A Strange Song

14 October 2022 – 17 January 2023 | Curated by Candice Thikeson 

Norval Foundation presents A Strange Song, an exhibition comprising works thoughtfully selected from the Homestead Collection. The Homestead Collection, housed at Norval Foundation, consists of an extensive collection of artworks by twentieth-century South African artists and a growing collection of artworks by contemporary artists on the African continent and its diaspora.

A Strange Song is an opportunity to share several recent acquisitions while reflecting on the range of artists, artistic practices and artistic periods within the collection at present. The exhibition’s title, poetic in nature, is borrowed from a recent portrait by Mozambican artist Cassi Namoda, which she included in her solo exhibition titled Life has become a foreign language (2022). Namoda’s portrait, with its rich tones and soft landscape, also introduces the collection and sets the tone for the artworks exhibited in this show. The artworks selected for A Strange Song are predominantly figurative, often possessing vibrant colours and are rich with symbolism, speaking to various cultural mythologies. Figuration is at the exhibition’s forefront, with many artists creating works which are explicitly of bodily forms or suggest the presence of the body. Thus, it is essential to consider how these African artists engage with portraiture as a genre and the nude tradition in their work. Many of these figurative paintings, nudes and portraits also explore the real, surreal and imagined landscape.

Through the inclusion of various animals, such as birds, oxen, horses and snakes, the artists imbue their paintings with symbolism. There are three paintings in the exhibition by the figurative painter Cassi Namoda. The earliest is her work which was shortlisted for the inaugural Norval Sovereign African Art Prize (NSAAP) titled Visit from ancestors III (2021). In this work, a woman draped in red fabric looks through the window as a pink bird visits her, presumably a flamingo, which the viewer reads as the ancestors Namoda refers to in the title of her painting. 

A Strange Song also focuses on artists who have engaged with themes of spirituality and transcendence in their work. While some of the artists in the exhibition approach spirituality directly through a reflection on organised religions and spiritual practices, as in the work of John N. Muafangejo, others approach spirituality more subtly, perhaps philosophically. 

Boschendal Art Gallery

Monday – Sunday | 09h00 – 17h00
Entrance is free