CHARCOAL WITH COLOUR SPLASHES
Swank dress code just a plaster over a gaping societal wound
Bambo Sibiya’s exhibition, entitled Tales of Migration, captures men in swanky suits claiming their right to leisure time and an identity beyond that of a labourer
Bambo Sibiya is part of a generation of Joburg-based artists that includes Nelson Makamo and Phillemon Hlungwani — producing brooding charcoal drawings disrupted by flashes of colour. It’s an aesthetic associated with William Kentridge, but each of these artists inhabit it in their own way and for their own reasons. The newly opened Red Room gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town, may form a platform to expose this interesting turn in Joburg’s art scene. In Sibiya’s work, colour and pattern infiltrate charcoal drawings through his rendering of the suits his subjects wear. They shimmer, glow and pop with touches of metallic acrylic paint and lace patterns, drawing attention to the central role an immaculate suit plays in the Swenka tradition. Zulu migrant workers on Joburg mines participated in Swenka — derived from the English word "swank" — to show off their sense of style and defy the social and economic status that was determined by their race under apartheid. Sibiya’s exhibition, entit...