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Back of the Moon

Neo Matloga

Back of the Moon

Neo Matloga

11 Back of the Moon, Front of the Eye Luyanda Mpangele 15 Works 2020 35 ‘What you see is life’ Neo Matloga in conversation with Sisipho Ngodwana and Dineo Diphofa 48

Black Collages 2017-18

57 Everything Genetic Ashraf Jamal 65

Works 2018-19



Luyanda Mpangele

Back of the Moon, Front of the Eye

For his first South African solo exhibition, Back of the

enamel tableware, fathers disappearing for months at a

Moon, Neo Matloga worked mostly at night, in a moonlit

time to work in the mines or on farms, exhausted mothers

studio, in the small town of Ga-Mamaila, Limpopo. The

reprimanding and managing, the banter among siblings.

space was formerly his parents’ ‘two-room’.

Somehow, in the midst of all this, there was the potential

A legacy of apartheid in South Africa, the two-roomed house is emblematic of histories of displacement and

for intimacy and innovation to thrive. This space of intimate memories for many Black people

segregation. These confined structures, built in tightly

became an incubator for Matloga’s creative process.

packed townships or rural Bantustans, were domestic

Returning to Ga-Mamaila for a visit in 2018, as part of

‘starter packs’ for many young Black couples, which grew

his immersion into the surroundings of his hometown, he

into generational homes for their progeny.

collected portraits that he cut out of old newspapers and

My own grandmother’s two-room housed up to 10 family

magazines, as well as photographs of family and friends.

members at a time. She shared stories of how her kitchen

These images were to become collage – a technique in

would turn into a bedroom at night, then a bathroom for a

which familiar objects can be reimagined through the way

few hours in the morning with zinc ‘waskoms’ kept warm

they are brought together in new spaces and contexts.

by enormous Dover coal stoves, and back into a kitchen

Matloga likens his method to that of a symphonic orchestra,

once everyone had left for the day. If those overstretched

commenting, ‘I watched the Palestine Youth Orchestra once

walls could speak, they would relive piping suppers on

and the conductor reminded me of how I work. His baton is


like the paintbrush and lacquer I use to guide the cut-out

they were also largely excluded from the conversations

images onto the canvas – just as the conductor directs his

initiated within art discourse.

ensemble to create a synchronous piece of music.’ As a student at Amsterdam’s De Ateliers, Matloga

freedom his works give Black people to observe – what

had initially chosen painting with oils as his area of

hooks terms the ‘oppositional gaze’. She states: ‘spaces

focus. However, he found himself dissatisfied with the

of agency exist for Black people when we can both

medium, feeling that its potential for perfection carried

interrogate the gaze of the Other but also look back at

an undertone of deception. The technique lacked the

one another naming what we see. The “gaze” has been

tension and rawness he wanted to see in his work.

and is a site of resistance for Black people globally’.

Shifting to an exploration of collage, he recalls being

In 2016, during his first experiments with collage,

‘constantly surprised by the results’. In his now signature

Matloga asserted, ‘If there is a possibility that a Black

process, which combines collage with charcoal and ink,

face is seen as a distortion, what I’m saying is, OK, here

he deconstructs pictures of relatives, celebrities and

you have this image of distortion, which is already there

strangers, using noses, lips, eyes and ears of varying

in your prejudices or racist gaze. The process of cutting,

proportions to reconstruct fictional faces in a play of

reconfiguring and collaging the facial anatomy is my way

perspective. These distorted portraits – forming an

of trying to identify with the racist gaze to dis-appropriate

expansive series in his 2017/18 Black Collages – serve

its oppressive power.’

as a direct interrogation of the racist gaze. There are long-standing discussions in art history

In Back of the Moon, Matloga broadens the lens through which Black bodies are viewed and expands the myriad

around the gaze and its alignment with white supremacy

possible realities that Black people can exist in, whether

culture. Feminist scholar and social activist bell hooks

real or imagined. The scenes in these paintings inform

acknowledges how the gaze has functioned in the context

each other while maintaining their individual integrity,

of Black people’s struggle for power in her 1992 essay

which could be attributed to the artist’s method of

collection, Black Looks: Race and Representation: ‘The

working on different canvases simultaneously. Much as

politics of slavery, of racialised power relations, were such

the moon illuminates objects blanketed by the night sky,

that slaves were denied their right to gaze’. Among Black

causing shadows that continuously change, Matloga’s

families, trauma is transmitted across generations though

characters dance within the surreal landscapes of his

the instruction not to look; parents tell their children to

canvases in a play of light and dark, refusing to be

avoid eye contact with their elders as a form of respect,

restricted to two dimensions.

cementing the idea that ‘gazing’ is a privilege reserved for those in positions of power. This act of ‘not looking’ has embedded itself firmly


The power of Matloga’s figurations is amplified by the

Matloga’s titles, written in his mother tongue of Sepedi and its close relative, Selobedu, linguistically gesture at the layered reality that comes with being Black in South

within the realm of art. Not only were Black people made

Africa. For centuries South Africa’s official languages were

to feel undeserving of spaces dedicated to high culture,

Dutch, English and Afrikaans. The indigenous languages

spoken by a majority of the population were largely

me’, has three subjects sitting shoulder to shoulder on a

ignored; some, such as Selobedu, are still not regarded

couch in contemplation, beverages in hand, and a fourth,

as ‘official’ within the new democratic dispensation. In

quite indifferent, perched on the armrest. Unaware of their

using these languages, there is a reclaiming of yet further

apparent distortion, these figures own their Blackness by

aspects of the Black story.

the sheer will of their existence in these imagined scenes,

The nuanced elements in Matloga’s work that highlight

challenging the performative quality of race. Blackness

the Black experience indicate that, certainly, Blackness

is often worn and perceived as a semiotic cloak; it exists

can be many things when seen through different lenses.

as a signifier of how individuals should be treated. Yet

Race remains an uncomfortable conversation in South

these characters live comfortably in their Blackness;

Africa, our honest opinions cushioned between placebo

unbothered by the viewer, they seem audacious in their

dialogue about the rainbow nation and reconciliation.

self-possession. To look at them is to be disarmed by

There’s an unspoken fear of the veil being lifted to reveal

their reciprocal gaze.

the underlying prejudices that persist. Matloga’s collage

In the act of looking, my curiosity is tugged by the

paintings form a silent protest to the single narrative of

question of who these characters are. The artist himself

Blackness and the historical, prejudicial gaze through

has confessed to not knowing: ‘Living with the work in

which it is seen. ‘Black identity’ is negotiated through

my studio made me realise that I’m creating situations

the individual and interpersonal relationships that

that I know are not for me to understand, meaning I’m

form a large part of the lived Black experience.

