October - December 2021 — Visual Arts
South African artist Mbali Dhlamini has been selected by Embassy of Foreign Artists for a three-month residency from October 2021 within the Art & Stories programme in partnership with The Records and Archives of International Organisation Group (RAIOG) in Geneva.
Mbali is a multidisciplinary artist, artistic researcher and coordinator. She received her MA in 2015 from the University of the Witwatersrand, and performs visual, tactile and discursive investigations into current indigenous cultural practices. With a view towards decolonised practices in contemporary culture, her work is in constant conversation with her past and present visual landscapes. Working to maintain a state of unlearning and relearning, Mbali’s process recognises language as a medium of understanding and as a repository of knowledge.
During her residency at Embassy of Foreign Artists in Geneva, Mbali will expand on her masters research, which focused on the etymology of colour in South African Indigenous languages and how African Independent Churches use colour to appropriate Christianity. She is interested in studying the archives from the Swiss missionaries that were sent to South Africa to establish churches. The archive is situated at The Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland and serves as the base for Church organisations such as the world council of churches. Mbali intends to submerge herself in the archive and create dialogue through staging a series of night vigils or Imilindelo, inviting the public to Lindela (observe) with her.
Umlindelo is a Zulu word for a practice that is conducted a night before a burial or a religious/ancestral ceremony. Ukulindela is to await, to take a pause and remain present in a moment by acknowledging the reason for the engagement. During Umlindelo a series of events are performed that are in line with the intention of the ceremony.
Mbali explains her project: “I am drawn to this research by the titles used to describe and label most of the images. The images are generally titled ‘African women/African men‘ with often only the Swiss missionaries named. The project intends to Lindela (dwell) on the titles and use artistic interpretations to rethink and rename the images. Through this process I ask; how do you bring back the image to the owner? How do you retract images recorded and shared publicly without the subject’s consent? What is the significance of these images that exist in colonial archives and museums, outside their country of origin? Can the images be erased? Or rather, how do you reimagine the image and its place in history? These questions will unfold through the series of events performed during Umlindelo.”
Mbali Dhlamini trained as a printmaker at Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg from 2008 to 2009 and received a National Diploma and Bachelor of Technology in Visual Arts from the University of Johannesburg in 2013 and 2014, respectively. While working towards a Master of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand between 2014 and 2015, Mbali explored faith and spirituality through the use of colour in Apostolic and Zionist movements. In 2015, her graduate solo exhibition “Non-Promised Land: Bana Ba Thari Entsho” was hosted at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg.
Mbali has participated in art exhibitions in South Africa and abroad, including at the Washington Printmakers Gallery in 2014, the Beijing Biennale in 2015 and the European Cultural Center during the Venice Biennale in 2019. In 2012, her work was selected for the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) public art commission in Johannesburg.