanic art represents the modernist aesthesis

Isanusi and the Mud House Pluriversity

of primitivism. The institution, in this case the Pompidou (which is designed in such a way

Isanusi is a spiritual teacher. In many ways, Ka

that the internal structure is ‘turned out’ onto

Zenzile can be defined as that kind of artist:

the façade), literally encompassed mud houses

one who is deeply immersed in how knowledge

in its interior (for example, Esther Mahlangu’s

as power operates. Ka Zenzile’s creative

house replica, Bowa Devi’s paintings on mud

strategies, the inverted house for example,

walls, and Richard Long’s Mud Circle). In his

allude to the plurality and decentralisation of

article, however, Araeen argues that it failed

knowledge. His painting Leviathan (2016-17,

to achieve its goal. The exhibition is ‘a grand


spectacle’ that ‘ignores or undermines issues

engages with the intricacies of power

and specifically the argument that centralised

of a historical and epistemological nature’

power is more effective than democratic,

where ‘exoticism is not necessarily inherent

decentralised power. In the painting, there

in the works themselves’ but is rather ‘in their

is the impression of a horizontal structure of

decontextualisation, not only in the shift from

power, while simultaneously the title refers to

one culture to another (which is inevitable), but

Thomas Hobbes’s 1651 book which argues for

more importantly, in the displacement from one

centralised, sovereign power. The latter in Ka

paradigm to another’ which ‘has emptied them

Zenzile’s painting is implied in the hierarchical

of their meanings, leaving only what Fredric

layers where the brown base represents

Jameson calls a “play of surfaces” to dazzle the

those who are ruled through monarchy. This

(dominant) eye’ (1989: 4-5). Araeen suggests

interplay between horizontal and vertical power

that the discourses, even those seemingly

structures perhaps best illustrates Ka Zenzile’s

liberal, that thrust indigenous classical creative

sarcasm. His Leviathan, it can be argued, is a

forms into obscurity are destructive. Suspicious

sarcastic remark on how the democratisation

of the ‘anything goes’ plurality, he emphasises

and decentralisation of power still bears the

the importance of considering the ‘present

semblance of absolutism. People can still

historical and material conditions of cultures’.

experience the sense of absolute power and

That is, locating these in the present and in

authority even under the conditions of what

the paradigmatic frameworks to which they

seems to be decentralised governance. The

belong is important for understanding how they

mud house in Ka Zenzile’s work can therefore

continue to generate knowledge.

be seen as a metaphor for the inferior/superior


Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu

By bringing seemingly disparate environs into

Nomusa Makhubu

close proximity, Ka Zenzile points to not only this decontextualisation but also how power shapeshifts into different guises. Ka Zenzile also performs a protest against surreptitious violence in art institutions and institutions of higher learning. His work urges us to see violence even where it is sanitised as knowledge. Umzi we mfundo, the institution, is cast as a space of historical conflict where there is smoke, lapho ku thunq’ intuthu. Taking the house apart, turning it inside out, revealing its conflictual nature and rejecting its conventions and customs is a form of creative disobedience. Ka Zenzile’s cynicism in his work also caricatures the epistemes that are so valued in the classic colonial institution. Through parody, declarations, profanation (in the use of dung) and contestation, Ka Zenzile’s work is a creative rebellion against the systemic

References Araeen, R. 1989. ‘Our Bauhaus, Others’ Mudhouse’, Third Text, 6: 3–16 Baghramian, M. 2004. Relativism. London, New York: Routledge Lorde, A. 1984. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press Marley, B. 1979. Interviews in Australia: https:// Okeke-Agulu, C. 2015. Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonisation in Twentieth-Century Nigeria. Durham and London: Duke University Press Spivak, GC. 1988. ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ In Nelson, C & Grossberg, L (Eds), Marxism and Interpretations of Culture. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education: 271-313 Wa Thiong’o, N. 1986. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers Dr Nomusa Makhubu is an art historian and an artist. She is a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and was an African Studies Association Presidential Fellow in 2016. In 2017, she was a Mandela-Mellon fellow at Harvard University. She was co-curator of the South African Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

violence of our current educational and cultural institutions.


