Thanks to a thousand Eskom memes, load-shedding jokes and dramatic news headlines about SA’s perennial energy crisis, “darkness” has a somewhat overdetermined metaphorical purchase in our national discourse. If you’ve grown tired of throwaway references to “dark times” in our country — usually implying a vague concatenation of social, economic and political factors, or a general malaise — you could do worse than visit Nicholas Hlobo’s Yongamela Ubumnyama at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.  

The exhibition’s isiXhosa title, which suggests overseeing or presiding over darkness, is usefully ambiguous: who or what is presiding in this way? The God of Genesis? Some unknown creative force? The viewer? Hlobo himself?..

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