THE MELROSE GALLERY
28/01/2021 UNTIL 28/02/2021
Take five is an online exhibition by Aza Mansongi that engages with the position of the self in the broader context of what we have come to term as ‘the new normal.’ Mansongi uses self-reflection as a point of departure and meditates on the tension between our changing social relations and consciousness. Through the visual dynamism of her works, we reconsider interpersonal connections and shared moments of humanity. She demonstrates an innate understanding that art is not an unconscious behaviour but rather a conscious feeling. Take five embraces its platform as an online exhibition and calls on the viewer to embrace the exhibition’s title – to take five in this new moment, in this new era and embrace the renewal of the self that this age has insisted upon. Only then – after a moment of intentional rest – can we begin to rebuild.
Mansongi’s colourful abstracts radiate energy, humour and humanity. They vibrate with the hope of happiness with and for one another, despite – or, perhaps, because of – the frenetic unpredictability of modern life. Each day faces the standard challenges we have come to expect but it is compounded by the challenge of facing everyday life with a pandemic. As a result, we have been forced to pause in order to allow for processing and, in time, for healing to come to all of us.
Take five looks at works that vibrate with vigour and wit. They are the embodiment of celebrating life and all that it offers, with an overlay of optimism – depicted by vignettes of evil that are overwhelmed by expanses of festivity and love. The exhibition calls for us to make room for the unwanted ‘other’ that is COVID-19. By inviting in this undesirable guest, we take five for ourselves by using the moment for self-evaluation. As we appreciate her works, we reflect inwardly, finding a moment of happiness within ourselves and within our connection to others, no matter how brief it is nor how socially distanced this connection may have to be. The result is a cheerful tangle of indistinct bodies that mix and mingle, illustrating the magic of uniting and exchanging with others.
Aza Mansongi’s art doesn’t speak – it sings. And as we listen to its visual song, we see a harmony rather than a melody. We invite you to join us as we enjoy, consider and reflect on life’s moments. While hardship, strife and trauma have become mainstays of day-to-day life, these difficulties are not all-encompassing. Despite lockdown and the isolation necessitated by the pandemic, humanity prevails and through this, we will rebuild a new, shared consciousness.
About Aza Mansongi
Aza Mansongi’s Congolese background schooled her in classical, figurative realism. Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area massively impacted by war and conflict, greatly impacted her studies and indeed, her current life in Douala, Cameroon. Despite a childhood fraught with uncertainty, her innate positivity has given her artworks a unique ‘Aza’ style. Whilst Aza could easily have been forgiven for creating artworks filled with angst and negativity, this would have conflicted with the positive way in which she approaches life and everything in it.
Her work pulses with the hope for and enjoyment of social cohesion, no matter what cards have been dealt. For Aza, there is an art in finding joy and wit in the midst of frenzied unpredictability. For her, life is a ‘celebration [in which] hope is all that matters’. This ethos goes beyond the realm of ideology and becomes almost palpable in her bright, happy, and somewhat chaotically busy paintings.
Aza’s art sings the story of everyday life in Africa: the meeting of modern and traditional worlds and the excitement and energy off which we thrive, despite the multitude of daily challenges we face. Aza’s art speaks of our persevering – even thriving – a humanity that tenaciously pushes aside suffering and conflict.
Perhaps the tool that makes this boundless positivity possible is the ecstatic sense of humour that permeates her artworks and attracts like-minded collectors to her exhibitions. Her infinite joy and infectious lust for life defeats the vignettes of evil and depictions of struggle in her work. This optimistic revelry inspires collectors to bring this same energy into their personal spaces.
Aza works across different mediums including painting, sculpture, installation and video. She has exhibited extensively both in Africa and abroad. In 2008, she produced a monumental fresco (80 x 3 metres) with the 3 Kokoricos Collective and Belgian artist Arnaid Debal at the French Lycée in Kinshasha and, in 2017, she appointed The Melrose Gallery to represent her in South Africa.