not able to decipher the expressions of the figures even

It is easy to politicise Matloga’s collages with their

though I highly connect with and to them.’ These figures

foregrounded depiction of Black bodies. But there is

are at once nobody and everybody. The initial familiarity

also space to see them simply as tender depictions of

of certain chins and eyebrows is quickly interrupted by

Blackness. When the shroud of politics is removed, even

the unease evoked by the misplaced features. In essence,

briefly, one is invited to appreciate the wondrous anatomy

they become who you think they are, or rather who you

of the collaged figures. With their bulging eyes, twisted

think you are in the process of mental identification. They

lips and surreal bodies, Matloga’s characters prompt new

are neither here nor there, and Matloga’s monochromatic

interrogations of the human form. Mantšeboa, Matshidiso

palette adds to the sense of boundlessness. Suspended in

le Matjale, Mokibelo, ‘Modjadji o stout’ and ‘Mamazala ka

time, the works create an inner conflict of nostalgia and

di potsotso’ all feature an inverted, disorienting gaze. The

longing, a push-pull between memory and fantasy.

positioning of the eyes on the characters’ faces makes the

The collages are as distorted as the global

viewer feel watched in turn, whether made to feel like an

understanding of the Black experience – depending on

intruder or invited in to become part of this world.

the lens through which it is seen, Blackness can be many

Two lovebirds with mismatched facial features are seen

things. It is to be ‘westernised’ while still performing

indulging in a stolen moment outside a home in ‘Motho

rituals that honour abaphansi. It is to be multilingual. It

waka’, which translates as ‘My love’. Mponeng, ‘Look at

is to be a feminist while understanding the necessity of


lobola in the context of tradition without neglecting how

art that boldly reflects his life as a Black man while

it perpetuates patriarchal ideologies. It is growing up in

asserting himself as an artist in his hometown, which is

a rural area, studying in the city, living in a township and

only beginning to recognise the merits of this occupation.

working in the suburbs. It is burning impepho to ward off

According to Matloga, ‘the historical and political context

bad spirits while being a devout Christian. Equally it can

has become an everyday psychological experience’.

be none of these things, according to the subjectivities of the individual.

Back of the Moon reclaims the Black experience, through the depiction of Black bodies in intimate

To be unapologetically Black is a political act, with or

spaces and through the liberated gaze. Matloga’s act of

without deliberate intention. But the artist is quick to

reclamation is without erasure; he has taken something

assert that he does not identify as an activist. He may

back and presented it to the world through a different

explore the Black experience in his work, but he feels he

lens. Through this lens a host of new perspectives emerge

is sharing his experience rather than making a statement.

because to be Black is to be a collage of many things.

The political layer is added by the viewer’s gaze, based on the formation of their own consciousness. Matloga acknowledges that to create art in what used to be a two-room house in post-apartheid South Africa is to understand that the political residue of the memories within it will somehow, even on a subconscious level, filter into the work. After all, collage extends to the

References bell hooks. 1992. Black Looks: Race and Representation. New York: Routledge Neo Matloga. 2019. ‘Neo Matloga: Neo to Love’. Fries Museum: YouTube (26 April 2019). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF-3-H3L4Lg Keely Shinners. 2020. ‘What being looked at feels like: “About Face” at Stevenson’. ArtThrob. https://artthrob.co.za/2019/01/14/what-beinglooked-at-feels-like-about-face-at-stevenson/

artist’s concept of home, something he has to navigate constantly as a Black South African living in Amsterdam. His straddling of the two worlds inspires him to create

Luyanda Mpangele is a Johannesburg-based writer, visual artist, editor and blogger.

‘Motho waka’, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 180 × 160cm



Mponeng, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 200 Ă— 250cm



‘Modjadji o stout’, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 200 × 250cm



Mmadira, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 190 Ă— 145cm



Mokgadi, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 190 Ă— 145cm



24 Mahlakung, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 250 Ă— 450cm


‘Mamazala ka di potsotso’, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 170 × 200cm



Matshidiso le Matjale, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 140 Ă— 115cm



Mpharanyana, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 250 Ă— 202cm



32 Mokibelo, 2020 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 180 Ă— 320cm


MantĹĄeboa, 2020, collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas, 170 Ă— 200cm Installation view, Stevenson, Johannesburg

Neo Matloga in conversation with

Could you tell us about the title of your exhibition,

You’ve mentioned that the works were made in the light

Back of the Moon?

of the moon. Do you always work at night?

I’m reminiscing about an imagined place and time, a past

It just so happened that, during this period, my levels of

that becomes present behind the moon. I come from a

concentration were better in the evening. Once I realised

place where a lot happens at night. There are rumours of

this, it was clear that night would be the most useful

voodoo and witchcraft – stories of people who wake up

time for me to engage with my work. I do work during

and plant evil spirits in other people’s homes. O swanetše

the day, but in other forms. When I’m outside the studio

go ba le phatla ya gona, meaning certain things are meant

I know that I don’t have to go far to experience something

to be seen by certain people.

that may be surreal or absurd. There’s always something

Sisipho Ngodwana and Dineo Diphofa

‘What you see is life’


happening within my surroundings, so I’ll always have a

living decades ago; the days feel longer. Topics such as race

camera with me and I’ll always have my ears open to listen

are also spoken about in a very different way here because

to new stories from people passing by.

we don’t experience the same things that people in the cities experience. Certain things happen quite far away from us and

This is your first solo exhibition in South Africa. With your

the village is predominantly lived in by Black people, most of

work being partially inspired by the country’s socio-political

whom own their compounds or their land, which I admire. At

history, is having an exhibition here of particular significance?

the same time, Ga-Mamaila is a village that is growing. There is so much to appreciate about it – the vast landscape, the

When I land in South Africa, it is always enlightening to

air, the people and their relationship with the landscape.

see home with a new perspective, although there are so many challenges and social circumstances that one

I’m interested in how you came to work in Amsterdam. How

has to psychologically adjust to. Whenever I’m here in

did the residency at De Ateliers come about? What was your

Ga-Mamaila I start missing Amsterdam, and whenever

experience like there, and how did it compare to your time

I’m in Amsterdam I start missing Ga-Mamaila. I know I’m

at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg?

privileged to experience worlds that are totally different when it comes to politics, religion and cultural viewpoints,

Being at De Ateliers was challenging at times because

but showing my work on home soil and being integrated

nothing was for marks; it’s not school. You just have a

into the local scene has been a great longing of mine. I’m

studio where you practice your art or do whatever you

hoping people will see their emotions, their experiences

want. Every Tuesday we had lectures of sorts. Artists,

and their spirits living on my canvases.

writers and critics from all parts of the world would speak to us or do studio visits. Those meetings were some of

Could you tell us more about Ga-Mamaila?

the most complex times for me as a human being. But as an artist, I must say, to this day I still keep what I learnt


Most of the time when you hear about rural areas, villages

during those visits. Of course, some things that critics say

or townships, they are reduced to disadvantaged areas for

you flush away, absorbing what you need for your practice

previously disadvantaged individuals. Without taking away

to move forward. There was so much freedom to explore

from that reality, what has struck me about Ga-Mamaila

whatever I wanted without any pressure of failing or doing

is that living here is like living in a world of the senses.

something wrong or living up to the standards of grading.

