Turiya Magadlela: Kaffersheet

Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
12 Apr 2015 - 19 Jul 2015

Turiya Magadlela: Kaffersheet

(clockwise from top left) Cindi, Harry Die Strandloper, Makhanda-Nxele, Nongqawuse, Biko, Maqoma from the series, Kaffersheet (2013) Mixed media, 300 x 150 cm,

Blank Projects and Johannesburg Art Gallery present the exhibition Turiya Magadlela : Kaffersheet.

Turiya Magadlela began work on her Kaffersheet series in 2013 in response to her continuing contemplation on the history of incarcerated black South African leaders.

Magadlela derived the title Kaffersheet from “the name of the traditional Xhosa cloth, normally white or cream, you can buy at any fabric shop […] For me it represents the clothing of Xhosa kings and queens.” Magadlela juxtaposes the ‘kaffersheet’ cloth with prison uniforms and sheeting; she stretches, folds and stitches these materials together across wooden frames in abstract compositions. Stains and holes sometimes reveal the previous uses of the cloths, hinting at the bodies that wore them and the spaces they occupied. Magadlela sensitively reworks these embedded surfaces to allow torn edges, creases and exposed stitching to tell a story of our complex history by reworking these fragments into formally coherent compositions.

For the upcoming exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Magadlela will include two series of wall-based works; using the printed cloth from correctional service sheeting, and the orange material from prison overalls. These individual works are often titled after historically incarcerated leaders like Kgosi Galeshewe, Langalibalele and Hintsa.

A focal point of the exhibition comprises a large-scale installation: a grid of steel institutional beds arranged in a cell-like constellation, and ‘dressed’ with the kaffersheet and correctional service fabrics. The installation refers to the hierarchical structures within the prison systems, and specifically within a cell, where new inmates are made to sleep on the floor, older prisoners are promoted to a bed, and cell leaders are afforded some privacy by walls of sheeting surrounding their domain within the cell.

Reconstituting fragments of textiles worn and slept in by prisoners, ‘Kaffersheet’ takes an unfamiliar look at the state of prisons and brings into sharp focus the realities of present day incarceration in South Africa.


Opening Sunday, 12 April 2015, 16:00 (exhibition closes 19 July)

Johannesburg Art Gallery

King George Street (between Wolmarans & Noord Streets), Joubert Park, Johannesburg


Turiya Magadlela (b.1978) studied at the Funda Community College under Charles Nkosi, the University of Johannesburg, and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. She has had solo exhibitions at blank projects, Museum Africa and the Goethe Institut (as part of her JAG/Goethe Institute Young Artist Award 2003). Select group exhibitions include ‘The Poetry In Between: South-South’ at Goodman Gallery Cape Town (2015), ‘Half-devil and half-child’ at blank projects (2014), ‘blank projects in Johannesburg’, Ithuba Arts Gallery, Johannesburg (2013), and ‘The Grote Oversteek’ at the Stedelijk Museum, Zwolle, Netherlands (2006). Turiya lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. 




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