The new Berlin contemporary art gallery Ronewa Art Projects welcomes its first visitors on the evening of January 26, 2023. For the inaugural exhibition at the Potsdamer Straße gallery space, it announces the duo show Kimvuka (Together), featuring Nú Barreto and Yvanovitch Mbaya. The exhibition runs from January 27 until March 4, 2023, with a grand-opening event open to the public on Thursday, January 26, from 6pm until 9pm.
Collective human experience is the center of the exhibition, taking the shape of anonymous figures. Barreto’s dark silhouettes manifest a reality of violence and inequality, while Mbaya’s line-drawn figures are vessels that appeal to the universality of human nature. Both artists surround their figures with a distinct symbolic system developed over their careers and grounded in the context of contemporary Africa. Similarities in their work parallel the friendship and generational influence between the two artists.
Barreto, born in Guinea-Bissau, moved to Paris in 1989, from where he continues to create multidisciplinary, politically charged work that confronts the socio-economic conditions of the African continent. In the canvas paintings presented in Kimvuka, his twisted, anguished figures free fall into disorienting spatial abstractions. From this space, rise ladders with broken rungs – a recurring motif in Barreto’s practice – pitting the individual against a rigged economic system. Though critical, even outraged, Barreto’s work is not fatalistic; he charges viewers with a responsibility towards those suffering under global structures of inequality.
Mbaya presents a humanity full of hope, inspired by his travels as a young man, journeying from his home in Brazzaville, Congo, through West Africa, and settling in Casablanca, Morocco. As a narrator, Mbaya is the traveler, the observer, the anthropologist, and the immigrant. Tableaus from his memory and imagination plot scenes along his personal journey. The natural materials he incorporates, coffee and indigo pigment, are sourced from several different African nations and pay homage to local practices and traditions, including his own Bantu culture. Ronewa borrows the exhibition title from Mbaya’s work Kimvuka, a Bantu word meaning together. While drawn from specific local contexts, such as ceremonies and the passing of ancestral knowledge, Mbaya’s figures also capture basic human gestures and emotions. He urges his viewers to seek commonality, reaching beyond the boundary of them and us. Created for the occasion of Mbaya’s first German exhibition, Ronewa Art Projects will debut his performance video work Ngunza (Spiritual Initiation), which will screen for the duration of the show.