People listen, people talk and people touch in a way that

It was great in that sense.

makes you more conscious of your surroundings. There is

After De Ateliers I was in-between residencies, trying to

a distinct sense of community – you see it clearly during

find a way to stay in the Netherlands. It was challenging and

social gatherings like aritsibaneng [a gathering between

fun at same time. Eventually I moved from Amsterdam to

family members to get to know one another], funerals and

a residency in Rotterdam. I realised then that I absolutely

weddings. Life here is also a bit slow. At times I feel like I’m

wanted to stay in the Netherlands because I had the

freedom and isolation to do my work. The Bag Factory was also a very important moment

within that history via discourse or conversation. The reflective type of nostalgia highlights a sense of loss and

for me as it was just after I had left art school. It was

longing. Here, you acknowledge that the past shouldn’t

an interesting time. I was confronted by the fact that I

be taken for granted, and at the same time one can see

just came from university but somehow I didn’t have the

it as a humorous or ironic thing because it reveals that

survival tools to be an artist. It was at the Bag Factory

reminiscing and critical thinking are not really opposed.

that Ntate Pat Mautloa and the late Ntate David Koloane as well as other artists from different generations shared

Regarding your choice of medium, specifically charcoal, and

everything about being an artist – how to practice and

paper cut-outs, these are both materials that have distinct

how to navigate a career in Johannesburg. I became a

traces of people, previous processes or a past life. Your work

permanent artist-in-residence, but then came time to do

seems to have clear intentions of reworking the past or

De Ateliers. The transition was interesting. Literally, my

bringing things back to the present, even in an altered state.

contract at the Bag Factory ended on 31 August and on 1 September my residency at De Ateliers started. It was

It’s not by chance that I use ink and charcoal in my

almost as if it was meant to be. It’s a really nice feeling

canvases. I’ve always enjoyed line drawing. I understood

when all these things fall into place. Both the residencies

at a very young age charcoal’s relationship to time and

were important for structuring me as an artist and as

ageing. It leaves a residue. I use ink and charcoal in a

a human being as well.

painterly manner and treat these with the same sense of care as collage. With residue there is evidence of life, and

Could you talk about nostalgia and collective trauma in your

what you see on the surface of the canvas is life. That’s

work? There’s collectivity in both happiness and struggle,

important to me.

especially in relation to apartheid and the post-apartheid condition. In his exhibition Objects of Desire, Addendum

You’ve used colour before but more recently you seem to be

Meleko Mokgosi poked holes into nostalgia to unravel the

focusing solely on working with black and white paint. Do you

complexity of the violence of history. Your work appears to

ever have the urge to paint in colour?

engage with or rework a similar notion of nostalgia, with an element of healing.

Maybe the urge to use colour will come at another time. For now, I don’t yet feel I have an understanding of the

My work certainly has an element of healing present.

scientific relationships between colours. When I do use it,

I think drawing, painting and collage are cathartic

it feels like there is something missing. I think as an artist

processes which are concerned with both reflective and

your gut always tells you this.

restorative forms of nostalgia. Restorative nostalgia acknowledges the past by revisiting it. It goes on a quest

What about the consideration of light when working in

to build on the past by closing any gaps that are visible

black and white?


Installation view with Mpharanyana and Mokibelo, Stevenson, Johannesburg

I work with chiaroscuro which is a process that considers

musicians like Patricia Majalisa, Peta Teanet, Foster

light and shadows in painting and drawing. Admittedly,

Teanet, Shaka Bundu Girls. This music still lives in my

I still don’t follow the rules of this process because that

studio and I use it as a tool that transports me to another

would reveal too much and detract from the mystery.

realm. In order to work or be creative, some form of distraction is needed and the music does that for me.

There was an emphasis on printmaking in your early work. What motivated the shift to painting?

Apart from music, are there any other studio traditions that you cannot do without?

I started painting because I needed more room to attack or execute what I needed to express. Printmaking has

I consume a lot of tea when I’m creating, I can’t live

limitations in terms of scale, but painting gives you the

without it. It just goes with what my grandmother says,

freedom to go from left to right, over two metres, with

‘tee e tla o lapološa’ [tea will make you less tired].

a single brush stroke. There is no doubt that education can be one of the greatest Is there a relationship between fashion and memory in your

gifts of the human experience; however, it can also introduce

paintings? The attire of your figures looks somehow ‘retro’.

a new set of complications. Certain kinds of education can

Do you find historical references for the choice of clothes

lead to a generalised way of engaging with visual art, such as

the figures wear?

looking at a work’s formal elements, or looking through the artist’s biography. As someone who has studied in a variety of

As part of my research, I go to vintage stores to document

contexts, how important do you consider art education for

and sometimes purchase clothes, but I’m not looking for

an artist’s practice or development?

any specific moment in history. I seek out materials or props for my characters in the same way that characters

To me it’s like reading a coin: it has two sides. On the one

on a set in the theatre are dressed.

side, art schools can take away from an artist’s experience through the systemic issues around grading. How do you

I look at some of the paintings and I hear Jonas Gwangwa

even grade an artist? There was a tendency for artists of

and Papa Penny playing in my mind; each fragment, each

colour to have to over-explain themselves in any project

fixture, each brush stroke harmonising – all elements of an

they presented. At that time, not so long ago, I felt that

orchestra coming together. We’ve heard you play music in

conversation was brewing on how the art school does not

your studio – does it inform your thinking?

know what to do with artists of colour. On the other side of the coin, one accrues knowledge about art history and

I like that you mention Jonas Gwangwa and Papa Penny.

other artists through being in art school.

