Ernest Mancoba: A Dialogue On His Art And Words - Business Media MAGS


Ernest Mancoba: A Dialogue On His Art And Words

Honouring the life and works of Artist Ernest Mancoba.

Date: Tuesday 11thFebruary 2020, from 9am to 5pm

Venue: A4 Foundation, 23 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town, 8000

Convenors: Winnie Sze, independent researcher & curator; Nomusa Makhubu, artist & senior lecturer of art history at University of Cape Town Michaelis School of Fine Art

Tickets: R500 includes copies, lunch, tea; concession is available for students

How to buy tickets: or 082 866 2601 (Winnie Sze)

In recent years, Ernest Mancoba (1904-2002, South Africa/France) has been rediscovered by the international art cognoscenti but remains less known in the country of his birth. Esteemed international exhibitions include A Short Century (1991, 2001, USA) curated by the visionary curator Okwui Enwezor, documenta (2017, Germany) – held every five years to survey global contemporary art and its issues – and a retrospective on Mancoba just closed at the Centre Pompidou (Paris).

Perhaps one reason South Africans do not know Mancoba is because he left. In 1938 he moved to France and – save for a few important years in Denmark – settled and died there in 2002. He only returned to South Africa twice, on the occasion of his retrospective at the Johannesburg Art Gallery 1994 and to receive his honorary phD from the University of Fort Hare in 1995.  Another possible reason is because Mancoba’s work does not follow the form of other South African artists. Mancoba moved away from social realism and started experimenting with abstraction even before he left South Africa. His work reflects his engagement of not only African art influences, but also Modern Europe, as well as the art of different cultures through different times, such that it “combine[s] an African feeling with living Western culture”.

Dialogue aims to (re)introduce Mancoba to South Africa. It takes the form of a symposium where scholarly research that focuses on the context and aspects that informed and inspired Mancoba’s work is presented. It also takes the form of an art “festival” where contemporary artists are invited to exhibit works that respond to Mancoba’s art. The aim is conversations and discussion. It is thus a Dialogue, one open to the public, the art cognoscenti, anyone who wishes to learn more and engage with modern South African art.

International scholars/researchers:

  • Dr Chika Okeke-Agulu, Professor at Princeton University (USA) is a globally acknowledged specialist in indigenous, modern and contemporary African and African Diaspora art history and theory. He has published widely and presented globally on African art modernity.
  • Dr Karen Kurcynzki, Assistant Professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst (USA) has written on Modern European art and CoBrA, the European abstract art movement to which both Ernest Mancoba and his wife the artist Sonja Ferlov belonged. The title of her talk is “Mancoba and the Invisibility of Black Expression in European Modernism”
  • Ms Dorthe Aagesen is the Senior Curator of Art at the Danish National Art Gallery and recently curated a retrospective on Sonja Ferlov Mancoba. She will speak on the work of Ferlov Mancoba and the relationship between Ernest Mancoba’s and Sonja Ferlov Mancoba’s works.

South African scholars/researchers:

  • Dr Luvuyo Wotshela, Professor and Head of National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre at the University of Fort Hare. His talk will be based on his book “Fort Hare: from garrison to bastion of learning 1916-2016” focusing on the 1930s during the time of Mancoba’s attendance.
  • Dr Same Mdluli, curator and manager of Standard Bank Art Gallery, who recently curated the exhibition “A Black Aesthetic”, will expand on that curatorial message in the context of Mancoba for the Dialogue
  • Other speakers include: Wilhelm Van Rensburg (Strauss & Co), Thembinkosi Goniwe (Rhodes University), Jaco van Schalkwyk (University of Stellenbosch) and Sean O’Toole (critic, writer and curator).

Helping us assess the kaleidoscopic abstract thinking behind Mancoba’s works will be musical performances by:

  • Kyle Shepherd, winner of Standard Young Artist of the Year (music) 2014
  • Derek Gripper, renowned composer and guitarist

An exhibition accompanies the Dialogue, at A4 Foundation, on through February 2020.

Find out more:

Image: Untitled, 1963, Oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm, image courtesy of the Estate of Ernest Mancoba

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