Simphiwe Buthelezi: LALA LA

24 January – 22 February 2019

Bag Factory Artist’s Studios, in partnership with the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize, is pleased to announce the opening of Simphiwe Buthelezi’s first solo exhibition, entitled LALA LA. As the recipient of the 2018 Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize, Buthelezi has spent three months in residence at the Bag Factory producing new work for this ambitious exhibition, curated by Chumisa Ndakisa.

Lala la means ‘come rest here’ in Zulu. It is a thread that has run through many of the titles and works in Buthelezi’s previous work and is a theme she has explored intensively during the past three months. Lala la, come rest here, is something a woman would say to a lover, a mother to a child, a child to a mother, or a child to a father. It implies an attempt to offer comfort, reconciliation, and an acceptance of loss; while also exploring love and the idea of love as sacrifice, as something worth dying for.

In terms of her feminist vision of an artist, LALA LA, come rest here, is also a place Buthelezi has created for herself – a place where she can be free from societal pressures to nurture, fix, and make everything ‘right’. “I am trying to create this atmosphere of rest where it doesn’t always have to be right. You can really rest here. You can talk about anything here. You can just be here. And I am trying to create that atmosphere of rest, not just for myself, but for the people who come see the show.”

Throughout this exciting new body of work, the artist has employed different elements like light, sound, straw, and found items such as ornate gilded picture frames, ‘feminine’ objects like plastic buttons, beads, and hair, as well as oxidised metal in various forms. At the centre of the exhibition, a salvaged chandelier represents enlightenment for the artist. Straw mats are re-purposed, woven and re-woven, stained, or shredded. The mats are especially significant to the artist; not only as something you sit on at home, a domestic item, but also as a representation of family and memory, through the objects, as ‘heirlooms’, and the technique passed down to her by her grandmother, who weaves mats from recycled materials. Symbolically, straw mats are laid down at burials, before the casket is lowered into its final resting place; and they are used as a ritualistic item when consulting or trying to reach a different realm. “I feel like the material speaks so much for itself that it becomes a struggle to impose on it or know what to do to it. Maybe with the cutting and shredding of the straw I have been trying to find healing. Trying to understand something that is so deeply hidden within myself.”

Exhibition Opens: 24 January 2019, 6-8pm

Artist Walkabout: 16 February 2019, 11am – 12pm

Runs till 22 February 2019


Artist’s Biography: SIMPHIWE BUTHELEZI

Simphiwe Buthelezi (b. 1996) lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her artistic practice is a manifestation of her ongoing interest in the endurance of the female form, sites of blackness, tradition and the gendered gaze in relation to family bonds. In 2016, she received the opportunity to participate in a peer mentoring programme hosted by Assemblage Studios which launched her development as a young artist. In 2017, she was a participant of the Artist Career Boot Camp conducted by Art Source South Africa and hosted by the Bag Factory Artist’s Studios.

Simphiwe Buthelezi’s participation in group shows include NOW, curated by Aysha Waja at Art Festival, St Theresa’s with Keyes Art Mile (2018); Ukuma, The Weight of the Wait, curated by Phumzile Twala and Marguerite Visser at Assemblage Project Space (2018); A Flood in My Hands, curated by Aysha Waja, at Fried Contemporary Gallery (2018); the Artist Career Boot Camp Showcase with Art Source at Bag Factory Artist’s Studios (2017); Women’s pop up exhibition with Lizamore and Associates at Art@First RMB Gallery, South Africa (2017); Atomic Peace, curated by Chumisa Ndakisa at the Bag Factory Artist’s Studios (2017); Capturing State at the KKNK Art Festival Print exhibition with Assemblage Studios and Prints on Paper; Art@First RMB pop up art exhibition at RMB Gallery (2017); Edition17 print exhibition with Assemblage Studios (2018); Assemblage Studios Peer Mentorship Programme and Showcase (2016).


Curator’s Biography: CHUMISA NDAKISA 

Chumisa Ndakisa is a Johannesburg based curator, artist and writer. With an educational and professional background in film and television, her experience in organising and interpreting art spans across many disciplines. The premise of her curatorial and artistic practice reflects on femininity, religious and spiritual doctrinal politics, music in all its formations and Pan African history. Her short stories have been published in various journals and anthologies including, Wits University’s Itch and Goethe Institut’s African Futures. She has worked independently with Fried Contemporary and the monumental Bag Factory Artists’ Studios. Chumisa also works as a Creative Director at independent, experimental record label Mushroom Hour Half Hour.



In collaboration with the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, artist Blessing Ngobeni established the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize in response to the positive impact on his career after he won the Cassirer Welz residency award at the Bag Factory in 2012, which culminated in a solo exhibition at Everard Read Gallery who now represent the artist. An art prize of this nature serves as a platform for encouraging an artist is to transcend limitations within their craft much like Blessing Ngobeni. Now in it’s second year, the award is aimed at offering developmental support to promising emerging artists, which includes a three month residency at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, materials and transport stipend, and a solo exhibition at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios.



Bag Factory Artists’ Studios is located on the border of the vibrant suburbs of Fordsburg and Newtown in Johannesburg. Founded by South African artist Dr David Koloane, and British art lover and philanthropist Sir Robert Loder, the Bag Factory has been a space for visual artistic creativity since its inception in 1991. Established in an old bag manufacturing warehouse converted to provide studio space to artists from different racial, cultural and educational backgrounds, over more than two decades the organisation has grown to be synonymous with inclusion and diversity. Its ground-breaking and internationally renowned visiting artists’ programme as well as its numerous professional practice workshops and exhibitions have extended the scope of the organisation towards one that supports, promotes and develops the visual arts and artists in South Africa.  Some of South Africa’s now most famous artists started their careers at the Bag Factory, including Helen Sibidi, Debora Bell, David Koloane, Sam Hlengethwa, Pat Mautloa and Penny Siopis, to name a few. The organisation is still a launching pad for emerging artists while enabling them an opportunity to be mentored by established, full time practicing artists.

Through its various programmes, it aims to address the needs of local artists, promote the visual arts in South Africa, and encourage international networking and learning by exchange. The organisation’s programmes continue to stand for inclusion and diversity, built on an idea of open access.