Kemang Wa Lehulere
(b. 1984, South Africa)
Kemang Wa Lehulere graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand (2011). Solo exhibitions include Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2016); Gasworks, London (2015); Lombard Freid Projects, New York (2013); the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg (2011), and the Association of Visual Arts in Cape Town (2009). Notable group exhibitions include the 8th Berlin Biennale (2014); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014); The Ungovernables, the second triennial exhibition of the New Museum in New York (2012); the 11th Lyon Biennale at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon, France (2011) and at the Kunsthalle Bern and Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland (2010).
Wa Lehulere was a co-founder of the Gugulective (2006), an artist-led collective based in Cape Town, and is a founding member of the Center for Historical Reenactments in Johannesburg. He was the winner of the inaugural Spier Contemporary Award in 2007, the MTN New Contemporaries Award in 2010, and the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts in 2012; he was one of two young artists awarded the 15th Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel in 2013, won the first International Tiberius Art Award Dresden in 2014 and was the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Arts in 2015. Wa Lehulere was also the recipient of an Ampersand Foundation residency in New York in 2012.
The installation by Kemang Wa Lehulere comprises works connected through the idea of language, history and memory. Central is the video Homeless Song 3: The Bird Lady in 9 Layers of Time, that links the personal story of the artist and his aunt with the figure of Gladys Mgudlandlu, South African painter active in the 1960s and 70s, considered to be the first black female painter in the country. The process of uncovering works by Mgudlandlu, otherwise marginalized by official historical accounts, takes the shape of an ongoing research, mediated through the practice of Wa Lehulere and translated into diverse media and forms. It reiterates the questions of how art and history, fragile and ephemeral in their nature, can be restored and translated in the changing political and social circumstances. In his wall carvings and drawings, the artist creates subtle links to the violent episodes in the recent history of South Africa and emphasizes the education as a powerful sphere where both oppression and liberation manifests. Copies of the South African constitution – considered to be one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the world – are brought back to the school desks, yet framed in golden leaves and squeezed in between dentures remain mute, desuetude.
Kemang Wa Lehulere. Time Remembers Another Time, 2017. Chalk drawing and wall-carving. Co-produced by PinchukArtCentre
Kemang Wa Lehulere. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, 2016. Salvaged school desks, dentures, gold-leaf-covered books, steel
Profiles of 21 Artists Shortlisted for the
Future Generation Art Prize 2017