Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Friday, 21 June 2024 12:24

Fragments of Infinity: Unveiling multidimentional realms by Mbali Tshabalala.

By Jacob Mawela.

Deconstructed breaks new ground in art presentation, inviting artists to redefine their creative expression. Fragments of Infinity: Unveiling Multidimensional Realms by Mbali Tshabalala is the second exhibition in the Deconstructed Series of solo exhibitions hosted at Asisebenze Art Atelier.

This vibrant and thought-provoking exhibition delves into the rich tapestry of culture and tradition, the complexities of mental health, the power of womanhood, and the depths of spirituality. Immerse yourself in a captivating experience that will enlighten, inspire, and connect you to profound stories and perspectives. The title of this show references the artist's engagement with multiple subject matters, ranging from spirituality and mental health to womanhood and culture. Tshabalala's exploration of various mediums and her introspective unpacking of numerous themes express a culmination of her thematic ventures.

However, this exhibition presents a novel investigation of her subject matter and medium choices, appearing to be re-examinations from the ground up. By presenting a fusion of abstracted elements and figuration, the viewer is met with works that bring elements often found in Tshabalala's background into the foreground, while her signature self-portraiture fades into the background.

This back-and-forth interchanging of elements in search of the undiscovered is what inspired the exhibition's title. While simultaneously being an exploration of the self, this exhibition examines aspects of Afrocentricity by referencing ancient African knowledge systems and thought processes. By intermingling these with more contemporary ideas, this exhibition becomes the result of that collision course and the broth of that melting pot.

About artist, Mbali Tshabalala
Johannesburg's CBD pulsates with a captivating energy, a testament to the relentless ambitions of its occupants. Towering skyscrapers pierce the sky, a stark contrast to the bustling street markets that hum with the rhythm of daily life. Yet, beneath the city's vibrant surface lies a deeper current, a rich tapestry woven with ancestral threads and spiritual yearning. This complex reality, with its impact on the human experience, fuels my artistic exploration, particularly through the lens of my Xhosa and Swati heritage.

My artwork delves into the intricate connection between the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg and the echoes of its spiritual and ancestral past. Through staged photographs and mixed media works, I explore the city's frenetic energy alongside the undercurrents of resilience and a yearning for connection that resonate from generations past. Saturated reds and oranges evoke the city's relentless pace, while muted blues and greys hint at the challenges that lurk beneath the surface. Juxtaposed figures become a metaphor for the search for belonging amidst the urban anonymity, a search that transcends time and circumstance.

My exploration extends beyond a single medium. I use a combination of printmaking techniques with acrylic or oil painting to create a layered visual experience. This layering reflects the complexities of Johannesburg's history and the impact it has on the present, while also echoing the cross cultural intersections, such as those that led the Khoisan and Bantu to form the Xhosa people. The recurring motif of swallows in flight, the alluded Khoisan symbols of spiritual significance, speaks to the city's constant flux, trans and the yearning for freedom, and the enduring human desire for connection with something larger than ourselves. Their graceful dance echoes in the movement oflines and the repetition of patterns within my work, a visual language that taps into the collective unconscious and the city's rich history as a crossroads for migrations and spiritual journeys.

My artwork is deeply personal, a visual exploration of navigating Johannesburg's physical, mental, and spiritual spaces, all filtered through the lens of my matriarchal Xhosa heritage. I weave threads of my own experiences and ancestral connection into the scenes, contrasting the city's relentless stimulation with moments of quiet introspection, a necessity for mental well-being in such a dynamic environment. Ultimately, this work seeks to connect with viewers on a deeper level,prompting them to look beyond the surface and contemplate the complex interplay of ambition, mental state, spirituality, ancestry, and the unique experiences of Johannesburg's inhabitants.

About Asisebenze Art Atelier
Asisebenze Art Atelier (AAA) is a unique collaboration located in downtown Johannesburg that isenabling emerging and established artists to reach their full potential. The space, comprising six floors of artist studios, is brimming with a vibrant energy that is as captivating as it is humbling.

Born out of the ambition to create a sustainable fine arts ecosystem for Africa's emerging talent, Asisebenze allows artists to spread their creative wings, while pursuing commercial success. Members of the AAA collective receive housing, studios, materials, and professional guidance that allow them to realise their artistic and life ambitions.

Located at 28 Plein Street, a Blue Plaque Heritage Building, Asisebenze is a gallery, studio space and art dealership rolled into one, reflecting the inner city’s abundant energy. The building has a 100 bay parking garage (entrance on Joubert Street) for safe, off-street parking.