The approximate English translation for the Xhosa word ‘ixesha’ is time. By titling his third solo exhibition with Goodman Gallery iXesha!, Jabulani Dhlamini offers a lens for considering this elusive concept through his photography, which expands on the notion of time in various ways.
This early-career survey brings together recent bodies of work in which Dhlamini explores the concept of a collective national memory in light of South Africa’s traumatic history.
iQhawekazi (2018), a key series on this exhibition, responds to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s recent death. For this series, Dhlamini turns his camera toward symbolic expressions of mourning and memory, such as the informal street memorials that coalesced around Madikizela-Mandela’s official memorial in Soweto. This moving series was first published in the Financial Times for the ‘Millennials’ edition in April 2018. Among the nine photographers selected for this issue, Dhlamini was the only featured artist from the African continent. In this special edition, he is named as ‘one of the best young photographic talents around the world’.
Another key series in iXesha! is Recaptured (2016), in which Dhlamini explores the interaction between personal and collective memory within the context of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. From 2013 to 2016, Dhlamini spent time with South Africans who experienced the trauma of the massacre, seeking to create a visual representation of social memory by photographing objects which triggered individual recollections of that historic day.
Dhlamini’s characteristically subtle approach to capturing South Africa’s fraught past and present positions him within a specific trajectory of South African photography, initially carved out by the late David Goldblatt. In recognition of a shared sensibility, Dhlamini was selected by Goldblatt to feature alongside three other young local photographers for Five Photographers, A Tribute to David Goldblatt at the French Institute in Johannesburg earlier this year.
For Dhlamini, iXesha! represents an important moment, ‘bringing together various bodies of work that document the present in different contexts, as I lay down a foundation for navigating the future’.
According to curator Teboho Ralesai, Dhlamini’s subtlety in vision stems from the fact that he sees the self as equally important to the collective: ‘This translates into shooting quiet moments and symbolic objects, often pointing away from the action, which can, in turn, resonate very powerfully with a sense of collective feeling and memory.’all images © the gallery and the artist(s)