A Fragile Archive
A Fragile Archive takes an artistic look at memory, history and archive.
by Editor Posted: 2012/02/05
In the early 60s Mgudlandlu was acclaimed as South Africa's first black women artist. In spite of the fact that recent scholarly research has proven this claim to be inaccurate, such an acclaim had a significant affect in the way her art was positioned. The intention of this exhibition is to understand the context of this acclaim in relation to South Africa's political past and the way Western ideologies have influenced the development of image-making in South Africa. This historical context has influenced the way archives have been construed. As a result South Africa's historical legacy of aesthetic, technical and conceptual discrepancies have differentiated the work of self-taught from that of academically trained artists, privileging the latter and dismissing the former.
Research taken up by scholars in the 80s has revealed many other artists operating during Mgudlandlu's period and prior. Artist such Valerie Desmore whose working period predates Mgudlandlu, only made a reappearance in South Africa in the late 90s. This brings forth many questions about the way South African art history is written and understood. The neglect of Desmore's contribution (from the early 40s), speaks to the manner in which authority gauged valuing systems of that time and how this influenced the writing of art history. Even though Desmore's reappearance on the South African Art scene dates to the late 1990s, the wider public knows very little of this artist. In fact, inaccuracies and discrepancies regarding the position of artists such as Mgudlandlu and Desmore are still repeated, and this has bearing on the complexities and contradictions of archive management.
This exhibition aims to examine the contribution of these two pioneers through issues of history, memory and archive. It questions the way that their position is understood and written by restaging Mgudlandlu's first public exhibition held in 1961. The exhibition further consists of several installations one of which showcases Valerie Desmore's works currently held by public institutions and selected pieces by other black women artists from JAG's collection.
The exhibition will be showing from the 29th of January to 8th of April at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
King George St, Joubert Park