Akukho Muzi Ungathunqi Ntuthu

Nomusa Makhubu

Muthala: Through Johnny Mbizo ˆ and Mawande Ka Zenzile Dyani Kabelo Malatsie


I was just into another level, because I know for a fact, Barney Rachabane and all these guys in South Africa, we used to jam all night. We’d play ‘Stardust’ 24 hours, just ‘Stardust’. We’d get all these chords, the meaning of this and that, because we were doing this experiment to see is there any kwela, mbaqanga, anything in these songs. Johnny Mbizo Dyani, December 1985


During a road trip from Makhanda formerly

rest of his life. Dyani played double bass and

known as Grahamstown to Cape Town, I

piano, which he learned from his brother Nuse

became aware of Johnny Dyani’s thoughts on

and the musical community he grew up in. In

his musical practice. On another road trip from

a 1985 interview with Aryan Kaganof, Dyani

Makhanda to Johannesburg, I encountered the

describes a commitment to pushing one’s

Eastern Cape, a landscape that informs and is

practice beyond what is intelligible to an other.

implicated in Mawande Ka Zenzile’s practice.

In contemporary practice, being intelligible is

In this text, I set out to read Ka Zenzile’s

often given unnecessary prominence. In this

artworks through a meditation on Dyani’s process in his music. This meditation serves

text, I use the Khelovedu word mut hala, which ̂ can be described as a dedication to pursuing

as a navigational tool to contemplate practices

a trace or an impulse, even if this does not

that draw from a myriad of references. Dyani

immediately follow a well-defined trajectory.

uses the term ‘black music family’ to describe the influences in his music, not negating the

Mut hala translates as following or looking for ̂ a trail that may not have a clear lead – the trace

cross-pollination of musical forms such as

may be hidden even to the person pursuing

umngqungqo, mbaqanga, kwela and marabi with jazz even though his preferred instrument,

it. Go latela mut hala is driven by an impulse ̂ to seek without a clear destination. Following

the double bass, is mainly played within the

the trace often looks like madness to those

jazz genre. Ka Zenzile’s practice also draws

watching at a distance, and perhaps to the

from a wide pool of references such as politics,

seeker as well because there is no immediate or

philosophy, history, popular culture and the

visible logic to the pursuit; this may also seem

esoteric, which he uses to think through

arrogant as the practitioner often has no large

societal systems that inform how we perceive the world we inhabit in his visual art. I draw

chorus cheering them on. In this sense, mut hala ̂ becomes equivalent to a persistent, tenacious

a parallel between Dyani and Ka Zenzile, for

and unrelenting quest.

both of whom the Eastern Cape becomes a conceptual framework, using the location

For Dyani and Ka Zenzile the muthala may ̂ not be visible in the finished work, the song or

and culture as a device to contemplate and

art object; it is within the process that informs

introduce another way of doing and thinking. Johnny Mbizo Dyani is a jazz musician

the practice that it is most visible. Muthala ̂ in some sense can be understood as a belief

who was born in the Eastern Cape in 1945.

that there is more that can be done and this

In 1964, as a late teen, he left South Africa for

belief is enough to keep the pursuit going.

Europe as a member of the well-known band

At times the trace is intuitive, but the process

The Blue Notes, and he lived in exile for the

of understanding is exhaustive. Dyani, in his

Muthala: Through Johnny Mbizo Dyani and Mawande Ka Zenzile ˆ

Kabelo Malatsie

interview with Kaganof, articulates that he was

formal instruction, something that requires

encouraged by his desire to ‘contribute’.

digging deeper, beyond the easily discernible

In the abovementioned interview, Dyani

components, which is described by Dyani in the

describes his practice and his understanding of

quote at the beginning of this text. In Dyani’s

jazz as something that required a lot of listening and hearing. His reference point remained

practice, following muthala seems to have led ̂ him to make the bass play beyond what was

African even when he was in exile where he

conventionally expected of the instrument.

was often invited to commercialise his practice,

Dyani was known for criticising South African

to make pop music. His understanding of jazz

musicians who ‘sold out’ and chose to create

depended on him recognising his own musical

popular music. He thought that African

and sonic heritage. He describes different

musicians had a reference point that American

scenarios where he realised he should not

musicians were perhaps far from, that they had

exclude his own understanding when playing.

