One of South Africa’s most exciting and technically adventurous artists, Lunga Ntila, looks back to her roots to find affirmation and a sense of self, in her latest exhibition “God Among Us.”
Lunga Ntila’s second solo exhibition “God Among Us” is currently showing at BKhz gallery in Johannesburg. While it merges storytelling, deconstruction and spirituality, it also explores African mythologies. Perhaps most importantly, it urges us to hold ourselves in higher regard.
“I think a lot of us feel this imposter syndrome that gets in the way of us articulating ourselves the best way we want to, it is also a reminder to myself to not sell myself short,” she explained in an interview about her latest work.
For “God Among Us”, Ntila goes back to her African roots to remind herself and her viewers of the continent’s ancient spirituality.
“I spent a lot of time reading about African mythologies and our take on spirituality. I wanted to create work that would celebrate the coming of a new spirit/guardian angel/ ancestor.”
While researching, she came across the docu-series titled “The story of God” with Morgan Freeman. The third episode is titled “God Among Us”.
Much taken by the boldness of that title, she knew she had to create work that shows how God can show up in human form and that would celebrate the supernatural. This body of work presents an expanded version of Lunga’s technique since she normally works with self-portraiture. though this time around, she’s included additional subjects. She explains that the intention was to expand how others can mirror you or can teach you about yourself.
“I wanted to slowly shift the gaze from myself and include the community aspect in the artworks. Who we are has to do with the communities we place ourselves in, this way of seeing ourselves gives us an expanded definition of self. Community plays a big role in us as human beings. We feel a sense of belonging in our respective communities, these communities also teach us about ourselves.”
There’s also the distinct feature of recurring Xhosa tribal dress in some of the artworks – whilst Lunga explains that the initial focus wasn’t on ethnicity, she goes on to say,
“Coincidentally, some of the attire traditionally would represent the stage a person is in their life. This then makes the attire appropriate to the art series because the whole body of work speaks about this person being in transit and crossing over to the other side and becoming this preeminent spirit.”
Ntila uses three main colours – black, white and red. The monochrome allows her to draw the viewer’s gaze to details she wants to highlight. Red feels cheeky, especially when placed on the lips and also allows Ntila to play with the timeline.
“I had a moment where I played with that in Ukuzilanda with the artworks “Zobuya Nini Inkomo” but I never had the chance to go to town with mixing black and white with that pop of red,” she explains of her earlier work.
Another key feature in her portraiture is the multiplicity of images that indicate the different dimensions that we exist in, something she says has given her deeper insight into herself.
“Understanding that I can shapeshift but still have my ethos kinda remain the same has given me the freedom to expand.”
“My previous body of work “Ukuzilanda” was the soul retrieval part of the journey. ‘God Among Us’ then becomes that transformation phase where the dust slowly begins to settle.”
Lunga’s art will be exhibited in Miami, in the USA, later in September, at the Bill Brady Gallery. In November she will be exhibiting with Pacers Gallery at the ART X Lagos fair.
Source: Phendu Kuta|Bird.