Mohau Modisakeng: Lefa La Ntate 02 June 2017 - 08 July 2017 | Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg

Very few South Africans will be able to visit Venice, where Mohau Modisakeng joins Candice Breitz as a national representative at the Biennale starting in May. Fortunately, however, Joburgers won’t need to travel that far to enjoy Modisakeng’s work. The Standard Bank Gallery is pleased to announce that his critically acclaimed exhibition, Lefa La Ntate, will soon open in Johannesburg.

Modisakeng, who trained as a sculptor, has become best known for his photographic series and video installations. For this recipient of the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist Award, the two-dimensional surface of a photograph does more than just provide a frame for an image of a person or a thing – he is interested both in how objects or bodies “function within a given space” and in what happens when they are “frozen in time”.

He exploits the rich visual possibilities of the photographic or filmic image: setting, posture, gesture; the tension between movement and stasis, between material objects and their symbolic associations; the irreducible presence of the body. Modisakeng’s work cannot, however, be understood only in aesthetic terms. He engages boldly and relentlessly with South Africa’s troubled past, as well as with the present consequences. In the colonial period and under apartheid, states Modisakeng, “Black people didn’t only experience violence as a physical threat but also on a political, economic, psychological and spiritual level. My work responds to the complexities that have come from such a history.”

While the tools of violence feature prominently – the rifle, the panga, the sjambok, the axe – and while his work alludes to sites of oppression and segregation, Modisakeng nonetheless offers the viewer redemptive possibilities through the practices of ritual and through the excavation of memory. 

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