Zwelidumile Geelboi Mgxaji Mslaba “Dumile” Feni (1942 – 1991) was a South African contemporary visual artist of immense power who spent a large part of his life in exile. Four seminal performance artists of our time were invited to consider the range of his work and his life and to create initial performative provocations. Bringing together these artists, Zimbabwean born, New York based nora chipaumire; 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art Chuma Sopotela; British-Rwandan Dorothée Munyaneza and Ivorian Nadia Beugré in one programme is a feat in itself. Their responses to the provocation are testament to their standing as artists in their own right.
Sidestepping a prosaic re-interpretation of another artist’s work, each performance artist also delve deeper into aspects of Feni’s life, aspects that resonated with them – the ache of and for home, a pre-occupation with music from the motherland, creating art in poverty, the paradox of exile – that bring us closer to understanding Feni, the artist and the human. This is probably the only time that we will witness these artists on one programme. It is envisaged that each response to the provocation will be developed into individual works for later iterations of the National Arts Festival and the ICA Live Art Festival.
Dumile Feni’s life comprised a complex series of events of persecution and opportunity through the height of apartheid in South Africa. Forced into exile, his work took him to many parts of the world, much of it spent in poverty. Like many artists of his ilk Feni was more celebrated after his death. He never got a chance to come back home and died in New York in 1991. A comprehensive biography is available here https://www.sahistory.org.za/people/dumile-feni and images of his extensive work here http://www.artnet.com/artists/dumile-feni-mhlaba-zwelidumile-mxgazi/ and here https://www.artsy.net/artist/dumile-feni.
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(another) township manifesto
A short tribute to Zwelidumile Geelboi Mgxaji Mhlaba “Dumile” Feni