Slightly Off Centre
10.10.15 – 21.11.15
SMAC Gallery is proud to present the second instalment of Themba Shibase’s solo exhibition; Slightly Off Centre.
In 2013, Durban-based artist Themba Shibase presented a solo exhibition Paint, Masculinity, Power and Violence in Cape Town that riveted the public and critics alike. This jaundiced suite of paintings interrogated African power structures and revealed how African leaders like Robert Mugabe, Idi Amin and Mabutu Sese Seko, abused their power, enriched themselves and imposed their tyrannical will upon their helpless countrymen. Although criminal, they escaped censure as, having overthrown the former colonisers, they were regarded as heroic “struggle veteran leaders”, and viewed from a far less critical perspective than would prevail in a first world democracy.
The title of this solo exhibition, Slightly Off Centre, immediately brings to mind the British essayist and social critic E.M. Forster’s celebrated description of the great Alexandrine poet, Constantine Cafavy as “standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe”, for both he and Shibase are artists of a brave singularity who approach their themes from contentious angles and readily confront ideologically tricky issues their rivals instinctively avoid. Shibase’s comments verge on Afro-pessimism.
Slightly off Centre was first presented at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July 2015, as part of the official program. In this body of paintings Shibase presents images of politicians, business tycoons, captains of industry and professional trouble-makers. He is bitterly critical of an outmoded African patriarchal culture in which the regnant masculine ideals of authority, strength and dominance have given rise to a society based on male sexual entitlement and the abuse of women in the private realm, and dictatorial violence and corruption in the public realm.
Themba Shibase is an activist, and his bracing, yet harsh critique of the current shaky status quo is bound to make viewers question the premises upon which South African identity and politics are based. His imagery communicates immediately and effectively. It is the clarity of his metaphors and symbols that make him such a deeply impressive artist.