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SA and China make a way at Standard Bank Gallery

Date Released: Mon, 14 January 2013 09:24 +0200

One of the most critical geopolitical shifts of the 21st century has been the rise of China as an economic power, and its venture into the Global South — particularly the African continent. Too often, however, the media sensationalises China-Africa relations, simplistically framing China as either Africa’s new curse or as the economic saviour to the continent. While revived China-Africa relations have piqued the interest of economists, little meaningful cultural understanding exists, and ‘Sinophobia’ is hot on the heels of ‘Afrophobia’.

Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China, explores the ways in which contemporary artists based in South Africa and China engage with new paths of movement, with economic and cultural shifts, and with the rise of new regimes, new leaders and new social and urban spaces. This is the first time the works of the internationally acclaimed Chinese artists, Wu Junyong, Chen Qiulin, Maleonn and Qin Ga will be shown in South Africa.

Local artists Lebogang Rasethaba, Gerald Machona, Michael MacGarry and James Webb deal directly with China-Africa relations. While Rasethaba and MacGarry consider personal relationships between Chinese and African people that arise from recent opportunities in trade and education, Webb and Machona play with stereotypical perceptions and constructions of ‘foreignness’ in China and South Africa.

Rapid change in physical and social landscapes often accompanies geopolitical shift. While Wu Junyong ‘s animation videos mine the absurdity of power, greed, monotony and futility in contexts that lack change, Chen Qiulin grapples with dramatic economic and urban reconstruction in relation to the development of the Three Gorges Dam. Kudzanai Chiurai and Shanghai photographer, Maleonn, register change by questioning the strategies of leaders, and wittily consider the youths’ often awkward relationship to the past as well as their fresh approach to the present.

Both the Chinese and isiXhosa translations of ‘making way’—¿ªÂ· (kailu) and ukuvul'indlela respectively — suggest the notion of opening up the road. In a number of works, artists such as Hua Jiming, Thenjiwe Nkosi, Gerald Machona, Dan Halter, Dotun Makun and Vulindlela Nyoni challenge the ways in which societies attempt to close down opportunities with ‘Sinophobic’ and ‘Afrophobic’ attitudes as new paths and global patterns of movement open up.

While many of these new roads reflect global reconfigurations, the theme of walking, crawling or corporeally scraping along the ground —-as seen in the works of Doung Anwar Jahangeer, Hua Jiming, Qin Ga, Athi-Patra Ruga, Randolph Hartzenberg and Brent Meistre — embeds the action of ‘making way’ in personally, culturally and locally intimate ways. As such, Making Way explores local, grounded moments of engagement, as broader socio-economic and political changes effect Chinese and South African societies.

Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China is curated by Ruth Simbao, Associate Professor of Art History & Visual Culture at Rhodes University. It runs at the Standard Bank Gallery, corner of Simmonds and Frederick Streets, Johannesburg, from 30 January – 28 March 2013. The Gallery (Tel: 011 631 4467) is open Mondays to Fridays, 08:00-16:30; on Saturdays, 09:00-13:00; and is closed on Sundays and public holidays. Admission is free. For more information about Standard Bank Gallery see www.standardbankarts.co.za  For more information about Making Way see www.makingway.co.za.

Picture credit: http://www.artlink.co.za

  • Making Way: Contemporary Art from South Africa and China is the acclaimed exhibition curated by Ruth Simbao for the 2012 National Arts Festival. This article was published on http://www.artlink.co.za.

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