Shady: Kapwani Kiwanga
9 February 2022 – 9 January 2023
Kapwani Kiwanga is a Franco-Canadian artist based in Paris, whose work traces the pervasive impact of powerful asymmetries. Kapwani Kiwanga: Shady is an exciting exhibition on a large scale. The artworks name and semi-transparency also plays upon the politics of visibility and invisibility.
Though the work was created in response to the Canadian context, the themes conveyed by the artwork are easily transferred to the South African context, given their shared history of colonialism and industrial agriculture. Norval Foundation’s atrium provides an impressive space which lies at the architectural heart of the museum. The atrium’s programming is dedicated to large-scale, ambitious installations by mid-career and established artists. As Kiwanga’s first artwork of this scale and completed in 2018, Shady perfectly meets the criteria of the space.
This unique installation makes use of a particular kind of shade cloth, a polyethylene fabric used specifically for agriculture. By filtering out sunlight, this fabric is used to reshape the natural conditions of a particular environment, allowing plants to flourish that would otherwise wither. In this way it recalls the European colonial project, which reshaped indigenous ecosystems into something that was more closely aligned with the ecosystems of the colonial home country.
Display in the atrium, which opens up the onto the Foundation’s scenic sculpture garden places the work at the centre of Norval Foundation’s artistic programme this year. Though the sculptural installation was first displayed in Randall’s Island Park in New York, the atrium is well-suited to accommodate the work. The contained nature of the space adds to the impact of the work’s scale and further encourages visitors to explore its aesthetic qualities from every angle. In addition, the box-like simplicity of the space lends itself to the minimalist language of the sculpture. The glass walls at both the front and back of the atrium allows for natural light to shine onto the shade cloths, and create a visual connection between Shady and the external, natural world. The exhibition is curated by Khanya Mashabela and organised by Norval Foundation.