Pitika Ntuli’s ‘Azibuyele Emasisweni’, ‘Return to the Source’ stood out, for not only had the eighty-year-old artist produced 45 new sculptures from bones and other materials, but in relaying their full significance, some of the country’s most esteemed poets and musicians responded to the body of work with songs and poems. This made for an incredible online programme, however, as with all art, the works are best enjoyed in person. A national tour of Ntuli’s ‘Azibuyele Emasisweni’, which will show at Oliewenhuis Art Museum and then the Durban Art Gallery from October, will give the public a chance to appreciate these extraordinary works up close.
‘Azibuyele Emasisweni’, (Return to the Source) was first opened at the National Arts Festival in June 2020 by Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations. It was part of the main programme of this arts festival and challenged fixed definitions of ‘contemporary’ and ‘traditional art’. The exhibition was curated by Ruzy Rusike.
As a Sangoma it is no surprise Ntuli turned to animal bones as the medium, for this body of work – 45 bone sculptures all paired with praise songs. This makes for an unexpected contemporary art exhibition; African spiritualism and contemporary art are rarely bedfellows and his use of animal bones (elephant, rhino, giraffe and horses), which are gently coaxed into anthropomorphic shaped sculptures make for striking works.
Using the approach of a Sangoma, by allowing the material to guide him, Ntuli invokes ancient African indigenous and spiritual knowledge systems, which he believes can ‘treat’ contemporary problems.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.