Like the Snake that Fed the Chameleon
February 13 – March 20, 2021
Artist Simphiwe Ndzube showcases his latest work in his third solo exhibit at Nicodim Gallery with Like the Snake that Fed the Chameleon. The South African maker uses a myriad of mediums to reimagine black characters as mythological ones. Like the name suggests, these characters are able to take on many different shapes and forms to inhabit other dimensions, just like a chameleon. And just like a snake, they are cold-blooded and ruthless.
The multifaceted Ndzube melds together a mixture of media with this exhibit, from collage, sculpture, sound pieces, paintings and more. Unlike his past works in which most of the beings presented remained faceless, here his subjects all have clearly visible visages. Many of the pieces use his hometown of Cape Town as a geographical backdrop. While the title sounds dark and menacing, the works contain bright pops of color, unlike others that have highlighted drought and desolation.
The show carries a theme that the artist examines: the study of the universe and the interchangeable, mythological beings that move throughout this world with fluidity and motion. It is here that Ndzube succeeds in presenting a domain that is dark while also on the brink of light; barren yet sitting on the cusp of growth. In Goddess of the Night, Glory of the Stars (2021), Ndzube perfectly marries his work with words. In it, he depicts a dark-skinned woman in the midst of a night teeming with blooming flowers, the glistening moon glowing in a starry sky, the woman’s hair matching the pink color of the buds. Beneath the painting are the words of Solstice (1978) by Black poet Audre Lorde, whose text contains the exhibition’s title and is, in effect, a call to action, ultimately a reaffirmation of Ndzube’s artistic intentions.
In Once Upon a Time, Mine-Moon (2020), Ndzube uses acrylic, duct tape and spray paint on linen to present two entwined bodies of color, placed in what seems an ominous setting: broken tree roots uprooted from the ground, with dark clouds hovering, indeed, near glaring, above them, the couples’ tongues matching the hues of the surrounding foliage. Whatever the message the artist is sending demands a deeper dive into the symbolism displayed in the intricacies of this canvas.
In short, Ndzube challenges us to second guess initial glances, prompting the viewer to think on a more profound level, making this exhibit powerful, moving and, ultimately, one of wonder.
Cover image: installation view, Like the Snake that Fed the Chameleon; images courtesy Nicodim Gallery