Artist Lawrence Lemaoana takes on Jacob Zuma

#52. Don’t miss Lawrence Lemaoana’s exhibition: “Fortune Telling in Black, Red and White” at David Brodie’s Art Extra Gallery in Craighall. Brodie’s gallery is a brash young presence on the Joburg art scene, contemporary to the point of being avant-garde, a rarity in this town where the art world is generally extremely polite. A few years ago I attended the “opening” of performance artist Steven Cohen’s latest work at the Goodman Gallery. Cohen dragged himself off the floor, wearing a tutu and I think it was kudu horn boots flipping himself over onto a pommel horse while an able assistant entered from the wings and inserted a fire cracker into his ass and proceeded to light it. The audience clapped and nodded appreciatively then moved on to refill their glasses with white wine and view the rest of the exhibition. This is not a town that is easily shocked or that likes to show it. (Scroll down to pause the audio).


Back to Lemaoana, a rugby player turned artist, who through his work is intent on questioning what it means to be a man and enagaging with different versions of manliness. His subject matter for this exhibition sub-titled “Your state is no accident” is ANC President Jacob Zuma and the role of the mass media in South Africa today. It engages with ideas around who controls meaning, who has the power to represent it, and who is the audience that consume the messages.

Using the kanga cloth as a backdrop for some of the works (the cloth acquired symbolic meaning during Jacob Zuma’s rape trial) Lemaoana has stitched on newspaper headlines playing with words and meaning — my favourites are his references to Chinua Achebe’s novels, Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease, as apt for describing SA’s political landscape in 2008 as they were for encapsulating Nigeria’s experience of colonialism and its confrontation with with post-colony in the 1960s.


It’s a refreshing collection of work, cheeky in its confrontation with a contemporary landscape and bold in its suggestion that no political figure is beyond being questioned and in putting the artist in their rightful place as a questioner.

* The exhibition runs until October 29. Art Extra is at 373 Jan Smuts avenue, Craighall, +2711 326 0034. For more, go to

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