Festival 2020


Nov 7 -
Dec 19 2020



Siwa Mgoboza explores notions of difference and belonging as informed by his personal experiences of prejudice and assimilation. Leaving South Africa as a child, growing up abroad and subsequently returning as a young man, Mgoboza was profoundly struck by the difference between his expectations and childhood memories of an egalitarian South Africa and its stark reality.

In response to this, Mgoboza has created Africadia, an imagined parallel dimension wherein Africa is reconceptualised as a pastoral Arcadia (referring both to the Greek myth and the Renaissance-era art which was inspired by it) in which humanity and nature thrive in harmonious coexistence. This space is envisaged as an escape from prejudice based on preconceived notions of gender, race, religion, class, nationality and the various incarnations of patriarchal heteronormativity which burden Africa and Africans. Instead, Africadia is an alternative, hybrid space of shifting identities operating outside of oppressive binary dualisms.

Through fusing with animals and nature, Mgoboza’s Africadians no longer identify as human beings but rather simply as beings. They have forgone social constructs about gender, race, sexuality and religion, and instead exist in a fluid, rhizomatic state where judgment of others is rendered superfluous. Africadia represents an alternative space where – in Mgoboza’s words – “we stop talking about the ‘other’ and start talking to one another.”

Mgoboza’s works are simultaneously bright, carnivalesque and excessive while also being highly ordered according to repetition and pattern. In creating the hybrid inhabitants and landscapes of the Africadian dimension, Mgoboza has drawn on his Hlubi heritage by incorporating bright and densely patterned Ishweshwe cloth into his photographic, sculptural and textile work.

Isishweshwe is a symbol embedded with the ethos of Africadia; of cultural interchanges across continents, of indigenization and cultural revitalization. Traditionally worn by woman, it is immediately recognizable as ‘African’, but on closer investigation has truly global roots having arrived in Southern Africa from India via Dutch trade routes in the mid-1600s. When introduced to Southern Africa by German settlers in the mid-1800s, it became widely embraced by Xhosa women in the Eastern Cape. As such it emerges out of South Africa’s colonial history as a pervasive signifier of cultural self-determination.

By subverting both geographical and gender specific assumptions, Mgoboza opens up alternative readings of what it is to be an Africadian. In this sense, to return to Africadia (as the exhibition title suggests) means to return to a true conception of self, free from oppressive and divisive constructs. The ideological dimension of Africadia encourages the embracing of a utopia defined by equality, unity, human rights and shared potential; a return to the (lost) optimism surrounding the promises of post-apartheid South Africa made to Mgoboza’s generation.


Siwa Mgoboza (born 1993) graduated with a BFA cum laude from the Michaelis School Fine Art in 2015. Recent exhibitions include Claims of the Land at the AVA, Cape Town; New Monuments at Commune I Gallery, Cape Town; Future Present at the Barnard Gallery, Cape Town; Nothing Personal, Smac Gallery, Cape Town and Sasol New Signatures, Pretoria Art Museum. Mgoboza’s work will be included in the upcoming exhibition Historicode: Scarcity and Supply at the 3rd Nanjing International Arts Festival, Nanjing China.

Mgoboza has been shortlisted for the Sasol New Signatures Award 2015, the SA Taxi Awards, 2016 and Barclay’s L’Atelier Western Cape, 2016. In 2015 he was the recipient of the Eduard Louis Laden Art Bursary and the Cecil Skotnes Award for most promising artist. Mgoboza’s work is included in numerous private and public collections including The Wedge Collection, The University of Cape Town, the University of South Africa and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, USA.

He Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.

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