Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi’s presentation at the 2017 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair marks the first time the artist’s work will be presented to a United Kingdom (UK) audience. This simple fact has formed the narrative of the works presented here. Ngqinambi envisions this meeting as a theatrical event unfolding in pictorial space. The paintings collected here consider the consequences of the artist’s work encountering a new context, and imagine the cast of pictorial figures as real people arriving in a place vastly different to the one they call home.
Symbols which have come to characterise the artist’s work in recent years remain present in this new collection. These include the box structure, a symbol of restriction and containment; the flag, signalling questions of nationhood and power; the running figure, who embodies an urgency both to escape and to arrive; and vast, illuminated skies which lend the artist’s images a romantic gravitas while alluding to his own strong sense of spirituality.
The repetition of these symbols in a new context allows both for intriguing new images as well as a continuation of the artist’s long held interest in relations of power. With the complicated history between the United Kingdom and South Africa in mind, as well as the challenges around national identity both countries currently face, these images take on a new relevance and impact. Thus, this new collection of work is essentially a narrative of encounter – on personal, interpersonal and global stages.