Images courtesy of
Images courtesy of STEVENSON

Serge Alain Nitegeka’s Ode to Black

With wood, cement and light blue, burnt orange and bright yellow paint Serge Alain Nitegeka subtly pays Ode to Black at the Stevenson gallery in Johannesburg.

Ode to Black speaks to the subconscious way marginalised people live, specifically asylum seekers and refugees, which is a theme that runs through his works.

During his walkabout on Thursday the 25th of May, Nitegeka explained how he enjoys disrupting space, much like blackness. Moreover, he explored how accessing spaces tends to be specifically difficult for black migrants. So the gallery space itself is slightly transformed for us to experience this struggle.

Nitegeka delicately contextualised the space so accessing his work is art itself. For example, the “normal” entrance into the space is disrupted by black wooden planks and instead, we are forced to go through an opening in the wall that is shaped like the quarter of a circle, which almost looks like a mouse hole shaped.

The use of wood is prominent throughout the exhibition. Nitegeka told us how his relationship with wood started with the use of wooden second hand shipping crates. Those crates had a history of movement, which easily made a connection with the crossing of black lives between boarders. Moreover, Nitegeka considers wood a malleable material, a flexible material, with freedom because the shape of wood can be altered, just as a migrant’s identity is forcibly changed. Even though this transformation of wood and identity may be brutal, the end result is a beautiful sculpture and a testament to the resilience of the migrant experience.

Nitegeka’s Ode to Black reads as follows:

Black is the colour of mourning and melancholy. Black epitomises stealth; it is central to clandestine ventures and cool lonesomeness. Black is the colour of executive cars, gadgets, accessories and clothing. Eternally beautiful, Black is the colour of the universe, the infinite deep dark unknown abyss. Black is a wormhole, mysterious and ever-receding, absorbing everything around it and revealing nothing. Black is all colours mixed together, perhaps the sum of the visible. Black is the only colour without light, though full and empty.

Black is a colour reserved unto itself. It is comfortable in its own nature, unruffled and confident. It tries very hard to stay anonymous but inquiring eyes are drawn to it; spectators cannot resist it. It is not popular. It reveals little because it is neither warm nor cold. It is an enigmatic pigment.

The colour black presents itself ambiguously in meaning, like the abstract forms in my practice. Ode to Black explores the multitude of meanings that the colour black invites in my work thus far, in paintings, sculptures and installations.

You can experience ode at the Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg until the 30th of June.


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