Growing up we had no choice but to listen to what our parents listened to on the radio. We were exposed to


When it comes to institutions (including galleries, museums,

art fairs), as an artist do you assume any responsibility or

as getting influence from previous generations without

voice when it comes to how these spaces function towards

knowing the links, but now I could see it visually too. I

the public or the people directly in its ecosystem? Or is this

came to the conclusion that as artists, there are energies

something outside of the concerns of individual artists?

and spirits that existed before us that have made their way into our practices. I also think that it may be partially

As artists we are who we are because of these institutions,

attributed to historians’ tendency to group artists

and they are who they are because of the people directly

according to themes or similarities.

involved in their ecosystem. I wouldn’t say that this topic is outside of our concerns. I believe that institutions have

Who or what have been the guides in your practice?

a responsibility to be transparent in the way they navigate and put out information to the world. It is important

I am blessed to have had the guidance of several

that they are conscious and also acknowledge the times

individuals, outside the context of art. These are people

through their programmes.

that I exchange conversations with, a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, an accountant, and through those conversations

Are there artists whose work you admire or respect?

they shape who I am as a human being. On the other hand I communicate with the artists with whom I participated in

A few years ago I participated in a group show, Tell Freedom,

my residency at De Ateliers and we continue to check on

which took place at the Kunsthal KAdE in Amersfoort. It

one another. I think it’s important to be well mentally,

was a group show of about 15 South African artists. Here I

and I appreciate having their support.

was exposed to artists who worked with different kinds of materials; the ones whose approaches and philosophies I

You mentioned that you learned artist survival skills during

admired most were Bronwyn Katz and Buhlebezwe Siwani.

your time at the Bag Factory and that they mostly applied to

Talking about another generation, I enjoy and respect

surviving in and navigating Johannesburg. Could these skills

Lynette Yiadom-Boake’s work, as well as that of Lubaina

apply to your time in Amsterdam and Rotterdam?

Himid – I respect what she has done for artists of colour and female artists in the UK and in the world at large.

There’s a difference but not a big difference. You could say that some of those tools are kind of universal. You can

Are you aware of the work of Nathaniel Mary Quinn?

apply them anywhere in the world just to stand and live as an artist. Some of the things I learnt at the Bag Factory

I learned about his work almost two years ago when a

I’m still applying today. Just sharing, for example, was an

guest artist from Chicago, David Schutter, visited my

important thing I learnt while there. Sharing information

studio at De Ateliers. He asked me if I knew Quinn’s work

is an important way to build one another as artists. But

and we looked at it together online. It was an amazing

some things are different because of the system. One

moment in the sense that I’ve always seen musicians

needs to adjust and also learn to absorb.


Are there theories or particular texts that have lent

that expresses the fact that life continues in the midst of

themselves to your work?

all the socio-political arrangements of the world.

Yes, there are texts by the likes of Achille Mbembe,

Between Selobedu and Sepedi, how does language lend itself

Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Right

to your work, particularly in terms of your titles?

now I’m reading a book edited by Xolelwa Mangcu, titled The Colour of Our Future: Does Race Matter in

It all stems from how I read and write. I read books that are

Post-Apartheid South Africa? I’ve also enjoyed texts

written in Sepedi and I write in Sepedi but the complexity

by Louise Gordon on existentialism and Emmanuel

of the language begins when I travel. For example, when I

Levinas’ concept of the face, or rather the face-to-

travel to Botlokwa or Moletši, people hear me and ask ‘Neo,

face-relation, and his other ideas on how humans

kgane o apa Selobedu na?’ (Neo, do you speak Selobedu?)

interact socially.

In Makhakhapatše or Tzaneen or Ga-Koranta, the people ask ‘Neo, kgane o bolela Setlokwa na?’ (Neo, do you speak

How do you think this is reflected in your work?

Setlokwa?) I would say, ‘No, nna ke apa Sepedi’ (No, I speak Sepedi). So I find myself in the middle of Sepedi dialects

There appears to be a dialogue between them. I often

since my language has an emphasis on the pronunciation

search for the other once I’ve rendered my collage

of certain letters in the words. You could say that I speak

paintings; maybe I am the other? Looking at my work

Selobedu – even in the school syllabus, the children or

it occurs to me that it is more about me and the viewer

the people in the community may speak a Sepedi dialect

as we have to interrogate what we see. At each glance

that could be heard as Selobedu – but actually we

the work changes because of the dismantled and

write in Sepedi.

sometimes rearranged physiognomy.

The titles of the works are taken from Sepedi or Selobedu utterances or poems that I feel don’t really make

The majority of your paintings have multiple figures,

sense. I take words from days of the week, from poems,

with only a few single portraits. Given that the current

from what someone might say. In a way, the titles have

pandemic has forced us to live in somewhat isolated

both nothing and everything to do with the paintings.

environments, have the ‘social gatherings’ in your paintings

Even with the title of this show, the direct Selobedu or

been a conscious counter to what we are experiencing?

Sepedi translation, ‘ka morago ga kgwedi’, would mean something else, ‘after a month’. There is a poetic nuance

My exhibition came at a time when I was making work

that is complex to translate. South African languages are

that alludes to events and situations that we wish or

notoriously difficult to translate into English.

long for. I didn’t know what we would be experiencing


The titles offer clues to what’s happening in the

today so my work is not a counter to this but I’ve always

paintings but on the other hand they shouldn’t always

wanted to show people my universe, and it is a universe

be used to interpret the work.

The influences of Cubism and Dadaist collages appear to be

portrayals, of course from the viewpoint of his time. As

birthing a new generation of Black figuration. What do you

someone who works within the growing tradition of Black

make of this?

portraiture and Black figuration, what is your take on that?

Maybe this is a protest; we’ve seen and read about

To be honest, I’m just painting or drawing my life – Black

different movements, and the most recent and relevant is

life. I’m highlighting and emphasising certain forms of

Black Lives Matter; in philosophy, this is a multi-layered

humanity. This is my normal but I do know that whatever I

topic. In relation to my work and its materiality, I think the

read or watch has a way of coming into my studio. I feel that

different layers could be a metaphor. Gone are the days

in every painting or collage of mine, all forms of humanity

where we see things from one single viewpoint, and this

should be present. In these characters, for example, where

is what the aesthetics of the work encourages, for one

the person looks angry, sad or happy, it’s just part of being

to experience different perspectives.

a human. I do understand that we want to portray ourselves as positive, or as heroes. I know that I don’t like it when I

On Black existentialism, are you familiar with Aimé Césaire’s

see the media portray Black people as inferior, Black people

writing? He speaks of Negritude as an affirmation of the

in poverty … no, I don’t like that. But when it comes to my

Black body. Would you consider your approach to reflective

work, it’s important to expose or highlight this because it

and restorative nostalgia as affirmation of Black existence?

is part of who we are. It would be very weird if, 20 years down the line, people ask, ‘what was happening in 2020?’,

I’m not very familiar with Césaire’s writing but from what

and then they go back and only see pictures of happy Black

I know, perhaps my way of tapping into reflective and

people. That’s not true. It doesn’t make sense. That’s why

restorative nostalgia is a way of acknowledging Black

it’s important that I paint life as it is.