the ability to push music and ‘contribute’, like

He speaks of being encouraged by an older

Fela Kuti and many other artists. Of course,

jazz musician, Dick Khoza, to ‘play it his own

there are many American musicians that Dyani

way. Break the rules.’ In another moment he

respected and that he simply said ‘had it’.

speaks highly of jazz musician Eric Nomvete

Having ‘it’ meant that you were a ‘contributor’,

playing at a concert ‘where everyone was playing

that you went beyond being understood and

so-called jazz’ and he was playing Pondo Blues

which encouraged people to be ‘aware of their

applauded. It is in Dyani’s following muthala ̂ that the Eastern Cape is visibly included in

own thing’. This making/playing of music that

his music. It is not only in the use of Xhosa

was inspired by his heritage, which includes

words in songs but how things were layered.

Dyani and the people he comes from and walks

This manner of layering becomes a form of

with, meant that he pushed his practice beyond

code, a conceptual framework. Dyani’s layering

being an intelligible musician concerned with

incorporated what he learned from his parents,

making popular music. Further on in the lengthy

who straddled and negotiated township

interview, Dyani mentions a conversation with

and rural ways of living. The shebeens, or

jazz musician Wes Montgomery about practice

cultural houses as Dyani called them, are

and the ability to ‘contribute’ which is not just

emblematic of this layering as different ways

playing for the sake of playing. Dyani ‘wanted

of being intermingled there, influencing his

to be a contributor’. He believed that following

inconceivable musical compositions.


muṱhala would lead to creating music with great

features physically in the materials used in

by accepting that his music is influenced by

his artworks and conceptually as a point of

its wider musical context – by American jazz

orientation as he unpacks what has become the

as much as Dyani’s experiences and cultural

normalised and one-dimensional understanding

heritage – and that this acceptance can lead

of our society. Whereas Dyani would play a

to music-making that pushes beyond what is

song for 24 hours straight, breaking down

currently accepted and legible.

its indiscernible components, Ka Zenzile is

I want to zoom in on the practice of ‘tracing’


In Ka Zenzile’s practice the Eastern Cape

depth, to ‘contribute’ to South African music

exhaustively dealing with the construction

a song’s audible and inaudible components to

of our perception of the world by looking

the things that cannot easily be understood by

at political, philosophical, popular culture

Muthala: Through Johnny Mbizo Dyani and Mawande Ka Zenzile ˆ

Kabelo Malatsie

1 Pondo Blues is the title of Eric Nomvete’s song. AmaPondo is one of the subgroups of AmaXhosa amongst AbaThembu, amaHlubi, amaMfengu.

and esoteric systems of thought, breaking

heritage that included older jazz musicians, Ka

down their unfathomable components.

Zenzile’s installations and interventions are

Ka Zenzile does not use art to make a logical

often made from materials from the Eastern

and convincing argument about systems of

Cape to anchor his pursuits in his exhibitions.

perception but rather, in following his muthala, ̂ he invites us to follow the trace that he leaves

This is seen in his decision to paint the

in his artworks. Ka Zenzile often says that

of thatch in the installation Intsika (p85) in the

the language/tools that are used to articulate

exhibition Uhambo luyazilawula (2018); in the

practice should be able to convey complexity

video Outwitting the Devil (p53), the sculpture

and nuance within the work; the translator

Abangoma and the smearing of the orange-

(curator/writer) must follow their own muthala ̂ in order to also ‘contribute’.

painted gallery wall with soil in the exhibition

Ka Zenzile was born in Lady Frere on 9


gallery walls with soil and ochre and his use

Archetypocalypse (2017, p92); in the sculpture Heritage of a noble man (p63) in his eponymous

January 1986, and grew up between Esingeni,

show of 2016; in the installations Rope Trick

Lady Frere and Nyanga East, Cape Town.

and Usoze in the exhibition Experimentation:

The Eastern Cape informs his practice not

All Hell Break Loose (2015). These marks point

only as a landscape that exists as a marker

to something that is not contained within the

of a very specific geographic location and

frame of perception.

its predominant cultural practices; it goes beyond this as it disrupts current frameworks

