In True Colours South African artist Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi deals with divergent discourses around truth, memory and history, as conveyed through the flag. Using the flag as his thematic fulcrum against the backdrop of volatile narratives of oppression and liberation, Ngqinambi explores and interrogates the motives of governments in hoisting the flag for reasons other than national unity.
Ngqinambi’s personal, political and professional biographies are located within South Africa’s segregation and liberation histories. Born in Cape Town in 1977, a year after the Soweto Student Uprisings, he grew up in a conflict zone where the puny arsenal of stones and rubble was pitted against police nyalas and the military might of the apartheid state. In the absence of formal art tuition, Ngqinambi’s talent was nurtured at the Community Arts Project, one of the country’s indispensable cultural centres addressing the cultural and educational imbalances wrought by Apartheid. His imagery evokes associations with the figurative traditions of 18th and19th European Romanticism, particularly the genre of sublime painting, as well as early 20th century Soviet socialist realism. His work also displays the influence of South African township art and protest art of the 1980s – the latter characterised by the strident imagery and saturated hues of posters carried aloft by anti-apartheid activists and liberation cadres during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle.
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