Gallery MOMO Cape Town presents a selection of work from Andrew Tshabangu’s City in Transition series.
Over the course of twenty years, Tshabangu’s black and white photography practice has played a significant role in redefining the visual landscape of South Africa. The artist draws attention to what he calls the quieter things of society, the idiosyncrasies of regular people, their transactions, movements, and occupancies.
City in Transition underscores Tshabangu’s expertise of encounter. In this body of work, a metropolis is not constructed but witnessed. The camera focuses on the ordinary people of Johannesburg’s streets. As they go about their daily commutes and responsibilities – wound in queues, blurred in street crossings – Tshabangu captures a sense of bustling reconstruction, a place in process. He calls Johannesburg a “meeting point” – a site of connection and access. According to the artist, people are “creating a Johannesburg from their own experiences, not from the experiences of what a city is ‘meant’ to be like, but from the experiences that have brought them there.” If the city is a meeting point, then these photographs depict liminal actors, the informal tailors and traders who do not create a city in formality but who give the city its life.
Still, in these photographs, the city remains difficult to identify. The landscape is caught only in a glimpse, through rearview mirrors, broken glass, and smoky streets. The opaque nature of City in Transition admits that it is impossible to fully capture and embody a landscape and its inhabitants. Such movement can only be partially seen. But it also offers the viewer a sense of potential. In the blind spots between what can be seen, there are endless moments for creation and revival. At once candid and surreal, Tshabangu’s work captures the potency and poetry of the everyday.