South Africa reflects on three decades of democracy, through an artistic lens at Unisa Art Gallery

Published Jun 20, 2024


“Culture Review Magazine”, founded by former journalist and art critic, Kulani Nkuna, and in partnership with the University of South Africa Art Gallery will present a captivating programme in celebration of South Africa’s 30 years of democracy through an exhibition titled, “We the Purple”, on Saturday.

“We the Purple” centres around the pivotal 1994 elections and the symbolic Purple Rain Protest of 1989. Through a unique blend of visual, auditory, and tactile elements, the exhibition offers a multifaceted exploration of South Africa’s lived experiences.

These range from the euphoria of newfound freedoms to the ongoing process of unravelling colonial and apartheid legacies in what seems to be an exhibition that promises a thought-provoking encounter.

The exhibition features selected artworks by some of the country’s leading artists including Mary Sibande, Talia Ramikwalan, Tracey Rose, Nkhensani Rihlampfu, Tony Gum, Ruth Motau, Stephanie Conradie, Lefifi Tladi, Marianne Podlashuk, Tommy Motswai, Jodi Bieber, and Berni Searle, among others.

Reflecting on the upcoming exhibition at the University of South Africa (Unisa) Art Gallery, the curators have indicated that this particular exhibition is not merely a showcase but a reflection of the country’s 30 years of democracy, the past, present and the future which invites audiences to immerse themselves in the rich and often incongruent reckoning of the nation and democratic evolution.

Their works complement, supplement and contribute to euphoria of the country’s freedom ensuring that their artworks function as active visual archives that reflect and question the past while shedding light on the present realities of South Africa.

Led by Unisa Art Gallery curator, Tshegofatso Seoka, “We the Purple” becomes an in-depth curatorial tour that delves into the exhibition’s thematic underpinnings, offering profound insights into the artistic techniques employed.

“Art has the power to challenge and transform. Through this exhibition, we aim to provoke thought and inspire action, encouraging viewers to engage with the complexities of our history and the possibilities of our future,“ says Seoka.

Seoka says the immersive engagement does not end there, adding that the programme also recognises the importance of fostering connections within the artistic community.

“A dedicated networking session will provide a platform for Johannesburg and Pretoria’s creative minds to connect, exchange ideas, and explore potential collaborations. This exchange has the potential to blossom into long-lasting partnerships and groundbreaking artistic endeavours,” she says.

Seoka says some of these discussions will feature a distinguished line-up of guests, including artists Ayanda Mabulu, Blessing Ngobeni, and Olwethu de Vos, who will be joined by academic and lecturer Andisiwe Diko, writer and art specialist Percy Mabandu, curator Khumo Sebambo, activist, author, and scholar Molaodi wa Sekake, Art Education Specialist, Puleng Plessie, author and musician Tumi Mogorosi and scholar and activist Mbali Kgame.

“For Nkuna, creating spaces for artists to come together is essential for the growth of our creative industries.

“Each speaker brings a unique perspective, enriching the dialogue with their expertise and experiences. We hope to facilitate meaningful conversations and collaborations that extend beyond this event,” Nkuna adds.

According to the curators, the immersive conversations will wrap up with curated music that is both a response and a reflection on the exhibition, solidifying the sense of community and providing a platform for further exchange.