WORDS Michaela Stehr IMAGES courtesy of Nanna Venter
Cape Town-based artist and illustrator Dr Anja Venter, better known as Nanna Venter, has released a new series of defaced colonial artworks featuring African creatures and monsters.
Her first true solo exhibition brings five mythical creatures to the forefront, Dingnek, Kággęn, Impundulu, Grootslang and Inkanyamba. The exhibition is held at Artist Admin at 79 Roeland Street, Gardens, Cape Town and runs until 18 March 2021.
“For years I’ve been collecting old colonial-era artworks and painted weird monsters into them,” Nanna explains about the concept. “People who follow me on Instagram know about the purple goop cat that cutely and terrifyingly destroys a few Dutch exploration vessels! The idea that, in an alternate reality, the colonial project was thwarted by an ocean teeming with giant monsters has always been incredibly amusing to me.”
The work has a strong underlying subtext based around colonialism and African mythology and tradition, with each particular monster holding its own unique story.
She continues, “But my issue was always that old prints have terrible foxing on them – a kind of mould/bacteria that turns old paper yellow. So when my supervisor at CPUT, Izak van Zyl, told me that I could do a creative project as a subsidy-earning output for my postdoctoral fellowship I thought it would be awesome to put a bit more weight behind the concept. First stop: Iziko’s public domain works! I also had a grand old time thrifting old vintage frames and had little bronze plaques made for each artwork, featuring the details of the artworks I defaced.”