The exhibition ‘Two Together’ is currently on show at Zeitz Mocca Cape Town. ‘Two Together’ features artists from Africa that explore major themes through their work. In each room two artists are coupled together, their artwork communicating with each other from across the room. The artworks either explore the same theme and are in sync with each other, or create a dialog. Artists include Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou , Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Joel Andrianomearisoa, Lungiswa Gqunta, Nicholas Hlobo, Taiye Idahor, Isaac Julien, Mouna Karray, Glenn Ligon, Misheck Masamvu, Zanele Muholi , Sethembile Msezane, and Athi Patra Ruga. In the third room, you will find yourself standing between two artists, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Joël Andrianomearisoa. Both of their works comment on the fragility of memory and the fragmentation of time. They look at the representation of everyday objects and rituals in our lives and homes, and consider how to bring the past into the present.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983. She is a visual artist currently working in Los Angeles. She uses combined mediums to create a large-scale, framed image of a living room, called Sunday Morning. The technique and mediums used include transfers, charcoal, acrylic, color pencil, and collage. She makes her paintings by using photo transfers from her family’s photo album and other found material such as magazine covers and newspapers. These photo transfers are overlaid throughout the painting and occupy the spaces in the shadows, foreground, background, and decorations. Although this scene looks complete and convincing, it moves between the space of reality and imagination. There are components in the painting that are a reference to the tangibility of material things, from the table setting in her grandmother’s house in Nigeria to the room separator in her mother’s house and the decor in her Los Angeles apartment. All these elements form a link between Crosby’s life and memories from growing up in Nigeria to her present.
Hanging on the opposite wall of Akunyili Crosby’s Sunday Morning are five carpet-like panels by Joël Andrianomearisoa. Joël Andrianomearisoa was born in Madagascar in 1977 and lives and works in Paris. His work often touches on themes of grief and sadness and his current installation in Zeitz MOCAA is no different. Each artwork is made from coarsely torn cloth and stitched onto canvas in multiple layers. The fabric used is Lamba, a traditional garment worn in Madagascar by men and women. It is a garment during the day, a blanket at night, and used to wrap the body after death. The tearing of clothes is an ancient practice that is an expression of grief and loss of a loved one in the face of death. The garment is very personal and individual to each person; the way the garment is worn, the type of material, and the number of stripes indicate social position, age, and origin. This makes it a meaningful piece of clothing for not only the wearer but also for family and friends. Each artwork is an individual piece named after an iconic woman from twentieth-century popular culture. Joël Andrianomearisoa comments on the impermanence of one’s life and the transcendence of the body. His work expresses a form of fragility in the body and the connection between the body, time, and memory.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Joël Andrianomearisoa use completely different mediums but the way they use the material and combine it creates a multilayered effect that speaks to the complexities of belonging and nostalgia and all the different parts that make up the whole of a person’s past and present. Joël Andrianomearisoa tears the cloth and stitches them onto a board in layers, and Njideka Akunyili Crosby builds on top of her image with collage and photo transfers, transfers are a layered process used in printmaking to transfer one image onto other mediums. Both artists use cutting and tearing to build their artwork which is reminiscent of our connection to loss, lineage and the memory of a place.