‘When we reject the single story, when we realise that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.’ So ends the famous 2009 TED Talk by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s titled ‘The danger of a single story’. It’s a talk that’s been revisited many times over the years, and has inspired countless new stories, projects and works of art. Recently, it’s served as a springboard for the team putting together this year’s Nirox Winter Sculpture Exhibition.
Titled Not A Single Story, the 2018 Winter Sculpture exhibition will take place from 12 May, and run until 31 July. The exhibition combines existing works with new productions that will occupy and transform the landscape, situated in the regions of the Cradle of Humankind.
With works by artists both local and international, viewers will have the chance to see pieces by Mary Sibande, Esther Mahlangu, Yoko Ono, Sethembile Msezane, Lungiswa Gqunta and Beth Armstrong to name a few. This year’s artists are a collection of emerging and established names, lending to artistic dialogues between differing generations as well as practices, and were selected in response to what the team refers to as ‘a very singular art history’.
‘I suppose you could put it under the label of patriarchy, just in terms of artist representation over the years – it is a predominantly male-dominated industry,’ says Jessica Doucha who’s co-assistant curating alongside Khumo Sebambo for this year’s exhibition. ‘So, this exhibition is kind of opening, an opportunity for that [history] to shift a bit.’
Exhibiting artists were selected by curators Elisabeth Millqvist and Mattias Givell from Sweden’s Wanås Konst museum, Nirox’s official partners for this year’s exhibition. The partnerships also sees Wanås Konst bringing in a few international and diaspora-based artists, including American-South African artist Ayana V Jackson, Moroccan-French artist Latifa Echakhch, and US-based, Nigerian artist Marcia Kure.
Beyond curating and organising each artist and their work, the team must also consider the space in which they are exhibiting. Lloyd-Anthony Smith, who’s taken on the role of organising concerts and events for the Nirox sculpture park, explains that there are various factors to think about when working in a space such as the Nirox Sculpture Park.
‘Out here we have to be sympathetic to the landscape, the space, and the fact that we’re in the Cradle of Humankind,’ he says. ‘There are certain works that are pre-existing and there are certain works that are made to be site-specific for Nirox and the spaces they’ll occupy. It’s interesting to see how differently they’re exhibited just on account of their location.’
The benefits of using a sprawling sculpture park as an exhibition space, however, are endless. Some artworks stand out in sharp contrast to their surroundings, such as the pre-existing work by Victor Ehikhamenor, which announces itself through his signature black and yellow colour-scheme. Then you have another pre-existing work such as Raimi Gbadamosi’s ‘The Republic Faces The Sun’ which stands static and blends into the soft hues of the landscape from one angle, but when viewed from across the pond, doubles up in size, its bottom-half ebbing and flowing with the water it’s reflected in.
‘By bringing people into nature and into a landscape that’s broad in scale and heritage, you’re bringing people back to an understanding of how they relate to themselves in relation to landscape and in relation to sculpture,’ says Doucha. ‘It’s a different way to actually experience the work as opposed to just seeing something on a plinth in a gallery that you can’t touch.’
In addition to the exhibition, various workshops leading up to Not A Single Story have already started taking place, with an emphasis on education being at the heart of the project. So far they’ve led poetry, land art, and writing workshops, and are in the process of setting up workshops with the area’s local school. ‘The workshops are really different ways of bringing people into the park and having them engage with the work,’ explains Doucha. ‘For the kids especially, I think it’s great. Some of the workshops we’ve run, the kids have jumped on the sculptures and climbed them. It definitely brings a far more playful, interactive dynamic.’
The 2018 Nirox Winter Sculpture exhibition, Not A Single Story, will be open to the public from 12 May to 31 July 2018. More details on their website.