Exploring the connections and disconnections between Africa and Latin America from an artistic perspective is the subject of South-South – a new annual initiative launching at Goodman Gallery Cape Town in January. The project borrows its title from Brazil’s foreign policy aimed at reinforcing integration between major powers of the developing world. Emerging from this contemporary environment of integration trends, South-South confronts the complex notion of a connected “geopolitical south” through contemporary art.
To kick-start this annual event Goodman Gallery invited curator Carolyn H. Drake for the first exhibition – The Poetry In Between: South-South. The show brings together a cross-section of intergenerational artists from southern Africa and Brazil. Through existing and newly commissioned works, the exhibition discusses the multifarious issues that connect these two regions within the discourse of the geopolitical south, by addressing universal questions through a southern lens. The point of departure of the exhibition is rooted in poetic manifestations as a way to understand the addressed issues as open ended and varied in meaning.
A core consideration within The Poetry In Between: South-South is to explore the elements that compose the intricate path of our existence – a topic that is more about condition than place, more about subtext than context. Artists reflect on poetic elements of the everyday, in which personal narratives feed into collective histories through utterances and gestures of otherwise unspoken, unrecorded moments, all originating in a global south. The Poetry In Between: South-South ultimately traverses the development of a supposed identity of the South that is being reconsidered within contemporary visual art. Or, in the words of art historian Felipe Scovino: “Brazil’s visual arts sees the postmodern subject not as something or someone whose identity is unified and stable, but rather as something fragmented and […] comprising multiple identities that may at times be contradictory or unresolved.” Cultural theorist, Kwame Anthony Appiah discerns a similar development in South Africa, namely that “the South African identity is a work in progress. Its meaning will repose in an archive that remains to be written.” While Africa and Brazil have a long history often centrally linked to slavery, more recently South Africa and Brazil have grown to share many other connections, as young democracies with a similar political and cultural ethos and a comparable economic and urban fabric. Inescapable factors that occur within these connections include overlapping extremes such as the combination of underdevelopment and overdevelopment within one economic system and the ever-present inequality between marginalised and well-off communities. If we look within the subtext of the clear contrasts and schizophrenic characteristics that mark these southern territories, we might find a new sense of what connects these places. It is the space in between the extremes that this exhibition aims to evoke.
Within this framework, artists from both countries reveal similar approaches. The works of Igshaan Adams, Nuno Ramos, Turiya Magadlela, Sonia Gomes, Haroon Gunn-Salie and Ariel Reichman transform domestic and everyday elements into poetic moments, evoking an existence that is both joined and separated. Others urge us to think about how to position ourselves within a larger urban context, such as Marcelo Cidade, Kendell Geers and Mikhael Subotzky. Moshekwa Langa and Paulo Nazareth employ found materials in order to rewrite collective histories of identity based on the personal experiences from their travels. Capturing or retelling histories that have either not been recorded – or in the minds of many do not exist – manifests in the work of Kudzanai Chiurai, Thiago Martins de Melo, Rosângela Rennó and David Goldblatt’s In Boksburg series. Having followed a slightly longer path, Ramos, Rennó and Goldblatt as well as two of the most renowned artists from either region, Cildo Meireles and William Kentridge, carry the weight of (art) history and yet remain fresh, timely and relevant in their work. They challenge existing systems and structures by creating new ones out of materials that are embedded with a multitude of meanings and references that are often cryptic and ambivalent yet resonant.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication that incorporates a catalogue of the show as well as a critical reader edited by Clare Butcher and Carolyn H. Drake, entitled A Heteronymous Reader. The reader is inspired by the poet Fernando Pessoa’s approach to writing, which he developed in South Africa and Portugal in the first half of the 20th century and will include short, existing and newly commissioned texts by artists, writers and poets. Specific texts in the reader are generously supported by the Goethe-Institut.
Curated by Carolyn H. Drake
IGSHAAN ADAMS | MARCELO CIDADE | KUDZANAI CHIURAI | KENDELL GEERS | DAVID GOLDBLATT | SONIA GOMES | HAROON GUNN-SALIE | WILLIAM KENTRIDGE | MOSHEKWA LANGA | TURIYA MAGADLELA | THIAGO MARTINS DE MELO | CILDO MEIRELES | PAULO NAZARETH | NUNO RAMOS | ARIEL REICHMAN | ROSÂNGELA RENNÓ | MIKHAEL SUBOTZKY & PATRICK WATERHOUSE | JEREMY WAFER