Lawrence Lemaoana


Fortune Telling in Black, Red and White

25 September - 29 October 2008

Your state is no accident.

Lawrence Lemaoana's latest body of work has, as its departure point, a fascination with the role of the mass media in present-day South Africa. In Lemaoana's work the relationship between the 'People' and the media is problematised as a relationship of representation and control - who gets to control modes of representation; and who gets to represent those in control. The power of the media to act as didactic tool or propagandistic weapon, and the power of the media to reveal (and shape) the psyche, or group consciousness of the People, is taken up in Lemaoana's work with the artist's trademark cynical satire.

In Lemaoana's new series of textile constructions, 'hard press' becomes soft sculpture -sculpture that shifts between the bluntness of the text, and the seemingly genteel quaintness of the fabric; text becomes object; and narrative is revealed as fiction, authored by particular interests.

In works such as 'A Tale of Three Zumas', and 'Power to the People', headlines have been reinterpreted, inverted or distorted. "Power to the people" was once a rallying cry of liberation; but in Lemaoana's work it is no longer a catch phrase of idealistic empowerment. The call is now far more chilling - it is the call of The People who, dissatisfied with the status quo, use the threat of violence in their support of corrupt leaders. Using edited and reconstructed newspaper headlines from daily South African newspapers as their source material, re-imaged as textile hangings, these words and these typographies become markers of a contemporary political crisis.

The fabrics used by Lemaoana are as loaded as the texts themselves. Lemaoana says the following about his choice of fabrics:

Kanga fabrics (made infamous during the Zuma rape trial) are used extensively in my work. Designed in the Netherlands, manufactured in the East, and brought to South Africa to be sold in markets and bazaars, the journey of the fabrics speaks of the idiosyncrasies and trade imbalances of globalisation. The textiles themselves though have a wholly different life in South Africa - they are regarded as significant markers of spiritual healing, imbued with great religious and spiritual power, used by divinators and fortune-tellers. Each has a metaphoric symbol which renders it worthy of the African ancestors, the most common being the sun. Others, with some kind of animal print represent the animal that stands in for Inyanga or Sangoma. Never intended as metaphoric or spiritual patterns, many are made up of foreign plants, their color remains significant, particularly the 'Njeti'.

The gallery is open from Tuesday to Friday, 10:30am to 5:30pm, and Saturday from 9:30am to 3pm.

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