WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo IMAGES SMITH Studio
Although there are definitely elements in history that can be accepted as fact, written or oral history cannot tell the complete story. Pieces are often forgotten, and some are left out in the interest of shaping a specific narrative. Southern African history is no different.
Artist Kunyalala Ndlovu’s recently opened exhibition, The Heart That Thunders, at Cape Town’s SMITH Studio gallery addresses this, and hopes to change it, as he reconstructs the past he comes from in an effort to find forgotten heroes, and to offer us an alternate history that differs from the familiar.
In his exhibition you’ll find stories of characters such as Nongqawuse, the young Xhosa prophetess whose single vision nearly destroyed the Xhosa nation, and others like Glenda Kemp – the first white Afrikaans stripper whose provocative dance routines became the thorn in the side of conservative white South Africa in the 70s. Through the use of printmaking, drawing, painting and film, their stories are re-imagined and shared with new audiences.
“I seek to challenge the notion of the world’s focus towards afro-futurism as a great part of the zeitgeist of African creative expression. While the afro-futurists consistently sprint forwards, I look into history to learn how to walk on a different path of learning in the pursuit of the radical chronicles of my past, ” says Ndlovu. “I seek out the rarest, the ugliest and the darkest. I blow the dust off of these disparate pieces and breathe new life into stories by creating alternative Africana – visually accessible to all people and faithful to the story they tell.”
The exhibition’s title is inspired by a story about the legendary 19th century missionary traveller and explorer, David Livingstone, who died in 1873, some 142 years ago. His body was sent back to England, sans his heart, which lies buried at the Livingstone Memorial in Zambia, symbolically thundering on.
The Heart That Thunders is showing at the SMITH Studio gallery in Cape Town until 15 August 2015. For more information, visit smithstudio.co.za.