STEVENSON is pleased to present No Witchcraft for Sale, a solo exhibition by Kemang Wa Lehulere.
The title of this exhibition is taken from a short story by Doris Lessing, first encountered by the artist as a set text in school. Published in 1964, the narrative chronicles what transpired when Teddy, the only child of a settler family named the Farquars, is attacked by a snake and saved from permanent blindness by Gideon, the family’s cook, using indigenous herbs.
Following tensions when Gideon refuses to sell his knowledge to the family and a visiting western scientist, the narrative concludes with the passage:
And Gideon would double up with polite laughter. After much laughing, he would suddenly straighten himself up, wipe his old eyes, and look sadly at Teddy, who was grinning mischievously at him across the kitchen: ‘Ah, Little Yellow Head, how you have grown! Soon you will be grown up with a farm of your own. …’
Wa Lehulere remarks that this exhibition is ‘primarily an extension of a body of work I’ve been developing around the land question in South Africa. This show looks at dispossession, and the history and tradition of knowledge systems around plants and flowers. It is asking what is considered witchcraft and thinking about how the Witchcraft Suppression Act has affected Black life, tradition and culture.’
Wa Lehulere continues to test both the material and connotative pliability of sculpture. In direct illustration of this series’ concerns, he presents a selection of key South African indigenous medicinal plants alongside constructed steel, wood and concrete ‘flowers’. Totem-like sculptures made from the artist’s long-established materials such as school desks, tyres and porcelain dogs are joined by new explorations in concrete and resin. Posters that can be taken freely and small drawings feature alongside wall works hovering between two and three dimensions.
In No Witchcraft for Sale, the artist offers a tableau that appraises the generational consequences of dispossession while complicating ideas of ownership as well as the division between the indigenous and the institutional.
This is Wa Lehulere’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. His first Scandinavian museum show, Bring Back Lost Love, at Göteborgs Konsthall, also opens on 30 January and runs to 11 April 2021.