Moshekwa Langa’s new show at Stevenson feels accomplished and assured. But Langa’s career has been bounded by inconsistency. Here’s a look at two vastly different reviews from our archive.
In 2009, Anthea Buys finds his foray into photography to be problematic:
These nameless subjects, these ethnic curios, say nothing about themselves or Langa or the idea of home or even about looking and being looked at. And what is particularly insulting to anyone of at least mean intelligence, never mind the interchangeable subjects, is that these portraits are passed off in the exhibition statement as ‘confrontational portraits that compel the viewer to engage with the gaze of the subjects’, when in fact they do this no more than any tourist shop postcard of a traditional African subject does. Exhibition-goers are being thumped over the heads with the bluntest piece of ‘Discourse’ lying around, in a last ditch attempt to anaesthetise them to what actually hangs before them.
In 2007, Fabian Saptouw looks at his complex approach to mapping:
The text traverses the boundaries between the personal, the social, the literary and the historical. One cannot determine with any certainty what these fragments of information mean and to what events in Langa’s personal history they are tied. The vagueness of the entries links it to the way we selectively remember the past, and the way these experiences overlap to create mixed memories that we cannot connect to a particular time or a place. That element of uncertainty that haunts these fragmentary moments is infinitely fascinating. It is almost as if these images map the complex terrain of Langa’s lived experience.