To conclude, mut hala is a form of practice ̂ engaged in a pursuit to understand or

of perceiving materiality. Like Dyani, Ka

comprehend one’s literacy that often seems

Zenzile demands that we look exhaustively at

incomprehensible to an other in order to

the work beyond the accepted ways of reading

create works that ‘contribute’. Dyani believed

artworks. The materials he uses include mud bricks in the installation Usoze (2015, p82-83),

that his following of mut hala would lead to ̂ creating music with great depth, to ‘contribute’

sticks in Rope Trick (2015, p75-77), and cow dung

to South African music by accepting that

and soil in his paintings and performances.

the music is influenced by its wider musical

These materials do not function as nativist

context, ‘the black music family’. Though I

and nostalgic references to his memory and

cannot assume to know Ka Zenzile’s intentions,

beloved landscape, as is often the case when

the materials he has brought to the fore

artists take on things from their distant past

point to a greater unlearning, not only of the

or childhood. Here, the materials act as a

simple readings of imagery and art objects

source code, a trace to follow, a conceptual

with our supposed critical education and

framework to navigate the many other materials

our notion of objectivity that often tricks us

that he uses in his pursuit to understand the

into believing that we are ‘contributing’ to

complex construction and composition of our

impartial knowledge-making. He is leading us

understanding of society. As Ka Zenzile would enthusiastically say, ‘I am interested in paradigm

to follow our own mut hala that may question ̂ and implicate us in enforcing hierarchical

shifts.’ Ka Zenzile’s artworks are traces of an

systems of meaning-making. In this sense, I

exhaustive process of understanding different intersecting paradigms in order to ‘contribute’

myself am trying to follow mut hala in order to ̂ start ‘contributing’ instead of making legible

to a shift. Like Dyani, who uses his musical

or intelligible what Dyani and Zenzile have

Muthala: Through Johnny Mbizo Dyani and Mawande Ka Zenzile ˆ

Kabelo Malatsie

created through a descriptive text that does not open up other complex ways of engaging practices. Following mut hala is an exhaustive ̂ process, which demands greater understanding of ways of doing that are not always visible when using accepted logical frameworks. If we follow Dyani’s and Ka Zenzile’s leads,

Reference Kaganof, A, Johnny Mbizo Dyani. ‘The Forest and the Zoo: Johnny Dyani Interview, 22-23 December 1985’. Chimurenga Chronic. Kabelo Malatsie is an organiser and curator living in Johannesburg.

we need a different framework for writing or articulating practice, one that does not emphasise legibility and argument over following mut hala. ̂ Through Usoze and Ingqami (The end of an ideology) (2015-, p68-69), Ka Zenzile points us to keep turning the truths we have come to believe and identify with upside down and inside out, even if that means we become uncertain and a people in perpetual pursuit. The pursuit must start with the rejection of systems of objectivity and logic; we must break rules, disrupt spaces, not only for the sake of disruption but in order to follow muthala. ̂


Muthala: Through Johnny Mbizo Dyani and Mawande Ka Zenzile ˆ

Kabelo Malatsie

Mawande Ka Zenzile

Born 1986 in Lady Frere, Eastern Cape, South Africa; lives in Cape Town Solo exhibitions 2020 Udludlilali, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa 2018 Uhambo luyazilawula, Stevenson, Johannesburg, South Africa 2017 Archetypocalypse, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa 2016 Mawande Ka Zenzile, Stevenson, Johannesburg, South Africa 2015 Statecraft, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa 2013 Experimentation: All Hell Break Loose, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa 2011 Autobiography of Mawande Ka Zenzile: Iingcuka ezombethe iimfele zeegusha, VANSA, Cape Town, South Africa 2009 Crawling Nation, AVA (Association for Visual Arts) Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa Group exhibitions 2020 Matereality, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa 2019 The Stronger We Become, South African Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale, Italy 2018 About Face, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa Both, and, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa 2017 Tell Freedom: 15 South African Artists, Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort, the Netherlands Looking After Freedom, Michaelis Galleries, University of Cape Town, South Africa A Painting Today, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa 2016 I Love You Sugar Kane, ICA Indian Ocean, Port Louis, Mauritius 2015 Material Matters: New Art from Africa, ICA Indian Ocean, Port Louis, Mauritius Schema, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa



