Buhlebezwe Siwani

Umntuntu, 2018  
Digital 4k video, 2 min 40 secs, edition of 4 + 1 AP  

Umntuntu explores Siwani’s research on Nongqawuse, delving into the myths and stories surrounding the Xhosa prophet, including the split between the amaXhosa people into believers and non believers, those who believed in traditional methods of healing and those who believed in Christianity.

Umntuntu is an ode to all these stories: the people appearing from the water represent various life stages, conveying aspects of past, present, and future, as well as the liminal and ethereal. The child serves as an intercessor, departing with purity, echoing the Nongqawuse myth, and ghostly bodies emerge from water, calling others made from it. The woven basket, “Umntuntu”, symbolizes King Hintsa’s head (the Xhosa king, assassinated by the British settlers and buried without his head), hinting at a return of that which was taken. 

Artist Biography

Buhlebezwe Siwani (Johannesburg, 1987) lives and works between Cape Town and Amsterdam. Siwani works with performance, photography, sculpture and installation, interrogating the patriarchal framing of the black female body and black female experience within the South African context. As an initiated Sangoma, a spiritual healer that works within the space of the death and the living, Siwani focused her artistic practice into rituality and the relationship between Christianity and African spirituality.  

Solo exhibitions include: iYeza, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg (2023);  Amanzi angena endlini, Madragoa, Lisbon (2022); Impilo Inegama, No Man’s Art Gallery, Amsterdam (2022); Dedisa ubumnyama, Cairns Art Gallery, Cairns (2021); ukuqhaqha, Camera Work, Palazzo Rasponi, Ravenna (2021); Inkanyamba, Galeria Municipal de Arte de Almada (2020). Recent group exhibitions include: 14th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju (2023); Chrysalis. The Butterfly Dream, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (2023); A Clearing in the Forest, TATE Modern, London (2022); Rethinking Nature, Museo Madre, Napoli (2021); Toronto Biennial, Arsenal Contemporary, Toronto (2022); The Power of My Hands, Paris Museum of Modern Art, Paris (2021). 

Represented by Madragoa (Lisbon, Portugal). 

Buhlebezwe Siwani, Umntuntu (film still), 2018  Digital 4k video, 02’40’’  Edition of 4 + 1 AP .