life and existence. At one stage in our correspondence, you mentioned that I saw on Instagram that you posted a snapshot of text from

some of the questions we asked were maybe too ambitious

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. The book came

or didactic in their terminology or references. I wonder what

out early this year, and touches on the tension between

your impression was about the words being used. The thing

WEB Dubois and writers that were part of the Harlem

about making paintings is that their impression is very fluid,

Renaissance – the tension in beliefs in terms of how Black

right? Because art or image-making is not as direct as text, do

bodies are portrayed. You have one side that says that it’s

you think that what you say through text or in this interview

OK to show Black bodies in strife and struggle because that’s

might be too direct for what you would like to say verbally

fundamentally part of the human condition. You know, you

and through your practice?

have moments of perfection and moments of imperfection as well. Then you have Dubois, who’s on the other side of

Even though I went to university, I was very opposed to

spectrum. He argued, mostly, for uplifting and dignified

the type of language that was used because it was really


Installation view with Mahlakung and ‘Modjadji o stout’, Stevenson, Johannesburg

foreign to me. When I read some of your questions I felt

be an artist of colour but I’m just painting experiences of

that my mother, for example, would not understand what

which I know no other. I was once asked by a journalist

I’m talking about because of the language. It doesn’t feel

why I only paint people of colour but that’s what’s within

OK for it to be this way. Some of the questions I was very

my reality. You don’t go back to the 18th century and ask

happy to answer and I was just writing away because I

Rembrandt, ‘Why did you only paint white people?’ I’m just

understood them. We are all in geographically different

painting my reality. There’s no other way for me. When I

locations and we are asking questions that stem from

dream I mostly dream of Black people, I dream in my own

our own opinions.

language. It’s my reality. I can’t over-explain that.

And to some extent, most of who and what we are can

Do you ever find yourself at a crossroads between truth

be attributed to cultural DNA that we have inherited from

and political correctness?’

generations before us. At the same time, this culture is not always something that one chooses to adopt, and more often

Art is a process, right? I don’t think I’m the kind of artist

than not, we are bred into politicised cultural pockets. As an

that’s like,‘there’s coronavirus!’ and the next thing is

image-maker or someone who documents life forms, how

that all my collages have masks. [Laughs] Just because

do you navigate the moral expectations or suppositions

something is happening doesn’t mean that I should

from your audience?

immediately respond to it with my art. I have a practice that exists on its own. Yes, I can respond to what’s

It is very difficult to have a conversation about my

happening in the world by engaging in conversations with

work without politics and race surfacing. My practice is

people, but just because it’s a part of our reality doesn’t

politicised against my will because everything is politics.

mean that I should bring it into the studio.

As I put my work out there I know I have signed up for

I know that I’ll be spending the rest of my life learning

subjective opinion and racial criticism. What is important

and improving my mental capacities. As my latitude

is to navigate the factors gently and with integrity.

grows, I’ll continue to be at the crossroads between truth

Everybody has an opinion. I know that a lot of us,

and political correctness. I’m glad that I don’t feel the

including me, are scared to voice our opinions in case

pressure to sound ‘woke’ because that’s now an ongoing,

someone says, ‘you’re wrong!’ Sometimes I have so many

complex conversation.

opinions but I don’t know how to articulate them. It’s great that you don’t feel you have to succumb to the Because English is a very specific language.

pressure of having to make work about every moment that’s going on, especially because you situate yourself in more


Yeah, and even though there are those expectations of

than one place in the world. It’s a lot to keep up with. But

what should come out of an artist of colour, I don’t feel

it’s also good that you recognise that there are other, if not

obliged to respond to that. I’m just making. I happen to

additional, ways of engaging with what’s going on around us.

It’s exhausting actually – waiting for information from the world to make art. Does success exist in the art world, and if so, what does that mean for you? For me, success is being able to embrace the uncertainty, the failures and the mistakes that one encounters during the journey that is one’s practice. It takes a lot to be able to reach that point. Another thing that is very important to me, as an artist, is gaining the respect of institutions and individuals who appreciate what you do. If you were not a visual artist, what do you think you would be doing? I would probably be a doctor as I love mathematics and sciences. Painting and drawing in the studio is like performing surgery in the operating theatre. Both processes entail solving a problem, which is what I love doing most of the time – solving problems in the studio.

Sisipho Ngodwana is an associate director and Dineo Diphofa a gallery assistant at Stevenson, based in Cape Town and Johannesburg respectively.


48 Black Collages, 2017-18 Collage on paper, series of 48 collages 54 Ă— 40cm each









Ashraf Jamal

Everything Genetic

‘Painting’, for lack of a better word. None will suffice, but it

paintings suggests that, as yet, no word exists to explain

is this word which recurs in an interview with Neo Matloga

what we euphemistically dub mixed-media.

for Neo to Love (2019), his solo show at the Fries Museum

Then why painting? Is it because of pedigree, because it

in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.1 Painting? It is not the

carries a more enduring weight? Or is it because of what

medium uppermost in my mind. I see drawings in liquid

happens when one paints – the time it takes for layers

charcoal and ink. I see collage, photography. Perhaps it is

to dry? Is it because photography implies something

painting which links these media, contains their overlay

momentary – a snapshot? Then why not collage? Because

and interpenetration. There is something profligate and

it implies a tearing apart and a suturing, an arresting, re-

hybrid in their making. No single descriptor can absorb

stitching, a putting back together of discrete moments –

what Matloga is doing, what we see. His subject matter is

not time’s duration but its computation? For the artist,

peopled, domestic. His is a world of interiors – living rooms.

it seems that neither photography nor collage suffice.

If photography seems dominant – the photographs sourced,

They have their part to play, but they are not the main

torn apart, their fragments recomposed – it is because this

event. Matloga reserves that pride of place for painting.

overlaid medium is structurally prominent, occupying the

It is painting that keeps the ship afloat; that allows for

extremities of his figures (their fluid heads, hands, calves,

the time it takes to make a work; that allows one to see

feet). The photographic fragments are black and white, the

what is captured as a sustainable story. Painting lingers.

entirety of the works monochromatic. To describe them as

It breathes. It spans a time before and after the event


which Matloga presents. Painting is ‘a relationship’. It tells

immersed in themselves. They are in the painting, but

him ‘what to do’. Unlike photography, painting is not an

they are in their own worlds.’6 This distinction is vital.

abduction. It is not a stolen moment. Neither, as in the

Matloga’s dramatic personae are actors, but they are

case of collage, is it an accretion of moments.

also not. They are characters performing a role, yet they


If painting for Matloga is more durable, is it also

not typecast. They are living beings with all the foibles,

untimely? This fantasy has been argued to be anything

secrets, plots and hopes that no narrative can control.

but the case. Nonetheless, let us pursue the matter. Can

Matloga is not the puppet master. He ‘leaves room for

one say that painting is code for an art that refuses time?

