Mpumelelo Buthelezi: Ukuzihlukanisa

4 - 30 June 2022

The Bag Factory is delighted to announce the opening of 2021 Cassirer Welz Award winner Mpumelelo Buthelezi’s solo exhibition Ukuzihlukanisa, curated by Thlalefi Maditsi.

In Ukuzihlukanisa, Mpumelelo explores ideas of self-reflection, identity, and spirituality through black and white digital photographs. Through a series of self-portraits and portraits, he has produced a new body of work that takes inspiration from the isolation experienced during the national lockdown. In the initial stages he used his bedroom as a studio to make the self-portraits, seen in the choice of props used by the artist: bubble wrap, tin foil, lace fabric, bed sheets, and other materials found in a home. The images attempt to depict the meditative state of the artist when he started to wonder about the biblical concept of an angel and how he could elevate himself spiritually to attain the level of divinity and purity described in the holy book. As the process developed, Mpumelelo invited his friends to participate in the act of image-making, reflecting a need for companionship drawn from his inclusion of others in this introspective work.

This body of work asks us to consider a time when man (human) as described in the bible was holy and without sin. Could this be Mpumelelo’s way of coping with the isolation and the global pandemic that exposed the true nature of man? In essence, this work is about what it means to be human. An existential question that most people grapple with, even more so during the isolation of quarantine implemented during the first national lockdown. Mpumelelo came face to face with the precariousness of (Black) life and in turn sought aid from what he perceived as an entity beyond the self.

Exhibition Opens:
Sat, 4 June 2021, 11am 

Artist Walkabout:
Sat, 18 June 2022, 11am 

Ukuzihlukanisa is part of the Bag Factory’s 2022 Young/Unframed exhibition programme, pairing an emerging artist with an aspiring curator to realise a solo exhibition with mentorship and support from the Bag Factory’s team and studio artists.

This exhibition was made possible with support from Strauss&Co, National Arts Council and Business and Arts South Africa Supporting Grants Programme.