The current exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg takes viewers through significant historical moments in SA from the 1800s until now.

The exhibition is framed through the concept of ubuntu that speaks to the idea of empathising with other people, feeling and seeing things through their perspective.

Aptly titled I am Because You Are: A Search for Ubuntu with permission to dream, the well-curated exhibition allows viewers to delve into SA’s complex history, particularly the issues of race and identity.

It suggests that SA, like the rest of the continent, is endowed with ubuntu and that should enable society to navigate through its complex contours. But the main question raised is whether ubuntu is still part of us in the face of other negative influences such as materialism, greed and corruption, and whether there is a need to introspect and re-evaluate our values.

Viewing the exhibition is like going down the memory lane of SA’s history.

Sometimes there is a sense of hope, but at other times the works convey that Nelson Mandela’s ideal of a country that is inclusive, tolerant of differences and celebrates its diversity is yet to be achieved and increasingly appears to be elusive.

At the entrance to the Standard Bank Gallery’s main exhibition hall is a painting of a figure of a man who clearly is narcissistic. He is adorned in a gown that shouts: “I am expensive and you will not afford me.” His rings and chains are made of gold. His teeth are also adorned with gold ornaments and an expensive cigar is stuck in his mouth. In his left hand is a stack of burning money, literally. Read more