imagination’.7 We roam amongst his figures as they roam

That painting is neither static nor narrowly dynamic (in

amongst our lives. Matloga’s paintings intersect worlds –

other words, neither photography nor collage)? If this is

those of his ‘characters’ (in relation to each other), the

the case, then perhaps painting matters most to Matloga

painter and his audience. The event – whether making

because it is all about duration – the time it takes to make

a painting or experiencing it – is not the result of a

a work of art, the time that painting, better than any

transaction or exchange. It is a living, breathing, organic

other medium, contains.

fretwork of feelings, intuitions and suppositions. It is

One drinks time. Time is what it takes to drink. One

breath that matters most; painting’s respiratory ability to

lives in it, because of it. In a world that has succumbed to

capture lived conditions, irrespective of the overlay and

instantaneity, Matloga has chosen time’s uncontainable

interface of applied techniques. Notwithstanding their

and suggestive fullness. His paintings are scenes, not

makeshift contemporary feel, is Matloga an Impressionist?

stills taken from scenes. The situations he paints – ‘people

The evocative quality of his paintings suggests so. The

dancing … eating … kissing … having a conversation’ –

relationships between people linger. They are ‘intimate’.

are redolent with suggestion.3 In the making and in the

Matloga speaks of ‘trying to document, trying to write

moment it is completed (or simply concluded), Matloga

notes’.8 His emphasis is telling. A painting is a record of

asks himself: ‘What actually happened before the scene?

an attempt, not the resolved result thereof. ‘In painting

What’s going to happen afterwards?’4 These questions –

I’m grasping the concept of life,’ he resumes.9 The artist’s

about time past, time future – are Proustian. They

inflection – trying, grasping – reveals the tenuousness

suppose a journey ‘that no one else can take for us, an

of the attempt. Matloga makes no claim, presumes no

effort which no one can spare us’. It is a journey ‘we must

judgment. The events he creates come with no final

discover … for ourselves’.5 Matloga invites us into his

disclosure. The ‘concept’ is always provisional. The lives

world and asks us to take our place within it. What we

he conjures are as varied as humanity itself. ‘No matter

see is not what he sees. The painter too is a wanderer.

the political landscape,’ he reminds us, ‘people do not

He asks what happened and what will happen. And we,

stop living their lives.’10 Everything Matloga states must

in turn, ask ourselves the same questions.

be understood as such. This is because the worlds he

What Matloga sees in his paintings are ‘characters …


are also more than the roles they perform. They are

because it carries the mystique of being out of time,

inhabits, which pass through him, are not designed

I have spoken of warmth, but what of conviviality? Mutual comfort? Pleasure? I find no melancholy in these paintings, no existential doubt. If his characters are ‘immersed in themselves’, it is an immersion wholly engaged with life’s promise.

How did Matloga arrive at the work he is now making? When I first wrote about him in 2016, he was painting in brilliant colour. Then, his faces were devoid of feature, his bodies defined by their apparel. It was clothing as a human sleeve which preoccupied the eye. The works, in hindsight, were tentative, unsure of themselves. On visiting the Cape Town Art Fair in 2020 I was struck by the fact that Matloga had made a profound shift, that he had ‘come into his own’, honed his message. There is no doubt that Matloga’s latest body of work, produced between 2018 and 2020, is a stunning contribution to South Africa’s image repertoire. While it holds fast to

to explain life, but to allow for its full yet inchoate

monochromatism, collage, and photography (a defining

tenderness. It is warmth one encounters – ‘intimacy’,

‘look’ and idiom in South African art), its expression does

‘temptation’, the subtle quavering of lives poised

not serve the ongoing belief in documentary truth, a

between reflection and anticipation.

binary optic and culture, or poor ‘make-do’ art. Something

Matloga’s decision to construct his worlds in such an

quite different is afoot. His ‘take’ on Black life refuses a

open-ended manner speaks volumes about his refusal

reactive or grievous turn. He does not seek, through art,

to complete a story. It is unsurprising that none of his

to address pre-existent and persistent political, economic

paintings possess a beginning, middle or end. Time will

or social injustice and inequality. Instead, he describes

not allow for such an easy narrative, and neither does

his recent work as ‘an archive of Black love’.11

life. What we witness are occasions filled to the brim with suggestion. I have spoken of warmth, but what of conviviality?

Matloga’s emphasis on the archival suggests the importance of an historical record. However, this view is scuppered by the artist’s interest in provisional and

Mutual comfort? Pleasure? I find no melancholy in

open-ended situations and experiences. It is not a

these paintings, no existential doubt. If his characters

history of Black South Africa’s hurt that compels him,

are ‘immersed in themselves’, it is an immersion wholly

but Black pleasures – then as now. Matloga is correct

engaged with life’s promise. One’s ‘own’ world need not be

in noting that the South African art-historical, cultural

a damnation, and neither need hell be others. This bleakly

and political record rarely embraced the quotidian and

existential view of reality, which Matloga refuses, denies

everyday, the fact that ‘people do not stop living their

both the rights of the self and the rights of community. In

lives’. Njabulo Ndebele’s insight in this regard remains

Matloga’s world, we are richly enjoined to ourselves and

enduring. His critique of the ‘spectacularisation’ of

to others. The delight, ease and pleasurable warmth his

Black life, his celebration of the ‘ordinary’, remains a

paintings generate stem from this fulsome vision.

defining and hugely enabling insight.12 In this regard,


Matloga belongs to an important revisionist tradition.

parts and regroups. Everything connects, reflects upon

But to frame his works thus is to limit, if not diminish,

the other. History only ever exists in the present. It is

their force. If Matloga is a highly significant artist for

the ‘hidden presence of others’ that informs our being –

our times, it is because he has minted anew the way

our intimacies and our temptations.

we see Black experience, how we engage with Black

Matloga’s interest in ‘intimacy’ and ‘temptation’

lives. His emphasis on the personal and subjective is

reveals the nature of the engagements and scenes he

of inestimable value. It is a fluid normalcy which he

constructs. As I have noted, they are rich with portent

brings to the fore – Black life immune to the psychic

and suggestion. Matloga does not produce a scene

and material disfigurement wreaked by history, a

as frieze or tableau, but generates lived and living

disfigurement that remains ever-present.

conditions. His art is a condition for life. While he claims

Looking at Matloga’s latest paintings, I was struck by

‘painting’ as his metier, it is how he uses photographic

their canny nous, their nowness. They were playful, light,

fragments – torn, sutured, placed together in ill-aligned

embracing. Rereading the essay I’d written in 2016, I

consorts – which is most striking. The technique is not

stopped and held my breath as I came upon the following

uniquely his own, but its application surely is. Despite

words from Divisadero (2007) by the Dutch-Tamil

appearances, Matloga’s faces are not aggregations

Canadian novelist and poet, Michael Ondaatje: ‘Everything

of discrete and relatively autonomous elements, bits

is collage, even genetics. There is the hidden presence of

and pieces from here and there – an eye, a mouth, the

others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain

slope of a chin or ear – but a testimony to life as a

them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we

congregation of differences which allow us to

cross.’ Then, as now, it is human intimacy which I find

reconceive a person’s univocity.


