Melrose Gallery
Melrose Arch, 10 The High Street, Melrose, Johannesburg

The Melrose Gallery: Pitika Ntuli at National Arts Festival



For the past three years Pitika Ntuli has been working on Azibuyele Emasisweni (Return to the Source), his first exhibition to comprise only of works sculpted in bone.

The exhibition curated by Ruzy Rusike will launch on 25 June 2020 as part of the National Arts Festival, featuring 40 sculptures created from the bones of elephant, rhino, giraffe and horses. Whilst the dominant material used is bone – beads, shells, chains, computer circuit boards, pins, animal skins and marbles are integrated into the work. A deliberate act of ‘picking up’ interrupted African creative traditions. The show acts as a vessel to appreciate and connect with the depth and wisdom of African indigenous knowledge systems and African spirituality in the quantum age, and explores the healing potential of African art.

Following in the tradition of the ‘Renaissance Man’, Pitika, the sculptor, poet, writer, academic and spiritual healer is a true artistic, political and academic polymath. He is an undeniably important figure in the narrative of South Africa and art. His witty and dark reflections on society explore the contradictory relationship between tradition and modernity.

Ensconced by Love’s Serpent

“In indigenous communities diviners identify fault lines in the community, families, and/ or in people. To do this they use bones. In Nguni culture specifically, to ‘Throw Bones’ means to divine the state of things, to help in the healing process. Izangoma (African healers) are central to African spirituality and bones are major agents in the carrying out of their duties in the community. Bones are vital to healing as well as to the process of divination. I am a healer. I throw bones to divine the State of the Nation in the season of anomie! As a sangoma/ healer I see divination bones as sculptures imbued with multiple meanings. I believe that bones have spirits and consciousness, and it is that that I seek to reveal in this exhibition.” Pitika Ntuli.

Covid-19 has resulted in the National Arts Festival 2020 presenting its programme online and Pitika and The Melrose Gallery have conceptualised an exciting and unique way of participating.
The exhibition will be showcased on a viewing room on www.themelrosegallery.co.za. Photographs of each artwork will be accompanied by a poem written and recited by Pitika as an audio and text note.

In the Womb of Elephantine Dreams


Pitika has also invited 30 high-profile and respected artists, poets, singers, writers, curators and academics to engage with him on each work. Each of the collaborators submit a poem, song, essay or thought as an audio note which will also accompany each work. The list of high profile collaborators includes the likes of Bra Don Mattera, the Deputy Minister of Education Buti Manamela, Homi Bhabha, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Shaheen Merali, Gcina Mhlope, Zolani Mahola, Ela Gandhi, Simphiwe Dana, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Kwesi Owusu, Eugene Skeef, Ahmed Rajab, Napo Masheane, Nalini Moodley, Antoinette Ntuli, Albie Sachs, Florence Masebe, Shado Twala, Juwon Ogungbe, Felix Yaa de Villiers, Ahmed Rajab, Ari Sitas, Lallitha Jawahirilal, Sope Maitufi and Bheki Gumede.

Pitika will also be conducting 5 online chats about the exhibition, life, African spirituality and the impacts of Covid-19 on our times. These chats will include Ela Gandhi, Albie Sachs, Ari Sitas, Zolani Mahola and Ruzy Rusike. The pre-recorded chats and all other content will be available for viewing in the exhibition viewing room and others will be broadcast on the National Arts Festival platform. The public will be invited to engage with the content via likes, shares, messages and comments online.

A catalogue featuring the works and transcripts of Pitika’s poems, the engagements and online chats will work to document the exhibition. Several influential writers and thought leaders have agreed to submit essays for what is set to be an important publication including Ngugi wa’Thiongo, Pitika Ntuli, Sope Maithufi, Lallitha Jawahirilal and Ruzy Rusike.

The exhibition runs from 25 June to 2 August 2020.

See www.themelrosegallery.com and follow our Facebook and Instagram pages to be kept updated.



Dubbed ‘The Gallery of the People’, The Melrose Gallery is a leading Pan African Contemporary space located in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg and One&Only Cape Town.

Passionate about African culture and traditions, the gallery has become a home in which artists, collectors and the public gather as a community to present and celebrate their stories, lives and creative practices in contemporary ways.

Our stable boasts iconic names of the likes of Dr. Esther Mahlangu, Mam Noria Mabasa, Dr. Willie Bester and Professor Pitika Ntuli amongst others. These globally celebrated stalwarts provide a stable foundation for an exciting group of young guards who are swiftly rising from the African Continent.

The Melrose Gallery hosts various solo and group exhibitions each year with well attended openings that are a highlight of the South African arts calendar.

We participate in respected Art Fairs, support many of our artists in terms of biennales and conceptualise and implement important non-commercial exhibitions with museums and national galleries.


Go to Top