Sam Nhlengethwa: Waiting

Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
08 Nov 2018 - 01 Dec 2018

Sam Nhlengethwa
Waiting for a friend I
2018 Mixed media on canvas, Work: 80 x 90 cm

Sam Nhlengethwa Waiting for a friend I 2018 Mixed media on canvas, Work: 80 x 90 cm Unique

Waiting is an exhibition of new work by Sam Nhlengethwa exploring the myriad ways in which we find ourselves occupied by this state of being.

What are we waiting for? In certain works, the answer appears self-evident: an empty stage of instruments on stands overlooking a packed audience, a person loitering beside a pole, a group of commuters on the side of the road. But upon closer inspection of these quotidian scenes, more questions arise. Who is doing the waiting? What qualities do these people share?

For Nhlengethwa this theme emerges from universal experience. ‘We all see people waiting and sometimes we become victims of waiting,’ says Nhlengethwa. By depicting these scenarios through the rich figurative mediums of lithographic prints, mixed media collage and tapestry, Nhlengethwa vividly draws our attention to this distinction, making us acutely aware of the stories of waiting experienced in the everyday lives of South Africans. And through his ongoing depiction of mineworkers, also reflecting the harsh lived realities more hidden from view.

As one of South Africa’s preeminent artists, Nhlengethwa has established himself by conveying this sort of nuance through his work. Over his several-decade career he has employed a signature style of collage that brings together archival material and painting to tackle subjects ranging from cityscapes to jazz musicians, artists and political figures.

This latter subject matter features on Waiting in the form of a collaged sepia photo of a young Winnie Madikizela-Mandela seated in a brightly painted living room. ‘When black and white creeps into the paintings it recalls the past. It is a form of worlds colliding,’ says Nhlengethwa. By incorporating this poignant historic reference into this exhibition, Nhlengethwa reminds us that our past needs to be constantly reevaluated. In this sense we are all waiting for our present history to unfold.


Sam Nhlengethwa was born in the mining community of Payneville Springs in 1955 and grew up in Ratanda location in Heidelberg, east of Johannesburg. He completed a two-year Fine Art Diploma at the Rorkes Drift Art Centre in the late 1970s. While he exhibited extensively both locally and abroad during the 1980s and ’90s, Nhlengethwa’s travelling solo show South Africa, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow in 1993 established him at the vanguard of critical consciousness in South Africa and he went on to win the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 1994. His work has been included in key exhibitions such as Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and major publications such as Phaidon’s The 20th Century Art Book. He has had several solo shows in South Africa and abroad, exhibiting in the 12th International Cairo Biennale (2010) and in constructions: Contemporary Art from South Africa at Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi (2011) in Brazil. Earlier this year Nhlengethwa was included on the group exhibition Beyond Borders: Global Africa at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.




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