2014 Chroma, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa 2013 A Sculptural Premise, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa After the Rainbow Nation, Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park, Krugersdorp, South Africa Between the Lines, Michaelis Gallery, University of Cape Town, South Africa 2012 The Exuberant Project, Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts, University of Cape Town, South Africa Material/Representation, Brundyn + Gonsalves, Cape Town, South Africa 2009 Umahluko, Cape 09 Biennale, Lookout Hill, Cape Town, South Africa 2008 Abazobi, South Africa and Norway X Marks the Spot, AVA Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa 2007 Stroke of Genius, Pretoria, South Africa Soul of Africa, Pretoria, South Africa Awards 2014 Tollman Award for the Visual Arts, South Africa 2013 Michaelis Prize, University of Cape Town, South Africa Residencies 2019 Cité internationale des arts, Paris, France 2014 Nafasi Art Space, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 2008 Abazobi, Norway Academic conferences 2013 Between the Lines, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town, South Africa, and Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Braunschweig, Germany 2012 The Exuberant Project, Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts, University of Cape Town, South Africa 2011 Thinking Africa + Diaspora Differently, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Books and catalogues 2019 Mabaso, Nkule, and Nomusa Makhubu (eds). The Stronger We Become. The South African Pavilion. Newcastle: Natal Collective 2016 Momodu-Gordon, Hansi. ‘Interview with Mawande Ka Zenzile’. In Nine Weeks, 25-40. Cape Town: Stevenson 2015 Mawande Ka Zenzile: The Problem We Didn’t Create. Catalogue 83. Cape Town: Stevenson Selected articles and reviews 2020 Nkomo, Vusumzi. ‘Multiplicity of Knowing: Mawande Ka Zenzile’s “Udludlilali”’. ArtThrob, 23 March. multiplicity-of-knowing-mawande-  ka-zenziles-udludlilali/ 2019 Mduli, Same. ‘A case of an art language through the work of South African artist Mawande Ka Zenzile’. In The Stronger We Become. The South African Pavilion, edited by Nkule Mabaso and Nomusa Makhubu. Newcastle: Natal Collective Tsotsi, Themba. ‘The South African Pavilion builds a bridge between past and present’. Contemporary And, 30 April. https://www.contemporaryand. com/magazines/the-south-africanpavilion-builds-a-bridge-betweenpast-and-present/ 2018 Anguria, Lois. ‘Art practice beyond theoretical learning: An interview with Mawande Ka Zenzile’. Conversation X, 17 September. http://www.conversationx. com/2018/09/17/mawande-ka-zenzile/ Tsotsi, Themba. ‘Archetypocalypse’. Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art   42-43 (November): 298-301 Tsumele, Edward. ‘Return to the roots to find deep aesthetics’. Business Day, 30 May 2016 Fikeni, Lwandile. ‘Everywhere and nowhere’. City Press, 5 March Leiman, Layla. ‘Mawande Ka Zenzile



on intuition and allowing a more subjective space for art’. Between 10 and 5, 8 September. http://10and5. com/2016/09/08/mawande-ka-zenzileon-intuition-and-allowing-a-moresubjective-space-for-art/ Matshediso, Matla, Bianca Stevens and Bianca Jacquet, ‘Lessons on lost knowledge’. Mail & Guardian, 11 March. Mdluli, Same. ‘Diary and Materiality: Mawande Ka Zenzile’s “Mawande Ka Zenzile”’. ArtThrob, 22 March. https:// 2015 Fikeni, Lwandile. ‘The state of our freedom’. City Press, 26 April Mabaso, Nkule. ‘The Art of the Possible: Mawande Ka Zenzile’. ArtThrob, 16 May.  the-art-of-the-possible/ Shorkend, Danny. ‘Rope binds rumination with twigs and cow dung’. Cape Times, 27 April Thurman, Chris. ‘When a postcolonial hero gets the club of kultur’. Business Day, 8 May Thurman, Chris. ‘Cow dung rather than faeces, but it is of our time’. Business Day, 24 April 2014 O’Toole, Sean. ‘Maybe if you made this video it would be more technically resolved!’ ArtThrob, 2 May. https:// files/2013_sean_o%27toole_ artthrob_2013.pdf


Published by Stevenson © 2020 Mawande Ka Zenzile for artworks © 2020 the authors for their texts ISBN 978-0-620-83290-8 Editor Sinazo Chiya Co-ordination Sophie Perryer Design Gabrielle Guy Photography Mario Todeschini, Anthea Pokroy Printing Hansa Digital and Litho Printing (Pty) Ltd, Cape Town

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