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Artwork by Sethembile Msezane Installed at Orms

Cape Town photography leader Orms collaborates with Iziko Museums to bring work by Sethembile Msezane to a wider audience.

Sethembile Msezane

Sethembile Msezane | House and Leisure

Strikingly beautiful and instantly iconic, the artwork 'Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell' (2015) (pictured above) by the young South African artist Sethembile Msezane has been installed in the Orms Roeland Street-facing window in Cape Town. It forms the latest chapter in the Iziko Museums of South Africa and Orms collaboration, The People's Art. This piece was created by the visual and performance artist at the removal of the Cecil John Rhodes monument from the University of Cape Town in 2015.

In Shona beliefs, the Chapungu bird is thought to be a good omen, bringing good fortune to a community. Msezane embodied the spirit of the bird, and stood on a plinth behind the statue of Rhodes, raising and lowering her wings as the statue was taken down from its position overlooking Cape Town. In doing so, Msezane located her body – as a black woman – within a public memorialised space, and operated as a mechanism of reclaiming and re-remembering the narratives of black women in South African and African histories. Chapungu became a way of evoking the symbolism of Great Zimbabwe and thereby animating the counter narratives against colonial histories.

Sethembile Msezane's work subverts colonialist ideologies and highlights the history of black women in South Africa and Africa, and she came fully into the public eye after her performance. Inspired by intergenerational memory and the drive to conscientise viewers about the injustices caused through selective history, Msezane performs her gendered body as inextricably linked to her racialised body – validating the body as a space loaded with history, identity and meaning.

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The installation of this work by Msezane at Orms is part of the photographic company's People’s Art initiative. A collaboration between Iziko Museums of South Africa and Orms, it was launched on Women’s Day in 2018 and seeks to promote art by women artists. The showcase also makes art more accessible to the public, beyond the confines of the gallery space.

Every three months, Orms showcases inspirational South African women artists’ works from the permanent collections of the Iziko South African National Gallery, and displays them on the street-facing shop front of the Orms Print Room, on the corner of Roeland Street. The initiative includes the work of four leading women artists, and began by showcasing a photographic work by Thania Petersen, 'Location 4: District Six'. This was followed by 'Mmangwane o Tshwara Thipa ka Bohaleng (The Child’s Mother Holds the Sharp Edge of the Knife)', a painting by Mmakgabo Mapula Helen Sebidi.

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More about Sethembile Msezane

Sethembile Msezane was born in South Africa in 1991, and completed her Masters in Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in 2017. Msezane explores issues around spirituality, commemoration and African knowledge systems in her work, which has examined the processes of myth-making that are used to construct history, calling attention to the absence of the black female body in narratives and physical spaces of historical commemoration.

She has been widely exhibited across South Africa and internationally, and was included in the inaugural exhibition of the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, as well as the closing exhibition of La Maison Rouge in Paris, at the Iziko South African National Gallery and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair London and New York.

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