The Springs Art Gallery’s new exhibition titled Invisible Reality by Melusi Masike displays a stunning selection of photographs, installation video work and a zine publication produced through the Market Photo Workshop Photography Incubator Programme. Masike is a graduate of the Ekurhuleni Photographic Programme (2018 – 2019) and candidate of the Ekurhuleni Public Employment Programme (EPEP) in Visual Arts.

Melusi Masike (b. 1993 – Daveyton). Masike is a creative storyteller, who uses photography as a medium to tell stories. He lives and work in Daveyton, Ekhurhuleni East, which is where most of his practices have developed. Melusi’s photography was influenced by an entrepreneurship program he attended at Morena Ke Lethabo Training Centre where he learned about conducting his practice as a business. In 2018 – 2019 he participated in the Ekurhuleni Photographic Programme at the Kwa Thema Library. Later in 2019, he participated in a group exhibition, New Breed at the Springs Art Gallery. Masike participated in the annual Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Awards (2022) where he was selected to the top 20 finalist. In 2021 he completed an Advanced Programme in Photography (APP) at the Market Photo Workshop (MPW), Johannesburg in 2021, where he developed a broader knowledge, understanding and skills of the practices of photography as medium and how to build a body of work as well as preparing one for commercial practices. A selection of the work developed through the Market Photo Workshop Photography Incubator Programme has been shown at an exhibition of the Photo Incubator Edition 7 at The Market Photo Workshop in March 2023.

MELUSI MASIKE, INVISIBLE REALITY (Artist’s written description of the work)
Imbeleko; in simple English is an appreciation token, perform rituals to appease the ancestors (just like ilobolo) for the spirit that accepted the child from his or her mother’s womb. Imbeleko plays a significant role in our identity, for some it might be for spiritual guidance, while others consider it to be a first step to tracing their roots and connecting with their ancestors. We are not defined by our circumstance but by our identity, how do we identify ourselves when we grow up in families that do not have fathers. Why is it progressive in our modern culture that we have broken families, is this a political statement or it is rooted from how we perceive ourselves as human beings. Is it important to have a present father, does it make it easier to connecting with your paternal lineage? How do we reconcile with our fathers when we know less about our roots? Is it true that our society is built by men, and how do we even define manhood when we know least about fatherhood? Manhood has different interpretations in our society, we have political manhood, we also have traditional manhood and not forgetting social manhood. How do we navigate our path of existence in a spiritual dimension while also attempting to define manhood when we are raised by women? Do we find healing from within, or it comes from communicating with our ancestors?

Should we even ask ourselves these questions, or we should just let things slide and let what’s unknown continue to be unknown. What message or stories do we leave for other generations, how do they find their belonging while we did not leave a blueprint for their identity. Is this attempt for identity necessary, does it teach and heal us as human beings? Does it help in tracing our ancestral roots? These are the stories that we need to dig deep into, some they are  privileged to know their roots for some it’s unfortunate to not know, but that does not we should stop and not attempt to trace who we are, where we come from, where our surnames originate, what is our ancestral roots, how to communicate with our ancestors and what it means to have a father figure.

This photographic journey seems to be a deep and spiritual response to loss, confusion, and identity – not just of different or specific individuals, but of history, manhood, language, oral culture, and healing. This body of work is about cultural customs, identity formation, performance of cleansing rituals, as a means of re-constructing my identity and connecting with my ancestors both in the physical and imaginary world. It is an attempt to start a conversation and communications with the unknown father both in the tangible and intangible world. With these photographs I am communicating about my upbringing without a father, my definition of manhood and tapping into my father’s ancestral world. With these performances I have realized contradictions, half-truths, erasure, denial, and hidden truths. My identity becomes an orchestrated fiction and non-existing connection. While these images record performance, time, memory, emotions, self, and healing. I will navigate my existence in a best possible way to define who I am what spaces I occupy as a human being.

Melusi Masike
This is a geographical concept highlighting misconceptions of race, ideas of identity, belonging, trauma and memory. This exhibition is to create a pause, gasp to reflect, time to heal, and space to exist within. With old luggage bags, fashion style(suits), migration documents, old newspapers (pass of migration laws) and other environmental decorations, Invisible Realities will create a space that features such items to create an atmosphere and space of belonging and somehow for an audience to find time to reflect on memories and heal some of these political wounds. Some of the wall will be grey to create some visual contrast and to scratch the wall surface with text, some walls will be red to pay homage to all the blood spills from wars, segregation, and other atrocities the human body had to endure. White walls will be featured too, for reflection, light, and triumph. Green walls to plant a new seed of hope and to celebrate humanity. Eclectic, Axes, the Grid, and minimalist wall layout style will be explored on different walls. Types of artwork installation will be controlled by type of artworks and condition of artworks we receive. Exhibition text will be printed on vinyl. Scented candle installation with soil and different types of stone will be created to pay home to all traumatic experiences we have experienced as a human race. Sculptures and roof hanging installations will be featured, and we will also have old suits installed on walls (As a signify of human decency and style). A timeline wall will be created to showcase cultural movement and distorted ideas about land and bloodline. The exhibition will be as minimal as possible for the audience to pause, reflect, converse, exchange and find joy within the space. Lighting in some of the rooms will be dim.

The selection of work will be on display at the Springs Art Gallery from 28 October 2023 until 10 November 2023. The art gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9am – 4pm for public viewing (closed on Sundays and public holidays).

This project forms part of the City of Ekurhuleni Public Employment Programme (EPEP) in Visual Arts. The project also forms part of post support intervention offered to beneficiaries of SRAC programmes created through a collaboration between the SRAC Department of the City of Ekurhuleni’s Visual Arts and Galleries Section and artists and art groups from the City of Ekurhuleni and beyond.

This exhibition includes talk, photographs, installation video work and a zine publication produced by the artist, Melusi Masike, through the Market Photo Workshop Photography Incubator Programme. Masike is a graduate of the Ekurhuleni Photographic Programme (2018 – 2019) and candidate of the Ekurhuleni Public Employment Programme (EPEP) in Visual Arts.

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