Southern Guild – the sole gallery representing locally-made collectible design in Africa – and Galerie56 – the cultural space founded by Lee F. Mindel located in Tribeca at 56 Leonard Street – present “iiNtsika zeSizwe (The Pillars of the Nation),” a solo exhibition of bronze sculptures by South African ceramic artist Zizipho Poswa. Opening on Monday, May 15, “iiNtsika zeSizwe” is Poswa’s debut solo presentation in the United States, as well as her first collection of work made entirely in bronze.
Poswa’s monumental hand-coiled sculptures are bold declarations of African womanhood. She is inspired by her Xhosa heritage and the life-sustaining roles that African women play in traditional and contemporary life.
“iiNtsika zeSizwe” expands on the thematic interests of Poswa’s first series of major ceramic sculptures, titled “Umthwalo,” which stacked abstract forms on top of voluminous bases to create totems of female strength and resilience. With their exuberant shapes and resplendent glazes, these sculptures elevate to heroic status the everyday practice of ‘umthwalo’ – the isiXhosa word for ‘load’ – whereby women transport heavy items on foot by carrying them on their heads.
In the rural Eastern Cape province where the artist grew up, women traditionally perform the tasks of gathering wood, collecting water and taking bucket loads of clothing to wash in the river. For Poswa, who witnessed these daily rituals as a young girl, the strength required to balance these burdens and walk long distances is testimony to the endurance of Xhosa women.
Zizipho Poswa notes that her first US solo is a tribute to her own mother, the community of women who raised her and others like them, whose contribution to society is rarely recognized.
“These are the pillars of our nation” in the artist’s words; monuments to sustenance and sacrifice given the lustre and permanence of bronze, a material historically reserved for colonial patriarchs and the architects of Apartheid.
About the Exhibition
Standing at variable heights up to 1.6 metres (5 feet) tall, the seven bronze sculptures in “iiNtsika zeSizwe” depict precariously arranged objects – a barrel, a pile of sticks, bundles of fruits and vegetables – that appear almost in motion. Their textured and rounded forms make use of a rich array of bronze patinas and finishes.
A series of large photographs, commissioned especially for the exhibition, show Poswa in the act of ‘umthwalo’ in her rural village just outside Butterworth in the Eastern Cape.
“iiNtsika zeSizwe” is open at Galerie56 from May 15th to July 29, 2023, every Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
About the Artist
Zizipho Poswa is a Cape Town-based ceramic artist who makes large-scale, hand-coiled sculptures. Born in 1979 in the town of Mthatha, Poswa studied surface design at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University of Technology.
She co-founded Imiso Ceramics, a studio producing collectible ceramic vessels and tableware, with fellow ceramicist Andile Dyalvane in Cape Town in 2005
Poswa’s work for Southern Guild explores her personal experience and heritage in monumental sculptural pieces. Her debut solo, “iLobola,” comprised 12 ceramic and bronze sculptures paying homage to the spiritual offering at the heart of the ancient African custom of lobola, or bride-wealth – the cow. Like some of Poswa’s earlier works, this series straddles figuration and abstraction, employing an intuitive vocabulary of shape, colour and texture.
ABOUT SOUTHERN GUILD
Founded in 2008, Southern Guild showcases contemporary artist practices from the African continent and diaspora. The gallery’s rigorous curatorial program pivots on unprecedented modes of making, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and the ingenuity of the human hand. Southern Guild works collaboratively with its artists to create immersive exhibitions and experiences that vary in meaning and form.
The gallery is a regular exhibitor at global fairs such as Design Miami US and Basel, EXPO Chicago, Untitled Art, Investec Cape Town Art Fair, and The Salon Art & Design in New York, among others. Works by its artists have been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, LACMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum, Mint Museum, Harn Museum, Denver Art Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, and the Loewe Foundation.
Galerie56 is a cultural space located at the center of Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood. Founded by renowned architect Lee F. Mindel, Galerie56 is nestled into the street-level base of the iconic 56 Leonard – designed by acclaimed architects Herzog & De Meuron and flanked by the new landmark sculpture by Anish Kapoor. The space was conceived as a civic gesture meant to extend the seemingly private world of art and architecture into the context of the city.
Galerie56 reflects deeply American values of openness, transparency, and desire to welcome all international cultures to be part of a democratic discourse accessible to all.
Through establishing a dialogue with Anish Kapoor’s sculpture, the space not only acts as a physical node on Church Street but also as a larger metaphorical node within the vast network of artists around the world. The interior massing of the gallery space works in close synchronization with that of the form of the building – a deconstructed interpretation of its pronounced volumes by translating them into a series of intersecting planes within the space.
The space establishes a dialogue with other vivid nodes like the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center, through thoughtful gestures such as theme-lighting during important civic events. The gallery will serve as a beacon for the cultural ethos of the city.