Middle East & Africa

Moshekwa Langa
Untitled (Speech Bubbles-Lebo)

In “Untitled II (Mapping text)”, 2009, Langa abstracts language in an attempt to change the familiar into the absurd. With reference to comic speech bubbles, Langa combines in a sea of blue gouache a series of nuanced references to identity and politics with “Black Maria” alongside nostalgic and subtle phrases such as “mom be with me, I need u now” and “I didn’t listen.” Through this gathering of references “Untitled II (Mapping text)” forges a poetic and vulnerable site to engage with his personal experiences while simultaneously suggesting the senseless structure of language. This work resonates to larger world of art, politics and popular culture through layering assorted references, piling up meanings that are cryptic and ambivalent, yet resonant with multiple interpretations. With his drawings and gouaches Langa illustrates how creativity is the freedom to make connections. Using abstract expression, free association and stream of consciousness, his work is fortuitously created. Drawing from daily life, routine, boredom and indifference as his influences, Langa emphasizes the viewing-experience as a sensuous and seductive process in the creation of meaning. “Untitled II (Mapping text)” documents the rituals of sangomas, grieving, gossip and love, mapping the artist’s encounters, using slogans and poetic epigrams to bring together scraps and residues of history.

The oeuvre of Moshekwa Langa (b. South Africa, 1975) is a study on media and technique: gouaches, collages, expansive installations, and videos. Langa avoids aesthetic harmony, denying a generalization for themes, contexts and subjects in his oeuvre. The mapping of a complex diasporic identity from his rural South African beginnings, to Johannesburg and his current situation in Northern Europe permits Langa to negotiate territorial hegemony, exploitation, identity and social mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion with a nuanced understanding of place. Gaining recognition first for his New Visual Atlas series, Langa embraces ordinary found objects––photographs, balance sheets and invoices––to rethink our familiar surroundings. While initially experimenting with text and drawing, Langa later expanded into sculptures of corrugated iron and cement bags, which stirred his investigation into alternative media. After moving to Johannesburg to work as a contributing producer for the SABC, Langa left Africa in 1997 to attend the Rijksakademie in the Netherlands.