The work of top South African artists like William Kentridge, Roger Ballen and Mary Sibande is currently showing in Brazil, as part of an exhibition of contemporary South African art at The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, or MAC).


Situated in the city of Niterói in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, MAC is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks due to its majestic modernist design. The saucer-shaped UFO-inspired structure is set on a cliffside, at the bottom of which is a beach.

The exhibition, entitled RECONSTRUCTIONS – CONTEMPORARY ART FROM SOUTH AFRICA, features post-apartheid South African artwork, by a range of artists from the globally acclaimed to the emerging, all of whose work is seen to subvert or challenge sociopolitical and cultural representations, creating new spatio-temporal relations.

Reconstructions features the work of David Goldblatt, Diana Hyslop, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Kagiso Pat Mautloa, Lawrence Lemaoana, Lerato Shadi, Mary Sibande, Roger Ballen, Sam Nhlengethwa, Santu Mofokeng, Thenjiwe Nkosi, Tracey Rose and William Kentridge.

According to the curator, Daniella Géo:

[Their work is] informed by collage, aesthetic and logic, and based on repetition – whether through appropriation and re-contextualization, through the accumulation or the use of series, of reenactments or montages, of embroidery and sewing, of assemblage or collage itself, of deconstructing to reconstruct – the artworks that are exhibited here, through the artistic gestures invested in them, do not only encourage us to inquire about their genesis but also signal themselves as reconstructions..

Her Majesty, Queen Sophie by Mary Sibande

'Her Majesty, Queen Sophie' by Mary Sibande

Work on the exhibition include’s Sibande’s ‘Her Majesty, Queen Sophie’ (2010) exhibited on a billboard-size poster, photographs from Ballen’s Boarding House (2009) and Kentridge’s renowned animated short film Felix in Exile (1994).

The exhibition is notable as an unprecedented international profile on contemporary South African art, and one which is drawing invaluable attention to the South African art world, giving it long overdue recognition for its value as a worldclass creative industry.

Géo explains the relevance she finds in contemporary South African art, motivating the exhibition:

Twenty-one years after the announcement of the re-democratizing of South Africa, in February 1990, the artistic production of the country has not permitted that the much-demanded end of apartheid would lead to a crisis of creation, as some critics had feared.

If South African art no longer is in the service of the struggle against the segregationist regime, it has sustained the dynamism of the artistic strategies by expanding its aesthetic, formal and operational models as of its massive internationalization and the fostering of domestic infrastructure. At the same time, the remaining sociocultural contradictions and the repositioning, still underway, of distinct identities, have preserved the need for questioning that goes beyond the formal aspects of art.

With 11 official languages and comprised of different ethnic groups, including tribal societies, this young democracy is seeking to adjust itself to its plurality and to reduce the gaps that had been amplified by apartheid. For their part, the visual arts have confirmed themselves as a platform of fundamental reflection, by which a moving present, formed of times past and in constant evolution – is put into question.

In the midst of the multiplicity that is common in contemporary practice, as if responding to the indispensability to reorganize memories, revise concepts, reestablish paths and reconstitute uniqueness, the notion of (re)construction seems to be prevailing in the work processes and the thought systems of very different authors.

Roger Ballen Scavenging 2004

'Scavenging' (2004) from Boarding House by Roger Ballen

After the very successful FIFA World Cup putting South Africa on the map as a legitimate global player, and being in the upward climb out of worldwide recession, it seems the country is finally feeling the effects of its long struggle.


Reconstructions runs from 19 March to 15 May 2011.

Exhibition information courtesy of MAC. Architecture images courtesy of Unusual Architecture.