CHRIS THURMAN: Nyasaland/Analysand — Portrait of an African through an African artist’s eyes
Malawian artist and scholar Samson Kambalu’s exhibition is a bold attempt at presenting the result of a particular blend of African and Western cultures
In Nyasaland / Analysand (at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg until April 13), Malawian artist and scholar Samson Kambalu explores the happy accident of a playful but also potentially profound anagram. The terminology in the exhibition’s title may not be familiar, so a few words of explanation are necessary. Nyasaland was the British “Protectorate” — to use a well-worn euphemism of late stage colonialism — that became Malawi in 1964. The word thus refers to geographical terrain, but also to a torrid history. Like regional neighbour Rhodesia (and much of Africa), it was chewed up by Britain in the late 19th century . Many decades later, independence brought a different form of oppression: Zimbabwe had Robert Mugabe, Malawi had Hastings Banda. Analysand is a medical term referring to a person undergoing psychoanalysis. To a limited extent, the artist is the analysand in this process. Kambalu returns to childhood memories: he recalls the common playground practice of swapping cards,...