Gallery 1957, London, presents South African artist WonderBuhle’s captivating solo exhibition ‘Inkunzi Isematholeni.’ Curated by Azu Nwagbogu, this exhibition marks WonderBuhle’s debut solo showcase with the gallery and his first-ever solo show in the United Kingdom. The show is accessible online and in person until October 15th 2023.
The exhibition’s title, ‘Inkunzi Isematholeni,’ originates from a Zulu idiom: “How the calf is raised will determine the quality of the bull.” This metaphor underscores WonderBuhle’s belief in nurturing youth and future generations as they emerge as societal leaders.
In ‘Inkunzi Isematholeni,’ WonderBuhle embarks on a profound exploration of self-discovery and personal growth. This is intricately intertwined with his unwavering commitment to the community he hails from. The artistic journey begins with an archive piece featuring plastic spoons utilized in community gatherings and celebrations.
Through a captivating series of paintings and installation pieces, WonderBuhle delves into his journey of self-actualization. The works stem from his deep connection to his heritage and acceptance as a prominent figure within his community and beyond. In this exhibition, WonderBuhle presents his most diverse and revealing body of work, energized by his innovative approach.
‘Inkunzi Isematholeni’ carries a simultaneously comforting and unsettling emotional depth. WonderBuhle bears his impulses and distinct artistic signature. He introduces multiple self-portraits into various pieces, symbolic of his ongoing voyage of self-exploration. Beyond personal introspection, his reflective journey is profoundly imbued with a desire to make meaningful contributions to his community.
While WonderBuhle dances to the rhythm of his tune, the essence of his art remains deeply rooted in the core ideals of his community. The strength and adaptability of these values transcend the surface materiality of his craft. With his works, he infuses life into his studio and any space his works occupy.
WonderBuhle’s profound acknowledgment of the communal spirit that has nurtured his growth and accomplishments is central to the exhibition. The reinterpretation of a historical image of Marcus Garvey is notable among the artworks. Here, WonderBuhle ingeniously replaces Garvey’s visage with his own, symbolizing that there is more work to be done and that leaders are part of an ongoing historical chain. It is a tribute to both his community and the great Marcus Garvey.
Furthermore, the appropriation of colonial military attire worn by WonderBuhle underscores his perception of an enduring collective struggle. He echoes a call to action for a harmonious and prosperous future.
Nature is a prominent theme in ‘Inkunzi Isematholeni,’ representing WonderBuhle’s deepening exploration of ecological issues. His signature use of flower-imprinted skin finds new expression within the context of the environment itself. Notably, he incorporates hundreds of plastic spoons collected from waste to craft striking murals, serving as a powerful commentary on the imperative need to preserve the splendor of nature.
‘Inkunzi Isematholeni’ by WonderBuhle transcends a celebration of the artist’s multifaceted journey of self-discovery. It extends to his unwavering commitment to his local and global community, representing an acceptance of leadership and his calling. Through introspective self-portraits, reimagined historical references, and potent ecological narratives, WonderBuhle unveils a captivating visual history that encapsulates his evolution as an individual and an artist.
The exhibition warmly invites viewers to engage with WonderBuhle’s profound contemplations, bridging the gap between self and community. It inspires collective introspection and encourages positive action—a testament to the transformative power of art.