If reality takes on a single trajectory, then both Magoso and Mthembu yearn to create a counter-balance, an alternative experience that works in a different direction to any singular narrative.

  • 03 May 2024 - 19 May 2024
  • Main Gallery, Mezzanine Gallery

What we perceive as truth depends upon what we’re looking for. Woven through the work of artists Ande Magoso and Sibusiso Mthembu is the chance to recreate our truth through an alternate reality, brought home by the joint exhibition of their works, Kwasukasukela. If reality takes on a single trajectory, then both Magoso and Mthembu yearn to create a counter-balance, an alternative experience that works in a different direction to any singular narrative.

Magoso’s paintings are rooted in land, both mythical and real, and in history and stories. In contrast, Mthembu’s ceramic sculpture is light, of the air and of daydreams. Both artists use rare forms of expression in their chosen mediums. Early in life, Magoso found that drawing and painting shifted his focus to another realm, and as a young artist he was interested in the emotional responses of other people to his work. A conversation with the artist Caesar Mkhize sparked his interest in identity as subject matter. Since then, Magoso’s paintings have evolved to become windows into an imagined world that depicts his identity as a young black man in South Africa. The past and the present merge though his single-scene visual stories, a mythological parallel place that uses references from the present, the past, and a cross-cultural mythology. Through cultural references and a purposeful symbolism, Magoso incorporates a variety of concepts in a single piece; the work becomes a meeting-point for different perspectives that allows the viewer to experience the work in a uniquely personal way. The male characters in many pieces reference both Pan and African sacrificial practices. In one painting, a goat tagged with the alpha symbol and a sheep tagged the omega stand together in a way that suggests both an intimacy and an awareness of who is watching. In another piece, Magoso’s twin sister stares us down through mask of blue war-paint, ostensibly ready for battle, wearing sheep’s clothing. Do we, the viewer, become the wolf? Magoso’s identity as a twin from a Zulu/Xhosa heritage and someone who speaks both languages, born in one place and living in another, all led to an early sense of duality in relation to other people, and works to accommodate others in his painting through his use of balance, opposition, perception, language and perspective.

Mthembu’s approach is more pragmatic; he always had a dream of making a living with his hands. The mythological elements of his ceramic work draw on the tradition of Josephine Ghesa and harkens forward; his imagined animals seem to have their eyes on the future. Mthembu started ceramic lessons in 2013 with Lynette Morris-Hale, and in 2021 he met the ceramic artist Clive Sithole, who agreed to teach and mentor him. Mthembu calls himself a maker, believing that the word ‘artist’ is imbued with inferences and references that take a lifetime to hone. His mythological creatures, often appearing together in a symbiotic relationship, are derived from natural imagery and inspiration. Here is an imagined animal that carries a goat-form on its back; there are owls and fish, and an abundance of tiny birds. Mthembu speaks of himself as a product of the magic of nature; his background and interest is the environment, and the forms that nature takes. His references are natural and architectural, and the privilege of observation, of looking and seeing. As a result of these, something new emerges from his hands. He draws too on the works of crafters such as Noria Mabasa and Jackson Hlungwane, and sees a strong parallel between wood-carving and the mythological sculptures he creates and decorates through the carving of patterns and textures into the clay.

Both artists are currently mentored by Clive Sithole, and the close working relationship between the three becomes a daily creative practice in the space they share. The trio works from a studio space and the cowshed in the courtyard of Glenwood’s Phansi Museum, previously occupied by artists such as Derrick Nxumalo, Zamokwakhe Gumede and Peter Engblom. The balance and synergy between Sibusiso Mthembu, Ande Magoso and Clive Sithole, all at different stages of their careers, supports and informs their very different practices. The significance of the shoulders on which they stand is not lost on them. For Magoso, the importance of working on the property of the museum, a portal of historical and cultural references, adds weight and depth to his artistic practice. For Mthembu, it is an honour to work at a formal institution that offers the opportunity to reference cultural artefacts collected over time. The Phansi Museum and the merging of the artists’ working and living spaces have become the foundation for Mthembu and Magoso’s current work, brought together in Kwasukasukela.


Text by Kirsten Miller


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