‘Anciens Dieux, Nouvel Énigmes – Old Gods, New Enigmas’ illuminates tensions around the politics of display

Through its project space; The Point of Order, the Wits School of Art is set to present a show; Anciens Dieux, Nouvel Énigmes – Old Gods, New Enigmas. The show consults history to illuminate new aspects of tranquillity and tension around the politics of display, particularly in reference to African Art.

Congolese visual artist Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko will exhibit a series of works created during a residency programme in Johannesburg. Kuyangiko has produced pieces that respond to a selection of art objects found within the Wits Art Museum archives—an expansive archive with a collection of over 12 000 items classified in areas of classical, historical and contemporary artworks.

Kuyangiko will be experimenting with surfacing the conflict, chaos and contrast between popular culture and the ancestral myths of the ‘Kongo’, and how colonialism and globalisation have impacted both individual & collective African identity.

One could argue that the works presented in the show challenge the assumption that art institutions, museum collections and exhibitions are objective, impartial and neutral. It serves as a re-contextualisation of our understandings and acceptances of ‘objective knowledge’ and creates a space for more nuanced dialogues around questions of aesthetics and power. History is reflected upon and rewritten through a process of inquiry and a bringing forth of new agendas and new enigmas.

The figure of the ‘Nkisi’ — a power figure containing sacred energy relating to the violent forces of the elements of water, sky and land…. particularly throughout Central Africa. With specific reference to the Congo Basin —is central to articulating the tension between mythology as represented through history and tradition against loud and highly visible representations of popular culture.

The divinatory figure of the ‘Nkisi’ (plural: ‘Minkisi’) is set alongside cheap Chinese-made toys that represent superheroes and other mythical figures from popular culture. A hybridity is created that illustrates the violence that is still perpetuated and inflicted on the bodies of Congolese people.

The exhibition, will be open to the public between the 1st-8th November 2018 at the Wits School of Art’s project space: The Point of Order (opening night; 1st November, 6pm). The show is accompanied by a public programme including a conversation with the artist (3rd November, 1pm, Wits School of Arts), a screening of Matthais De Groof’s ‘LOBI KUNA’ (3rd November, 6pm, The Point of Order) and talks (8th November, 1.14pm, MAFA Space).

Anciens Dieux, Nouvel Énigmes – Old Gods, New Enigmas is curated by Thato Mogotsi, Sihle Motsa, Dineo Diphofa, Hannah Hamilton, Matthew McClure, Rashieda Witter, Fanie Motsoeneng and Gwendoline Keogotsitse —as part of the History of Arts lectured by Tšhegofatso Mabaso and co-ordinated by Nontobeko Ntombela.

‘Heros, Maman ya Ndunda’, Hilaire Balu Kuyangiko, 2018

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