Founded by architect Lee F. Mindel in late 2022, Galerie56 in Tribeca is forging a reputation for rare works of art, often shown for the first time via its rotating exhibitions. Its latest show iiNtsika zeSizwe (Pillars of the Nation) is no exception. Featuring the work of Cape Town based ceramicist, Zizipho Poswa’s the exhibition is Zizipho’s first solo exhibition in the United States, as well as her first collection of solely bronze works.
Just a few blocks from our Crosby Street Hotel, we were lucky enough to be invited to view these incredible works and meet Zizipho.
Born in the town of Mthatha, in the Eastern Province of Cape Town, her work is inspired by the rituals and traditions of her Xhosa culture. For this show in particular, Zizipho explores the practice of ‘umthwalo’ (load), which sees African women carry heavy items on their heads. These items are often transported across long distances in rural areas and the act requires great strength and resilience.
Each of the sculptures celebrates the daily rituals that girls and women perform, representing ‘both the physical and metaphorical acts of bearing the load’.
“To me, the practice of ‘umthwalo’ signifies the balancing act African women play in both traditional and modern society, and their resilience and generosity which so often go unspoken,” says Poswa.
The sculptures were accompanied by a specially commissioned photo series depicting the artist in the act of umthwalo.
Some of our favourite pieces from the show included Mam’uNoBongile (below), which depicts the carrying bananas. West Africa is a region of major banana production and women play a vital role in this economy. The Xhosa name Bongile means to praise or give thanks.
Another piece Mam’uNoAnswari honors Answari, a village matriarch. Poswa vividly remembers her cooking carrots pulled from the community garden.
Within the exhibition you’ll also find a series of smaller sculptures, which are miniature versions of pieces that Zizipho created for her previous body of work, uBuhle boKhokho (Beauty of Our Ancestors). These portray traditional South African hairstyles and showcase intricate details and unique shapes that are incredibly inspiring.