As a womxn run and led gallery based in South Africa, August is a focal month in Eclectica Contemporary’s calendar. Our intentions, as a gallery and as a team, have always been to provide a platform that highlights and celebrates the narratives of and from the African continent and so, by hosting a group exhibition in August each year, our focus turns towards womxn and sharing their stories. To turn to womxn in this time, to us, means turning towards conversations around the impact of gender, its definitions and the constraints which shape and reflect society at large.
Margins is a group exhibition featuring the work of South African womxn artists working in painting, mixed media, collage, photography, video and installation. Artists represented by the gallery include Nina Holmes, Aimee Lindeque and Sue Greeff, and they are joined by newer or returning artists who collaborate with us, Yvette Hess, Kirstin Warries, Emma Blencowe, Alet Swarts and Chloë Jayne. The themes that are explored in the works range from domestic spaces, the constraints and questioning of time, bodies as ethereal, bodies as symbolic, bodies as collaborators, bodies as political sites and sites of memory, of activism and of dis/comfort. There are flowers, there are voids, there are nipples, there are jaws, from faces to places and objects of symbolic meaning, the works in the exhibition vary as deeply as the questions and responses of Womxn’s month ought to. Margins celebrates this multiplicity in the curation of the works together as a multifaceted conversation.
In addition to the Womxn’s month group exhibition Margins, three curatorial collaborations also take place in the gallery throughout August. The collaborators were invited into the gallery space, either virtually or through the physical space, to bring in their own ideas, artists and artwork in order to extend the perspectives and voices that operate within our walls. Alice Toich, in Femme Bodies: the relationship between a female artist and her models, opens a conversation around the place of classical painting in South Africa today, while simultaneously honouring the relationship between the artist and model in her work and historically. Boni and Wes Leal present Moving Backwards is Still Moving, a video installation interrogating space, intimacy, repetition, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘great pause’, while so much continues. LegakwanaLeo Makgekgenene has brought together a show titled Ke Namile that offers a querying and confrontation of issues around gender binarism and exclusionary feminism, as well as how this is implicated in and perpetuates systems of gendered and racial violence. Explored through storytelling, sculptural installation and photography by LegakwanaLeo Makgekgenene, Malwande Mthethwa, Shana-Lee Ziervogel, Elijah Ndoumbé, Lamb of Lemila, Ranji Mangcu and Rona.
Margins engages across multiple levels, in both acknowledging spaces and their implications as well as the limits and possibilities of access and representation. When Toni Morrisson gave the a Nobel Lecture in 1993, she invited deeper thinking on being and understanding. “Tell us what it is to be a woman”, she says, “so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company.” The exhibition title reflects this questioning, by considering the associations of the word ‘margin’ and what moves it. The show presents artworks as a vehicle to consider notions of being at the edge of space, writing in the margins, being marginalized, while extending the application of the word as a potential for the emergence and expansion of confined and demarcated patterns.
Central to the conceptualising of this year’s exhibition has been an effort to call together artists who identify across the gender spectrum while celebrating femininity, femme identities and the history of Womxn’s month in South Africa. In celebrating Womxn’s month, while acknowledging and offering a platform for various perspectives, the exhibitions bring together artists having and holding critical conversations, presenting work that generate beauty, articulate collective experiences and query understandings. Functioning as a central group show with adjacent collaborative project spaces, this exhibition aims to take a dynamic approach to exhibiting work amidst trying times, while also encouraging a broad and wide ranging engagement with the concept of Womxn’s month and what it means to hold exhibitions in honor of this month particularly.