Daniel Naudé

Animal Farm

20 January - 26 February 2011

Michael Stevenson is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in Cape Town by photographer Daniel Naudé.

Naudé began this series during a road trip from Cape Town to Mozambique in 2008. In the desert plains of the Karoo, he saw a feral Africanis dog which stared back at him for a spilt second before lurking away with its mouth foaming, its manner expressive of rebellion. The encounter led Naudé to contemplate the nature of mankind's dominion over animals, and the way in which the histories of man, animals and the landscape have become entwined and indivisible over centuries. The naturally crossbred Africanis, with a lineage extending back to ancient Egypt, seemed to Naudé to reflect our complex South African culture and identity in an inexplicable way. While taking his initial series of Africanis portraits, the quote by Franz Kafka: "All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers, is contained in the dog", resonated in his mind.

This series led Naudé to an exploration of stories in South African history that involved domesticated animals, and at one point he retraced the route of artist-explorer Samuel Daniell, who in 1800 set out on a journey from Cape Town to Leetakoe (today Ditakong in the Northwest Province) to document the landscape, people and animals. Conversations with people during his many road trips brought up further stories and information about how animals can represent and be symbolic of a culture. A specific event that came to the fore in Naudé's mind was the epic Xhosa cattle-killing of 1856. The prophetess Nongqawuse told her uncle she had seen a spirit who said they must kill all their cattle and destroy all their crops and then the white settlers would be driven into the sea; thereafter the dead would rise and the ancestors would come from the sea and bring them healthy goats, cattle, dogs and sheep. This led Naudé to photograph the Xhosa people's Nguni cattle on the seashores of the Eastern Cape, and he recalls that when he saw these cattle, which graze at night and by day chew their cud on the shores, Nongqawuse's prophesies seemed very real.

Extended periods spent in rural South Africa brought Naudé closer to understanding the complex relationship farmers have with domesticated animals, and he began to see other common animals like donkeys, sheep and goats in a different way. A pivotal photograph is David Tieties with his three-day old donkey photographed outside Verneuk Pan in the Northern Cape, South Africa, 6 April 2009. For Naudé, the way that David Tieties holds the newborn foal reminds him of man's dominion over animals. The irony is that the foal will in a few months' time carry David around in the barren land of the Karoo where people rely on these animals for transport as well as companionship. At the time Naudé was overwhelmed by the tenderness of the connection between David and his three-day-old donkey.

It is these instances of mutual connection with animals whose lives are conditioned and determined by their relationships to man that fascinate Naudé, and he portrays his subjects with a sense of wonder and awe that allows us to see them afresh. In front of the photographs, we find ourselves on the same eye level as the subjugated animals, extending their knowing gaze to us and reminding us of our uneasy dominion over them.

Naudé was born in 1984 in Cape Town. He graduated with a BA Visual Arts from the University of Stellenbosch in 2007, and that year his work was shown at the AVA Gallery as part of Greatest Hits of 2007. In 2009 he was included in FOAM magazine's special issue, Talent. He showed his first series, Africanis, at Michael Stevenson in 2008, and held his first solo show, African Scenery and Animals, at Brodie/Stevenson, Johannesburg, in 2010. Recent group exhibitions include Peekaboo - Current South Africa at the Tennis Palace Art Museum, Helsinki, and Breaking News: Contemporary photography from the Middle East and Africa, works from the collection of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena, in Modena, Italy.

Naudé exhibits concurrently with Wim Botha.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 20 January, 6-8pm.

Naudé will give a walkabout of his exhibition for the Friends of the National Gallery on Friday 21 January at 11am; cost is R20 (members and non-members).

The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.

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