There is an interesting, dichotomous interplay that fascinates about the presentation of work by Burundi-born, Johannesburg-based artist, Serge Alain Nitegeka. His presence at the 2019 Investec Cape Town Art Fair (ICTAF) ushers to the forefront of artistic discourse a duality of identity-politics.
Nitegeka has steeped his artistic practice in Africa’s harshest realities. Having experienced first-hand the challenges of displacement and forced migration as a refugee, one ponders on the seemingly polar opposites of Nitegeka’s work, which unashamedly confronts dystopian Afrocentric themes – such as slavery, asylum-seeking, and human-trafficking – head on. Such themes pose interesting exchanges with the socio-political aspects of the ICTAF’s culturallydynamic location of Cape Town. Couple this with the fair’s status as one of the most important African contemporary art fairs on the continent, and what remains is a multifaceted web of complexities that Nitegeka’s work only adds to, with its layering of socio-economic and politically-questioning creations.
For this year’s ICTAF, Nitegeka builds upon his body of work, which includes a series of nude, self-portrait drawings in cramped poses on crates, to his more abstract and immersive installationbased work, which continues the discourse of displacement. Innate Black, Nitegeka’s most recent solo exhibition at Stevenson, feeds off these conversations – narrowing the conceptual scope revolving around his experience of forced migration from that which inhabits a global context to one concentrated within the grid-like environment of the Johannesburg cityscape. This complex body of work has been described as embodying “what is lived but cannot be explained.” A sentiment echoed by Nitegeka: “The act of drawing, of thinking, of looking, and of mark-making is an exercise in the mundane, but, perhaps even more so, an act of channelling the terrestrial and primordial .”
Zooming in on his work from this series, Colour & Form LXII, we see not only an embodiment of the above statements, but we’re also presented with multiple possible entry-points from which to begin unpacking his work. These include, but are not limited to, life within the gridlocked maze of Johannesburg, alluded to in the work’s map-like composition; as well as the city’s cosmopolitan identity, composed largely of outsiders, as represented through the use of segmented colours.
One is tempted to interpret his use of coloured, immersive abstraction as a challenge from Nitegeka to his ICTAF audience to grapple with this Afrourban work on an authentic level, rather than a conceptually abstracted one. One only hopes that this challenge will be acknowledged.
An article by Nolan Stevens
Featured image : Serge Alain Nitegeka, Colour & Form LXV, 2018. Paint on wood. 120 x 120 cm. © Serge Alain Nitegeka. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | Cape Town Art Fair Artpaper. [French version inside]
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