Mother a solo exhibition by Thando Makhosini Ngwenya curated by: Ivy Rihlampfu, 9 November – 10 December 2023, Keyes Art Mile, 21 Keyes Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg.
By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
No matter what happens as we grow up as men we in most cases, meet our lovers who are women, with whom we start romantic journeys, and in some cases, resulting in solid relationships. In a lot of instances for some of us who are fortunate enough, after starting from solid grounds, we grow in those relations, enjoying the flourishing romance and love till death parts us.
But of course, there also those unfortunate and inconveniencing instances and situations, and those, these days, they have become so frequent to the extent that having a relationship till death, has become so rare as to find clean drinking water in a desert when one is so thirty, at a point of facing death. For some reason, relationships these days tend to dissolve as soon as they start.
And when they do, a messy situation develops, and if you are not aware of the couple’s bliss days, you would swear that they have always been enemies as accusations and finger pointing fly let, right and centre. Especially when the couple takes its fight into the public domain, unrestrained as they want to win supporters by scoring points against each other. I will not even go there and use words and phrases that are often used against each other by a couple that has failed to build a an everlasting relationship or and family together after starting well.
Very interestingly we men who have become bitter enemies with our once soul mates, we tend to forget that women are special in our lives. Always. Though being in love with a woman in a romantic sense of it, is also special, I am not talking about that right now. I am talking about the special position women hold in the creation of humanity.
They carry us in their wombs for nine months. As men we simply cannot do that. So the one that bears must be a special person. I am here deliberately avoiding the role men also play in procreation, just for those who would like to pose the counter argument that women on their own cannot procreate. I get that, but for the purpose of this review, please allow me to park that argument on the side. Just for now.
I was reminded about the role of women in men’s lives when on Saturday November 19, 2023, when I found myself impressed by the exhibitio0n titled Mother.by artist Thando Makhosini Ngwenya running at Keys Art Mile in Rosebank, a place that has become an important arts hub, home to galleries hosting cool art to collect for those interested in collecting African contemporary art. Often such art tells stories of our time, connecting us to the stories we bear witness to everyday, but not are not taking much notice till a meticulous and perceptive artist brings such stories to life visually, such as this artist in this exhibition.
His is a declaration of love for women in general, but three women in particular, who have played an important role in his life. Though because of his strongly overt way in which the artist expresses himself through this exhibition for the love of especially his mother, gogo and sister, I found myself resisting the urge of asking about the role of men in his life too. That is his father or brother siblings, if he has any or has ever had any, I also understood that, this is the artist’s perspective, his own journey, and not mine. Only he knows his journey, and he is not talking about every child’s journey born of a woman and man on this earth. And so let him be allowed to tell his story, the best way he sees it, has experienced it and most importantly the best way he feels it.
I like the fact that through these collages of newspaper cuttings, graffit, illuminating texts, and paintings, one can feel the rawness, and therefore, the authenticity in his story of love between him and the three special women in his life.
In a world filled with countless stories of love and sacrifice, there is none more enduring than the story of a mother sacrificing all for her children. It is a tale of unwavering devotion, boundless strength and endless love. In every culture of the world, the role of a mother is universally cherished and revered. Mothers are the architects of our earliest memories, the silent strength in times of adversity, and the source of unconditional love.
Essentially this exhibition explores three pillar women that have played a huge rolem in the artist’s life. For his mother, it’s the simple things—her happy-making gestures and the tales she tells him. For Thando, his grandmother represents an endless supply of gratitude, and he will always be in awe of the contributions she has made to his life. His sister is a pillar of support for him without ceasing. His body of work does not demand attention, yet the weight is felt and thus creates a different atmosphere.We are given a front row seat as an audience to articulate and indulge vivid colour schemes, portraiture and the wording that marries the artwork in unity. Through a captivating blend of mixed media artworks by Thando.
The Mother exhibition attempts to help us remember and celebrate mothers as they are cherished and revered in every corner of the world. For the artist, art serves as a catalyst for bringing forth honesty as well as for getting a glimpse of and experiencing the revered woman.