Cape Town

27 January - 9 March 2024
Mawande Ka Zenzile
uZenzile akakhalelwa
uZenzile akakhalelwa

uZenzile akakhalelwa, 2024, installation view

STEVENSON is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by Mawande Ka Zenzile.

The artist writes:

The exhibition is titled uZenzile akakhalelwa which has its origin in the isiXhosa/isiZulu phrase ‘Uzenzile akakhalelwa, kukhalelwa uzumekile’. This phrase suggests that those who intentionally put themselves in harm's way cannot expect any sympathy or pity from others. Only those who are unaware or ignorant deserve compassion and empathy. It encourages the idea of taking responsibility for our choices and actions, indicating that we are accountable for our fate and should not blame others for our misfortunes.
I have realised through my spiritual journey as an itola that I was born with a specific purpose. My purpose is to become a mystic, healer and diviner. My life's goal is to use these gifts to heal and devote myself to my gift and reverence for my ancestors. Therefore, my actions and decisions must always be in harmony with this purpose. Whenever I deviate from this path, things tend to go wrong in my life.
The life of an artist, just like that of an itola, should be lived with intent. Intention should permeate as we dance with our materials. uZenzile akakhalelwa asks us to rethink the role of an artist in our contemporary society. Art is slowly losing its connection to the sacred. As we entered the digital age, art has become more about affectation and ‘insta-fame’, and the magic of intentionality fades away.
No one chooses to become an itola. Being an itola or mystic means living a life predetermined by fate, rather than societal expectations. Just like being an artist, I believe, it is not something one goes to school and studies to become, it is something that one is born with.
I sometimes feel like the materials I work with have a way of choosing me, rather than the other way around. Even before I started studying art at university, I had a strong connection to the art-making process. As far back as I can remember, I have had an affinity for cow dung and an aesthetic sensibility.
I have always had a natural understanding of how to use cow dung in my paintings, and I feel more confident using it instead of traditional oil or acrylic paints. As a result, I intentionally pursued a sculpture major in university, aiming to avoid being influenced by Westernised academic painting practices.
Cow dung has been traditionally used by the Amaxhosa people for various purposes, both domestic and spiritual. It serves as a means to connect with personal history, ancestry and cultural memories. Additionally, among other traditional healing practices, cow dung is considered a healing modality. There is even a group of traditional healers known as Abalongwe who specialise in using cow dung for healing purposes.
While the choice of materials I utilise may be intuitive, I recognise that each creative output and material used represents a dialogue between the idea and the medium. As a result, I am deliberate in selecting the most suitable materials to effectively convey each idea. This process ensures that each concept is fully realised and presented in the best possible manner, choosing materials essential in bringing my creative vision to life through artwork.
Over the years, I have produced paintings, sculptures, performances and installations, and have had the privilege of curating my creative output into numerous bodies of work and solo exhibitions. uZenzile akakhalelwa serves as a celebration of my creativity thus far. Throughout my artistic journey, my work has evolved from figurative paintings to abstract expressions, reflecting my growth and development as an artist.

This is his ninth exhibition with the gallery, following Ayinethi Iyadyudyuza! in Amsterdam in 2023 and Nqanda nanga'manzi engene'ndlini in Johannesburg in 2022.

The exhibition will open on Saturday 27 January, 10am to 1pm. The opening will include a tea ceremony in collaboration with Nigiro Tea Cafe, and a walkabout with the artist taking place from 12 noon.