Barthélémy Toguo, The New World Climax, 2000-14, installation with wooden stamps, tables, ink prints on paper


29 May – 12 July 2014
Stevenson Gallery Cape Town
Buchanan Building, 160 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock 7925

With an opening reception on Thursday, May 29th, Stevenson Gallery Cape Town will present two concurrent exhibitions featuring the work of artists Barthélémy Toguo and Mawande Ka Zenzile.


‘Celebrations’ marks Toguo’s first solo show with the gallery, featuring the artist’s iconic drawings and installations.

The exhibition takes its title from an immersive installation in which small drawings are displayed atop 35 music stands. Toguo writes:

[I]t is a concert of ‘Celebrations’ of life with all its feelings: beauty stands alongside ugliness, pleasure amidst war, sexuality with violence, joy and death.

The artist’s ‘theatre of the world’ embraces everything that makes up human existence; life and death live side by side and give meaning to one another.

A Cameroonian who studied in Ivory Coast, Germany and France and lives between Paris and Bandjoun, Toguo’s many experiences with border control have led him to interrogate ideas of inclusion and exclusion in his work. After being subjected to baggage checks a number of times, he devised the performance Transit, in which he checks in luggage made out of wood from Cameroon.

Similarly, for The New World Climax, first presented at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, in 2001 and included on A Sculptural Premise at Stevenson in 2013, Toguo made large wooden stamps resembling those used to stamp his passport. He then used the wooden stamps to make prints on paper, a series of which will be included on this exhibition. The literal weight of the sculptures exemplifies the heavy burden for immigrants of being in a constant state of transition. The work highlights the difficulty of travelling for people forced into exile as well as those who long for change and the experience of something beyond their own borders. Transgression of borders both physical and mental is a persistent theme in his drawings and installations.

Born in 1967, Toguo trained at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Abidjan, the École Supérieure d’Art in Grenoble and the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf. Solo shows have taken place at institutions including Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden; Musée d’art contemporain de Sainte Etiennne, France; La Verrière by Hermès, Brussels, Belgium; Fundaçao Gulbenkian, Lisbon; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. His work will be exhibited at the Dakar Biennale in 2014. Recent group shows include Body Language at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2013); La Triennale: Intense Proximité, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012); the 11th Havana Biennial (2012); A terrible beauty is born, 11th Biennale de Lyon, France; the 18th Sydney Biennale (2011); and Laughing in a Foreign Language, Hayward Gallery, London (2008). In 2011, Toguo was made a Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature in France. His work is in the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Musée d’art contemporain, Lyon; Fondation Louis Vuitton; and Kunstsammlungen der Stadt, Düsseldorf, among others.

In 2007 Toguo founded Bandjoun Station, a centre for artistic exchange between local and international artists featuring residencies, an exhibition space, a library and plantations in the hills of Bandjoun, Cameroon.


Central to Ka Zenzile’s practice is the idea of the found object. The ‘object’, however, can be anything from a pile of firewood to a supremacist ideology or the image of Batgirl. The show is conceived as a laboratory of ideas, where iconography from low and high culture, historical and contemporary political constellations is forced into dialogue. Mowgli from Disney’s Jungle Book crosses paths with Osama Bin Laden and Saint Sebastian, in an attempt to trace the violence that lies at the core of all these narratives. Recurring motifs are the scarecrow, with its associations of both power and vulnerability, and the boat, which suggests an interest in exploration and travel, as well as its darker counterparts of conquest and slavery.

Ka Zenzile writes:

My work draws attention to history, politics, colonialism, slavery and migration/immigration. I explore how culture, commerce and institutionalised power determine (or dictate) our lived experience. I’m interested in the rise and fall of ideological, political and cultural systems – those that dictate or those that succumb. In my time I have witnessed the falling of the ‘twin towers’, the lynching of Saddam Hussein, the assassination/execution of Osama Bin Ladin, conflict in the Arabic nations (Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan, Pakistan, and so on), and the current tension between Russia and Ukraine, the US and other European nations/superpowers.

The exhibition will include sculpture and painting. On the opening night, the artist will execute a new performance.

Ka Zenzile was born in Lady Frere, Eastern Cape, in 1986, and is the the process of completing a BA Fine Art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, where he won the Michaelis Prize in 2013. Previous solo shows have been Crawling Nation at the AVA in 2009 and Autobiography of Mawande Ka Zenzile: Iingcuka ezombethe iimfele zeegusha at VANSA, Cape Town, in 2011. Group exhibitions include X Marks the Spot at the AVA (2008); Umahluko at Lookout Hill as part of Cape 09; Between the Lines at the Michaelis Galleries (2013) and A Sculptural Premise at Stevenson, Cape Town (2013). In 2008 he was awarded a three-month residency in Norway as part of the Abazobi project, organised by the Arkivet Foundation and the Robben Island Museum. Ka Zenzile has been a regular participant in academic conferences including Thinking Africa + Diaspora Differently at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town (2011); The Exuberant Project, Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts, University of Cape Town (2012); and Between the Lines, organised by Candice Breitz for the Michaelis School of Fine Art and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig (2013). Many of these projects have been accompanied by performances.


Mawande Ka Zenzile, JFK: Historical painting, 2014, oil, earth and cow dung on canvas, 160 x 280cm
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