In Phambi Kwendlovu, Paulo Nazareth‘’s first solo exhibition in SA, the Brazilian artist gives a local twist to a preoccupation that has informed much of his work: the elephant as a symbol of memory. For Nazareth, stories about elephants also become sites of contestation over how the past is misremembered. “Official history,” he observes, is “fiction, a game of strength” in which the strong choose which facts will be emphasised, distorted or neglected. The artist is thus engaged in what Milan Kundera called “the struggle of memory against forgetting”, an activist form of historiography that seeks to uncover suppressed narratives.

Nazareth’s exhibition is appropriately paired at the Stevenson Gallery Cape Town (until November 23) with Simon Gush’s Welcome to Frontier Country, a film and print installation addressing the contestation over land ownership in the Eastern Cape. Gush, too, seeks to query received history — in this case, the mythology attached to the 1820 British Set...

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