Southern Guild is pleased to announce Grace in Grand-Bassam, a solo presentation by emerging Johannesburg artist Terence Maluleke from 26 October to 15 November 2023.
This body of work is a response to his month-long residency at La Fourchette de Rōze in the coastal town on the outskirts of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Visiting the country for the first time, unable to speak the language and with little access to the Internet, Maluleke felt a strange sense of familiarity when encountering the local community. His series of large-scale paintings foreground the human body – angular contortions of dancing figures, a squad of soccer players moving in tandem or sprawled out at rest, the zigzagging invocation of a man with arms stretched out in prayer.
In many of these scenes, the humble plastic jelly sandal – known locally as “lêkê” – is ubiquitous, no matter the age, gender or station of its wearer. Maluleke describes its “democratising” effect – worn and shared freely, the property of one and all. He exploits the sandal’s graphic shapes as a repetitive motif; employed en masse, it is a synecdoche for communal life. Maluleke often disrupts his narrative scenarios by calling attention to the artwork’s surface: fragments of calla lilies float over a soccer player’s sandaled feet, stars dance across a pandemonium of figures in motion. There is joy and pride here, celebration and ritual, with women bedecked in elaborate gold jewellery and hair ornaments depicting lizards, crocodiles, flowers and fish.
Maluleke came to painting having established himself as an accomplished visual developer for Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, Netflix and Triggerfish. Born in 1995 in Soweto, he draws inspiration from the township community he grew up in, creating stylised portraits and still-lifes that explore contemporary Black experience. Foregoing the specificity of individualistic portraiture, he embraces the multiplicity of pan-African Black identities in his art. The artist co-founded Kasi Sketchbook, a non-profit project that offers drawing clubs to children and young adults in Johannesburg’s townships.
He works from his studio in August House in the inner city, and has exhibited at Latitudes Art Fair and in group shows at Kalashnikovv Gallery and Bkhz.