Churchill Madikida at the Durban Art Gallery
by Francesca Verga
'Like Father like Son', Standard Bank Young Artist 2006 Award Winner Churchill Madikida's travelling exhibition, explores the artist's pursuit of the truth about his biological father and his upbringing. Having grown up with two stepfathers, and only having met his real father at the age of 32, the artist explores the trials and tribulations of this painful and tormented journey.
The exhibition is installed in the DAG's large rectangular Galllery Two. Set out at one end is an intimate living-room space, decked out with a lounge suite with crocheted overlays, carpet, a wooden cabinet and television. Numerous portrait-style individual photographs of family members are screenprinted onto mugs, cushion covers and even t-shirts. Viewers are welcomed and almost seduced into this personal search for identity through this familial setting. Madikida not only embraces and showcases his new-found family, but also pays homage to family members who have passed on, apparent by the inclusion of a face-cast similar to those in his 'Status' (2005) exhibition.
The installation presents the viewer with two large projection screens and five television sets placed around the gallery. On each screen a different loop is played.
Madikida's installation, as Steve Kwena Mokoena points out in the accompanying catalogue essay 'Our Father', has done in a public space something most of us will not dare to do in our private spaces. In doing so, Madikida confronts his new extended family from behind the camera, interrogating each family member about his abandonment and their apparent knowledge of his existence. As a result of this inquisition, Madikida is able to confront his past and to find some answers to the longing and questioning of his misinformed identity in the hope of resolution.
One's first encounter is with Joseph, the artist's biological father. Commentary from Madikida's brothers, sisters and mothers giving their own accounts follows on subsequent screens. The inclusion of Madikida himself on the final television screen provides some degree of closure to this search for self-acceptance and identification as he thanks and accepts his family. The Sins of the Father video series is, in a sense, a virtual family tree, presenting a real-life view of the interactions and tensions of these relationships between the family members.
This exhibition is about the negotiation of identity and the tracing of one's bloodline and ancestry, exploring issues around absent fathers and the profound effect this has on a child. The multi-media installation documents this journey, granting the absent father the opportunity to speak for himself, presenting a two-fold dilemma. The conflicting commentary from several sources in the room is somewhat distracting, but then again this mingling does perpetuate the feeling of homeliness and connection presented by the faux living room area.
Madikida's 'Like Father Like Son' installation is a deeply personal exploration of his own issue of identity, yet concurrently considers the notions of masculinity and racial identification (exploring Madikida's conflicting Xhosa and so-called coloured heritage) as well as social problems around absent fathers, thus highlighting issues rooted in contemporary South Africa.
The show travels to the Johannes Stegmann Gallery, Bloemfontein (February-March 2007), to the SANG, Cape Town (March- April 2007) and finally to the Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg (May-June 2007).
Opens: November 15
Closes: January 27
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