The exhibition explores themes of homophobia, LGBTQIA+ hate crimes and self love through dance, visual art and abstract story telling.
Originally from Mafikeng in the North West Province, Joburg-based artist Llewellyn Mnguni's aristic approach explores movement through African art, in the way we use the tools and essence of traditional African customs and ideals which form its unique culture, and as a way of developing relaionships with other cultures of the world, finding a medium ground and discovering similaries and disincions as a people. "I’m very inspired by people and their origins as well their journeys through life and how to amalgamate our stories into a conversations on humanity" shares Mnguni. Being professionally trained in Latin American and ballroom, Spanish, contemporary, classical Ballet, African and Indian (Bharatanatyam) dance has taught me to constantly weave a web of connections and discover new languages of movement" they continue.
In this new exhibition; Resilience, Mnguni tells a true and complicated story of being a South African born and raised man who has had to deal with Setswana cultural dealings and restrictions in a fast growing modern country, fresh out of the brutal era of apartheid. Being gay and an artist created obstacles due to the influences of society where the identity of a man is consistently under siege, misrepresented and always under scrutiny. Inevitably the stories of the LGBTQIA+ community in settings such as this, are not shared often. The work shines the light on people from communities that are different and don’t fit into the typical norms of society, "it is based on facets of gender expression and cultural identity, tackling the issues that are ongoing phenomenons, [such as] where members of LGBTQIA+ community perish unnecessarily because of hate"Mnguni tells. The work also allows the body to see it itself in its most beautiful form and presence.
Mnguni started choreographing the solo dance work during the 'MINA/MEG' exhibition at Oslo's Historic Cultural Museum during the 2016 Oslo Gay Pride Festival, in collaboration with visual artist/activist Zanele Muholi. The exhibition was about self representation realisation in context of the LGBTQIA+ community, which constantly fights against hate crimes and demoralisation.
"Art has so much more impact when viewed from a multidisciplinary lens, which is why this exhibition showcases different aspects within the artistic practice" shares Mnguni, "I was inspired to create my piece - Resilience during the Covid19 lockdown because I felt stifled and stuck as an artist, forcing me to express my story no matter what obstacles I was about to face due to the heavy restrictions". This is what encouraged Mnguni toI reach out to photographer Travys Owen, musician Aux Alaio and the fashion house BAM Collective to start building a collaborative exhibition.
Evolving over a period of a year, Resiliance tackles subjects of homophobia, LGBTQIA+ hate crimes and self love, themes many artists and people can relate to. "The theme of Resilience Is one that really resonates with me and is the glue that keeps this exhibition together. There is something about visual art, dance and film as an artistic medium that has appealed to me and this is why I wanted to amalgamate the different art forms to reflect my own diverse artistic background". The works in the exhibition are inspired by dance filming, visual art and abstract story telling, as well as a huge focus on performance given Mnguni's performance background.
Image by Travys Owen.
Words by Roger Sivuyile Lupuwana.
Compliments of Llewellyn Mnguni.