strikingly in evidence in Matloga’s paintings. For Ondaatje,

Matloga’s world vision is not fragmented; it is the sum

and justly so, collage is not a pasted overlay of interactive

of fragments. It is not the join that matters (everything

but discordant elements, a mishmash of this and that. It is

is broken, everything must be joined) but the union that

‘genetic’. Collage is not the sum of remaindered traces. It

splicing affords. What makes us whole are the many

is the breeding and breathing ground where life converges,

parts that make us up. We are also one because of others. We are not defined because of the distance that separates one from another, we are defined because we embrace. All gestures, whether inclusive or distanced, suppose connection. We are never removed, one from another. The stitching of fragments may seem violent,

Matloga does not produce a scene as frieze or tableau, but generates lived and living conditions. His art is a condition for life 60

rough, deliberately unconcerned with any smooth mesh, but in Matloga’s case, its affect refuses incongruity. If his faces and bodies are paramount it is not because he refuses Black life as a pathological aggregate, or

because he wills its enabling unity, but, in spite of

struggle which underpinned it. For Matloga, the two are

negation and affirmation, because he chooses to show us

indistinguishable. Together they are our root, because

its enduring self-love and the importance of community

struggle – centred on ‘identity, relationships, cultural

in maintaining and engendering this love.

dislocation, racial conflict’ – ‘still resonates today in the

‘Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither; Ripeness is all.’14 Shakespeare’s famous

quest for a post-apartheid South Africa’.16 As Matloga bracingly reminded us, ours is a ‘not-

line finds its echo in Ondaatje’s assertion that all life

always-so-after-aftermath’.17 The sting is forked.

exists at a border crossing. Life may come and go,

Historical ills persist, but he also reminds us of parallel

our lives lived in passing, but nothing survives or is

worlds of pleasure, warmth, dignity. ‘People do not

sustained without connection. In 2017, Matloga remarked

stop living their lives.’ Then as now, what distinguishes

that he is accused of being ‘nostalgic’ – of holding

his approach is the desire to override paradox – the

fast to a utopian vision of Black life that was blind to

parasitic interface of illness and health. He may

persistent, often brutal inequity. ‘This affection for the

recognise the persistence of freedom and entrapment,

past has increased over the years,’ he said. ‘My age

bigotry and compassion (who cannot?) but as I observed

group are constantly accused of not knowing where we

then and maintain today, Matloga’s remains the pursuit

come from, but on a real note, the spirits and the ghosts

of a greater and more inclusive life. If Sophiatown – as

of the past still live in us. In a way, the historical and

a culture, a way of living – remains an enduring trope,

political context has become an everyday psychological

it must be understood as part and parcel of a greater

experience for me.’15 Genetic, psychological, socio-

metropolitan, continental and diasporic vision.

political and cultural, Matloga’s ‘everyday’ is also a world

Achille Mbembe’s concept of ‘Afropolitanism’

of spirits and ghosts. Everything occurs in the present.

articulates this vision for us. It refers to ‘an aesthetic

There is no past tense.

and a particular poetic of the world, refusing on

In 2016, I noted the immense influence of Sophiatown

principle any form of victim identity – which does not

on Matloga’s youthful imagination. At the time, it was

mean that it is not aware of the injustice and violence

clear that he was deeply inspired by the cultural force of

inflicted on the continent and its people by the law

that township in the 1950s and 60s – the time of writers

of the world’.18 It is as a ‘principle’ or credo that

such as Lewis Nkosi, Can Themba, Bloke Modisane, Nat

Afropolitanism distinguishes Matloga’s art. Its presence

Nakasa, Todd Matshikiza, Henry Nxumalo and Es’kia

was nascent in the pan-African vision enshrined by the

Mphahlele, and photographers such as Peter Magubane

creatives of Sophiatown, which assumed centre-stage

and Bob Gosani. At the hub of this cultural force was

in the figure of Sam Nhlengethwa (collagist, jazz fundi,

Drum magazine, the apogee of sartorial style and urban

historian of cool) who has doubtless inspired Matloga.

cool. But what matters is not only Matloga’s nostalgic

If Mbembe and Nhlengethwa are vital, it is because

love for what remains one of South Africa’s most potent

both choose to foreground that which is engendering.

creative periods – our Harlem Renaissance – but also the

As Mbembe notes:


Our way of belonging to the world, of being in the

eating, kissing, having a conversation’ – are masterful

world and inhabiting it, has always been marked by,

reconstructions of the small and utterly profound

if not cultural mixing, then at least the interweaving

pleasures that a homespun life affords. They carry our

of worlds, in a slow and sometimes incoherent dance

past, intuit our future, but most of all they encapsulate

with forms and signs which we have not been able

our bounteous present. It is not ‘Black love’ that is their

to choose freely, but which we have succeeded,

sole purview, though this is emphatically the case. It is

as best we can, in domesticating and putting

not the normalcy of Black love which he feels compelled,

at our disposal.19

against the odds, to impress upon us. Nothing counterintuitive spurs their making. Neither regret nor

It is this greater sense of belonging which Matloga’s

hope impels them. ‘I’m grasping the concept of life,’

vision communicates. For him, however, there is no longer

Matloga says. ‘I’m trying to represent these people,

any hesitance. His multi-media works display an effortless

these characters … in all forms of humanity.’20 As the

‘cultural mixing’. Today, Matloga seems unconcerned with

artist utters these words his arms lift upward, his face

maintaining paradox. One senses no lack of freedom,

glows, and one shares the sincerity of his enthusiasm.

no compromise. His new paintings display none of the

We are all contained and embraced in that moment.

equivocation evident in the jarring phrase, ‘not-always-

Everything is genetic.

so-after-aftermath’. They are not the fallout of a difficulty or a syncretic attempt at reconciliation, but expressions that are disarmingly and seductively effortless. Matloga has claimed his world. His paintings may emerge in fragments, in bits and pieces pulled together, but their allure lies in their join. The pleasure derived from knitting together fragments is ancient. Beauty lies not in the broken pieces (say, of a broken clay pot) but in the soldering of the cracks, the re-composition of the broken pieces that make up a life. As Ondaatje reminds us, we all carry ‘the hidden presence of others’. In what are surely Matloga’s greatest paintings to date, it is this joining of lives, this connection between people, that is conveyed with a blithely astonishing ease. I cannot think of a more compelling response to human difficulty at this moment in time. His scenes and stories – a couple on a bed, a gathering in a lounge, on a porch, his visions of ‘people dancing,


Ashraf Jamal is a research associate in the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg. He is the co-author of Art in South Africa: The Future Present and co-editor of Indian Ocean Studies: Social, Cultural, and Political Perspectives. He is also the author of Predicaments of Culture in South Africa; Love Themes for the Wilderness; an award-winning short fiction collection, The Shades; and In the World: Essays on Contemporary South African Art. His latest book, Strange Cargo: Essays On Art, is forthcoming.

