Harper’s is pleased to present two concurrent exhibitions of work by the Los Angeles–based painters Simphiwe Ndzube and Cassi Namoda, which will open on July 21 and remain on view through August 15. Highlighting Namoda's two recent series titled We Killed Mangy Dog and Childe Cas’s Pilgrimage, Cassi Namoda: We Killed Mangy Dog will be installed in the upper-level gallery. Despite their disparate formal styles, Ndzube and Namoda are united by their inventive approaches to figuration and their engagement with the histories of their home countries of South Africa and Mozambique, respectively. Both exhibitions will be inaugurated with an opening reception, attended by the artists, on Saturday, July 21 from 5 to 8 pm.
Namoda’s paintings similarly interweave distinct influences and subjects, from personal memories to literary and historical accounts. For her series We Killed Mangy Dog—produced during a recent sojourn to Sintra, Portugal—she drew directly from the 1964 short story collection of the same title by the Mozambican writer Luís Bernardo Honwana. Recounted largely from the perspective of children, Honwana’s narratives address the political and social issues debilitating colonial-era Mozambique, highlighting, in particular, the entrenched racism and inequity maintained by the Portuguese government prior to the country’s independence in 1975. By placing specific characters at the heart of his critique, Honwana incisively tackles the repercussions of colonization on individuals’ psychological states, casting his protagonists as isolated and distraught, subjected to unremitting acts of violence and transgression.
In her reinterpretation of the author’s tales, Namoda likewise centers on certain characters’ subjective viewpoints, conveying their alienation and detachment through the segmentation of limbs and the conflation of multiple perspectives. Across the paintings on view, bodies disappear into the background, depth is collapsed, and space is compressed across brightly-hued panels. Like We Killed Mangy Dog, the self-portraits that comprise Childe Cas’s Pilgrimage were painted in Sintra and were inspired by a variety of literary and artistic sources, from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage—a narrative poem, also conceived in Sintra, about a world-wearied traveler—to Pablo Picasso’s Seated Woman series. Here, Namoda humorously casts herself as the noble “Childe Cas” in three distinct emotional states, taking formal cues from graphic illustrations and synthetic Cubism, while engaging with representations of women of mixed African and European descent. With rawness and intimacy, she deftly deploys thickly defined outlines, coarsely applied brushstrokes, and un-contoured surfaces to evoke the otherworldly, the subjective, and the allegorical in each unique body of work.
Cassi Namoda (b. Maputo, Mozambique) is an artist, curator, and fashion designer currently based in Los Angeles. Her recent solo exhibitions include Island of Earth, Front Room Gallery, Los Angeles (2017); Meat Is Meat + Our Nightly Bread, OOF Books, Los Angeles (2017); and Bar Texas 1971, Library Street Collective, Detriot (2018).