Sethembile Msezane: Nibizwa Ngabangcwele
5 June - 28 November 2021
East End Gallery
Comprising of video and installation, with snuff powder blended into waxen limbs emerging from a sand-swept landscape, this whimsical exhibition explores the magic of snuff, a traditional medicine that also operates as a spiritual connector in several South African cultures. Sethembile Msezane thins the veil between the lives of the living and the wisdom of those that came before.
Nibizwa Ngabangcwele – which translates from isiZulu as ‘you are being called or summoned by your ancestors’ – urges the viewer to embrace their gifts and tools in spiritually restoring the legacies and African knowledge systems that were eradicated by colonialism. In doing so, the work contemplates imperial ideas, now crumbling, that sought to absorb and bury many indigenous cultures around the world.
In the artist’s own words, this work positively asserts that black ancestry is worthy. It is scholarly. It will rise again through the decolonial actions of current generations. Nibizwa Ngabangcwele can be understood as part of a rise in global decolonising movements such as Rhodes Must Fall, Black Lives Matter and the repatriation of artworks.
This work was produced during Msezane’s residency with the Sainsbury Centre and the Sainsbury Research Unit. It was prompted by a carved Zulu spoon in the Sainsbury Centre’s collection, which was used in the twentieth century for dispensing snuff in what is today KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa.
Funded by the UEA Global Talent Fellowship and supported by Dr Alison Dow.
Image: Still from Nibizwa Ngabangcwele, 2021, video © Sethembile Msezane