Buhlebezwe Siwani | Seekers, Seers, Soothsayers

● Two new exhibitions focused on lens-based practices mark the start of summer at the museum
● A one-day symposium celebrating the survey exhibitions of Mary Evans and Johannes Phokela will be held on 28 October
● The symposium will conclude with the launch of two monograph publications of each of the artists’ exhibitions held at Zeitz MOCAA

(Cape Town, Wednesday, 25 October 2023): Today, Zeitz MOCAA announces its summer exhibitions, supported by topical programming and new publications. Marking the start of an exceptionally busy season for the institution, the shows and their accompanying programming solidify Zeitz MOCAA’s vision and mission to maintain its position as a pan-African space and an active agent that caters to and nurtures society through art.

“It is heartening to be able to realise all these ambitious projects at this moment; it is a culmination of consolidated institutional progress and development, for which we have worked exceptionally hard,” says Koyo Kouoh, Executive Director & Chief Curator at Zeitz MOCAA. “It is our ongoing mission to shine the light on the work of artists and their contribution to our society. Let us celebrate Mary Evans, Johannes Phokela and Mame-Diarra Niang while supporting a new generation of artists, including those in our summer group exhibition: Gladys Kalichini, Latedjou, Sekai Machache, Nyancho NwaNri, Pamina Sebastiāo, Buhlebezwe Siwani and Helena Uambembe.”

Two New Exhibitions Usher In Summer 2023
The two new exhibitions focus on experimental lens-based practices and include a solo, survey exhibition Self as a Forgotten Monument by Mame-Diarra Niang and a group exhibition titled Seekers, Seers, Soothsayers.

On view from Friday, 27 October, Seekers, Seers, Soothsayers features the work of seven artists —Gladys Kalichini, Latedjou, Sekai Machache, Nyancho NwaNri, Pamina Sebastiāo, Buhlebezwe Siwani and Helena Uambembe. Using the number seven — a spiritually significant numeral in various belief and cultural systems — as its anchor, the exhibition explores thematic accounts and experiences connected to the non-physical world: spiritual, psychological, supernatural and abstract. The artists use experimental film, immersive installation, performance, sound and narration to depict how ritual, devotion and acts of remembrance can bring restoration and alternative perspectives of the self. The exhibition title is inspired by the 2007 poem ‘Speaking in Tongues’ by Jamaican author Kei Miller and forms a mantra for the constellation of works on display. The poem points to a human need to engage with worlds one cannot touch while emphasising the limits of language to fully describe the lived experience.

Tandazani Dhlakama, Curator at Zeitz MOCAA, says: “Seekers, Seers, Soothsayers is an exhibition that celebrates the next generation of artists who use lens-based media. The camera lens is an effective medium that the seven artists have used to expand, project and reflect on how historical narratives are carried through the body and passed on from generation to generation. The artists depict how ritual, devotion and acts of remembrance can offer connectedness, bring restoration or provide alternative ways of seeing oneself within the cycle of life”.

Self as a Forgotten Monument is the first museum exhibition by Mame-Diarra Niang and is a survey of the artist’s practice from the past decade, bringing together significant bodies of work in dialogue with spatial choreography. Niang’s prolific practice is characterised by an exploratory, abstract and subversive approach to lens-based media, such as photography and immersive video installation. Her work is an act of remembering, through which she resists categorisation and assumptions about geographies and specificities.

The exhibition further presents a constellation of two key trilogies — bodies of work that are thematically related or stem from a particular period in the artist’s oeuvre — and includes new iterations of two immersive room installations commissioned by Zeitz MOCAA. The new works ground the artist’s sensibility and personal meaning-making that she embeds in her practice and is site-specific to the museum while retaining a lineage to the different spaces that Niang’s works have previously occupied.

“This new season of exhibitions is an opportunity to acknowledge new voices in contemporary art while celebrating the garland of stars comprising Zeitz MOCAA’s rich art canon — artists who contribute to our exhibitions’ programme year after year,” adds Lungi Morrison, Director of Institutional Advancement at Zeitz MOCAA. “As a pan-African museum that happens to be located in Cape Town, Zeitz MOCAA is cognisant of its civic duty on the continent, which includes facilitating access to art practice and praxis. The eminent summer programming and exhibitions highlight our commitment and prioritisation of art education, critical thinking and art history through the confluence of diverse mediums reflective of Africa’s art ecology.”

Both Seekers, Seers, Soothsayers and Self as a Forgotten Monument by Mame-Diarra Niang will be celebrated at 6 pm on Thursday, 16 November 2023, with all the participating artists present.

Programming And Publications to Celebrate African Artists
Uniting recent projects in the institution’s pursuit of knowledge generation and the crafting of modern art history for the African continent and its diaspora is an in-depth joint symposium focused on the works of Mary Evans and Johannes Phokela, both of whom were the subjects of survey monographic exhibitions organised by Zeitz MOCAA.

Aptly titled SURVEY: Image as History / History as Image, the forum takes place on Saturday, 28 October from 10 am and will explore the artists’ respective practices by positing their work in conversation with one another through a series of panels and discussions that further drive the institution’s mission towards knowledge production and the writing of contemporary art history of the African continent and its diaspora. Panellists include art historians, critics and writers, such as Alexandra Dodd, Athi Mongezeleli Joja, Kim M. Reynolds, Thulile Gamedze and Thembinkosi Goniwe.

Whilst Evans and Phokela’s practices are divergent, the institutional focus on their work is a timely recognition of their respective decades-long contributions to contemporary art and celebrates their achievements. Both artists are fundamentally concerned with historiographies of picture-making and production, and their work challenges hegemonic systems of image consumption and circulation.

SURVEY: Image as History / History as Image is also a fitting moment to bring these artists’ exhibitions to a close and will conclude with the launch of monographs detailing Phokela’s Only Sun in the Sky Knows How I Feel – (A Lucid Dream) and Evans’ GILT, which opened at Zeitz MOCAA in 2021 and 2023, respectively. Published by Zeitz MOCAA and designed by Softwork Studio, the richly illustrated publications further cement the work of the institution and its exhibiting artists by providing in-depth readings and reflections on their work.

“The ability to make exhibitions, publish books and hold symposia is only possible through intimate and remarkable engagement with artists,” concludes Senior Curator and Head of Curatorial Affairs Storm Janse van Rensburg. “We are humbled by the trust and access we have been given by all the
artists represented here and it is only through their voices that we can speak.”


Helena Uambembe, Can You Hear Me, 2018 | Seekers, Seers, Soothsayers


Gladys Kalichini | Seekers, Seers, Soothsayers


Mame-Diarra Niang | Self as a Forgotten Monument


Mame-Diarra Niang Self as a Forgotten Monument


Mame-Diarra Niang | Self as a Forgotten Monument

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