1 Neo Matloga. 2019. ‘Neo Matloga: Neo to Love’. Fries Museum: YouTube (26 April 2019). Available online. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 Marcel Proust. 2006. Remembrance of Things Past: Volume I. Translated by CK Scott Moncrieff. Ware: Wordsworth Editions, 775. 6 Matloga 2019. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid. 12 Njabulo Ndebele. 1994. South African Literature and Culture: Rediscovery of the Ordinary. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 57. 13 Michael Ondaatje. 2007. Divisadero. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 17. 14 William Shakespeare. 1880. ‘Act IV, Sc. I’ in King Lear. Edited by Horace Howard Furness. Philadelphia: JB Lipincott & Co, 315. 15 Matloga in Annicia Manyaapelo. 2017. ‘Fragments of Incredible Happiness’. Creative Feel. Available online. 16 Matloga in Ashraf Jamal. 2016. ‘Afropolitan – Neo Matloga’. SA Art Times (September 2016), 12. 17 Ibid. 18 Achille Mbembe. 2007. ’Afropolitanism’ in Africa Remix. Edited by Simon Njami. Translated by Laurent Chauvet. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 28–9. 19 Ibid, 28. 20 Matloga 2019.


Shaderack, 2019 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 165 Ă— 130cm



66 Bo mam’gobozi, 2019 Collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas 190 × 145cm


Thabiso le Tshepiso, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 165 Ă— 135cm



‘Nka nako go motseba’, 2019 Ccollage, charcoal and ink on canvas 165 × 200cm




‘Ntsware ka tsoekere’, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 170 × 140cm

Madam le Sir, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 170 Ă— 140cm


‘Bula pelo yao’ II, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 170 × 280cm



76 Dikgang, 2019 Collage and ink on canvas 90 Ă— 490cm


Labohlano, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 170 Ă— 200cm




Kerese, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 165 Ă— 130cm

‘Kgopela o tle lapeng’, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 170 × 140cm


‘Bina le nna’, 2019 Collage, charcoal, soft pastel and ink on canvas 200 × 165cm



‘Bula pelo yao’, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 182 × 182cm



‘Ka laboraro’, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 140 × 115cm




‘Ka gare Dimakatšo’, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 145 × 190cm

‘Motsoala!’, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 166 × 130.5cm


Darlie kea lemang, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 150 Ă— 150cm




Meneer le mistress, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 166 Ă— 130.5cm

Mo spazzeng, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 140 Ă— 115cm


‘Bolela re kwe’, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 200 × 260cm



96 Taba tja Sontaga, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 260 Ă— 400cm


O ska ngkarametĹĄa, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 160 Ă— 230cm




Mokete wa Thabiso le Tshepiso, 2018 Collage, charcoal, oil stick and ink on canvas 200 Ă— 510cm


Tiisetšo le Neo, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 245 × 275cm



Mehopolo ya go fapana, 2018 Collage, charcoal and ink on canvas 260 Ă— 280cm





Neo Matloga was born in 1993 in Ga-Mamaila, Limpopo,

Stevenson, Cape Town (2018); Koninklijke Prijs voor

South Africa, and is currently based between Ga-Mamaila

Vrije Schilderkunst, Koninklijk Paleis, Amsterdam (2018);

and Amsterdam. He studied Visual Art at the University of

Tell Freedom: 15 South African artists, Kunsthal KAdE,

Johannesburg, and completed a residency at De Ateliers,

Amersfoort (2018); Let’s See, Where Were We? In the

Amsterdam, with a focus on painting. Matloga won the

Pit of Despair, De Ateliers, Amsterdam (2017); Post Its,

2018 Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst.

Constitution Hill Museum, Johannesburg (2016); Time

A solo exhibition, Neo to Love, took place at the Fries

Line, Bag Factory, Johannesburg (2015); South African

Museum, Leeuwarden, in 2019, and a solo presentation

and Chinese Exchange, Workers Museum, Johannesburg

formed part of Good Morning Midnight at De Ateliers

(2015) and South African New Voices, Washington

in 2018.

Printmakers Gallery, Washington DC.

Group exhibitions include ofte vojagantoj, Wilford X,

He has taken up residencies at Foundation AVL Mundo,

Belgium (2019); Still Here Tomorrow to High Five

Rotterdam (2019); Thami Mnyele Foundation, Amsterdam

You Yesterday, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art

(2018); Zeitz MOCAA, Segera, Laikipia, Kenya (2018) and

Africa, Cape Town (2019); Winter Sun, Stevenson,

the Bag Factory, Johannesburg (2015).

Amsterdam (2019); De Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst Prijs,

Matloga was nominated for De Volkskrant Beeldende

Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam (2019); BIG AND PLENTY,

Kunstprijs in 2019 and was among the artists shortlisted

Foundation AVL Mundo, Rotterdam (2019); About Face,

for the 2015 Taxi Art Award.


Artist’s acknowledgments Much love to my family, Bo papa, Bo mma, Jenny, Thato, Pholoso, Matome, Thembi. Special appreciation to Tshepo, for being an awesome studiomate. My gratitude goes to you all for helping bring Back of the Moon to fruition.

Published on the occasion of Neo Matloga Back of the Moon 3 July – 5 September 2020 Stevenson, Johannesburg © 2020 for works: the artist © 2020 for texts: the authors Catalogue 95 September 2020 Front and back cover Mpharanyana (details), 2020, collage, charcoal, liquid charcoal and ink on canvas, 250 × 202cm Design Gabrielle Guy Photography Nina Lieska, Mario Todeschini, Neo Matloga Printed by Hansa Digital and Litho Printing (Pty) Ltd, Cape Town

Buchanan Building 160 Sir Lowry Road 7925 Cape Town +27 21 462 1500 46 7th Avenue Parktown North 2193 Johannesburg +27 11 403 1055 Prinsengracht 371B 1016 HK Amsterdam +31 62 532 1380 info@stevenson.info www.stevenson.info @stevenson_za

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Neo Matloga: Back of the Moon  

Stevenson catalogue 95

Neo Matloga: Back of the Moon  

Stevenson catalogue 95