Lebogang ‘Mogul’ Mabusela: iVum Vum

Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, Johannesburg, South Africa
04 May 2024 - 14 Jun 2024

Lebogang Mabusela, Ao Dali, 2023, Watercolour monotype. Courtesy of Bag Factory Artists’ Studios

Lebogang Mabusela, Ao Dali, 2023, Watercolour monotype. Courtesy of Bag Factory Artists’ Studios

Bag Factory Artists’ Studios presenst iVum Vum, a solo exhibition by Lebogang ‘Mogul’ Mabusela, also known as Monotypebabe. The exhibition, consisting of monotype prints and drawings, unravels South Africa’s history with automotive culture.

Mabusela’s work exposes the hegemonies and precepts present in Black masculine culture and investigates its implications within contemporary South Africa. The exhibition features works from her ongoing series, Johannesburg Words, the title of which references an etching by Robert Hodgins by the name, Joburg Words. The work depicts the city’s lively nature while satirising the elitism of its subjects – an approach Mabusela borrows to critique the pervasiveness of misogynoir amongst Black men.

Mabusela’s work employs levity to highlight the day-to-day encounters Black women have with men in the city, visualising the recurring linguistic exchanges during these experiences. She notes how the works’ sardonic nature: contradicts the reality of navigating within misogynoir; a dangerous space filled with obstacles, sexist roadblocks and patriarchal potholes. Mabusela turns the male gaze on its head and on itself, gesturing towards its persistence and dangerously unassuming nature. Centring men through portraiture coupled with text, the works illustrate the brash engagements Black women regularly face and illuminate the mechanisms men employ to disarm women, including vernacular language to connect to their localised experience. Displayed on shelves to emphasise their textuality and Mabusela’s role as storyteller: these scenes place the onlooker in her shoes while portraits act as mirrors, hoping to offer a moment of reflection and reckoning.

Mabusela continues this inquisition into masculinity in new works featured in iVum Vum, which unpack the relationship between, specifically, men and their cars. The show’s title alludes to a song by kwaito star Brown Dash of the same name. The song tells the tale of Brown Dash courting a woman by offering to take her on a ride to the movies in his car. He uses some of the terms of endearment referenced in Mabusela’s works to personify the cars that men love, as if they were a woman who had turned him smitten. Mabusela’s new series expounds upon this by showing how such personification of object as woman, in turn, bolsters a culture in which women are objectified. Her spotlighting of the peacock green 1992 BMW E30 325is, more popularly known as the Gusheshe – a make and model notorious within South African car spinning, racing and automotive culture – asks viewers to interrogate the rift between popular culture and personal responsibility.

iVum Vum is a critique of gender roles within contemporary South Africa, and beyond, and how its actors attach themselves to hegemonic expressions of masculinity. The exhibition questions who is allowed to purport pole-position and who resultantly takes the last spot within the domain of car culture, and culture at large.