South Africa

Nzulu Yemfihlakalo: Cinga Samson’s Exhibition at White Cube Mason’s Yard

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‘Nzulu Yemfihlakalo’ is a fresh collection of oil paintings by South African artist Cinga Samson, which is proudly on display at White Cube Mason’s Yard. Dreamlike large-scale tableaux and portraits draw from his environment and metaphysical concerns, prompting the viewer to confront the epistemological boundaries of our collective understanding. 

Onjalo Umhlola, Onjani Umhlola, Oil on canvas, 2022
Image courtesy of Cinga Samson

Cinga Samson was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where he currently resides and works. His works inhabit and extend a painterly tradition, asserting their place within the long trajectory of figuration in art. This commitment to his metier facilitates an exploration of ideas around desire, power, mortality and transience. Weaving together the classical and the contemporary, Samson creates images with symbolic, spiritual and social inferences, drawn together by subjective narrative.

Umkhusana 1, 2021, Oil on canvas, 220 x 260 x 7.5 cm 
Image courtesy of Cinga Samson

The title of the show, Nzulu yemfihlakalo, is taken from an isiXhosa phrase that loosely translates to ‘the depth of mystery’ and is used to express devotion while also serving as a description of God. Samson’s work, which is hyperreal and has a hallucinogenic character, alludes to the union of material and metaphysical realms. The artist gives expression to the intangible and stimulates an encounter with the immense unknown through his paintings. 

Situated against the backdrop of Cape Town’s urban environs and the surrounding natural landscape, the paintings register as familiar, though several anomalies set Samson’s world apart from the quotidian. Shrouded in a Cimmerian darkness, the figures frequently appear with objects or memento mori, such as white lace, animal innards, skulls and lifeless human forms wrapped in translucent sheets. Adopting graceful, funereal movements – as though engaged in ritual procession – their glowing eyes serve as both entry into the abyss while also resisting the viewer’s gaze, cautioning the onlooker against their own presence,”

— the press release reads. 

His works have been presented in solo exhibitions including FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2021); Perrotin Gallery, New York (2020); and blank projects, (2015, 2016, 2017, 2019). Group exhibitions include ‘Mapping Black Identities’, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis (2020); ‘Kubatana’, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium, Øvre Eiker (2019); and ‘Hacer Noche’, Centro Cultural Santo Domingo, Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico (2018). 


Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a graduate of Linguistics and African Languages from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a creative writer and art enthusiast with publications in several journals. She is a writer at Art News Africa.

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