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Art Brussels | 2024


Fair Portfolio

Art Brussels | 2024


25.04.24 - 28.04.24



Brussels Expo,
Brussels, Belgium

“These ideas existed before I articulated them, they are my inheritance.”

Bonolo Kavula engages minimalism as her source code of spiritual symbolism. The artist employs remembering and memory: a fractal, abstract visual stimulant, to drive the detail of her creations in refined repetition. The artist makes of herself a vessel, a conduit and a translator. Combining print, design, painting and sculpture, Kavula works with —and challenges— traditions and techniques, as she pursues her ancestry in the present tense. There are decades and dimensions of cultural, political, familial and personal histories encoded into Kavula’s artworks. Where words often fail, or where vital records, stories and cultures are lost, stolen or destroyed, it is just that new forms of communications surface. Especially so with formations such as Kavula’s which demand time, as these histories demand time, and whose forms can also be seen as an homage to the memory of revolutionaries such as Thami Mnyele of the Medu Art Ensemble, who would use printmaking as a broadcasting tool to get important messages to working-class Black people. Through a process of meticulous materialisation, Bonolo Kavula’s meditative labour lends her to a state of liminality that has become an axis to her practice in connecting to and placing herself within the context of her lineage, and legacy.

Profoundly pivotal and personal moments have informed the artist’s vision. The loss of her grandfather ahead of her first solo exhibition with SMAC Gallery in 2021 encouraged her to title the show in his honour by naming it Sewedi, Sewedi. The artist’s loss of her mother, leading to her inheritance of a red Shweshwe dress from her grandmother, is a marked moment whose presence (both spiritually and visually) has reverberated across the breadth of the artist’s career. The influences of her pain are shared in her dedication to invoking their memory in various aspects of her artmaking. In the naming of each subsequent solo exhibition title and artwork lives the stories of family members and a moment of awakening, and of remembering. In the individual painting and punching of each of her circles, as a result of her artistic conviction, a visual vocabulary has emerged. One which speaks of the years Kavula has spent collating and articulating what her family has continued to give her, beyond linear understanding. These gifts are decoded when her “past, present and future self meet in the studio,” as the artist describes.

During the execution of a recent booth exhibition beside Esther Mahlangu, Moya, Kavula realised that her solo exhibition titles created a poem in their chronology. Sewedi, Sewedi / A re kopane ko thabeng / Lewatle / Lebala / Moya. Family, let us meet at the mountain, by the ocean, on the grounds of our homestead and in spirit. More than a poem, the instruction is as uncanny as it is clear. These are not summoning words, no, these are words directed at someone already paying attention. They are precise and direct, only softened by the organic manner in which they were realised. Through her body, and across time. Bonolo Kavula understands that ancestral divination takes time.

To Kavula there are many approaches to notions of scale and surface, through the rejection of standardised canvas and sculpture, and the sheer power of will nourishing the lush details which invite the audience’s attention. Kavula pushes against the perceived depth and dimension of these punched circles and fine thread, using elements that could be seen as slight, small and singular to build works with enough presence to emphasise the power of the energy being transferred through her process. A process which makes tangible what is unseen and undefinable to most. Through these artworks, a connective tissue is borne, bridging gaps in the collective memory of these stories, feelings and similarities by the artist’s patient hand, encouraging us to follow suit, in allowing ourselves to give time to discern, divine and define the symbols for ourselves as well.

Text by Misha Krynauw

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