The first solo exhibition by artist Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi was due to open at the Stevenson gallery in Joburg, when South Africa (and the rest of the world) went into lockdown. The gallery ended up having a virtual exhibition opening on Instagram Live that Nkosi narrated by voice note from her cupboard. Gymnasium is an ongoing series of work that Nkosi has been producing since 2012, all of which you can see at her website.
In Gymnasium the artist portrays the fraught realm of competitive women’s gymnastics. Yet with crisp, flat forms and a muted colour palette, she deftly constructs scenes that are undeniably meditative. She surfaces the tension between the sport’s white, patriarchal, propagandistic history and its present-day heroes – young women of colour like Simone Biles. At the same time, Nkosi draws a compelling parallel between the worlds of gymnastics and contemporary art. “As much as the work is talking about race and the idea of performing identity, the work is also about painting and about finding its place in the history of image-making and of painting black people and people of colour.” Nkosi said. – words by Casey Lesser via Artsy
Nkosi was born in NYC and grew between the US, Zimbabwe & South Africa. She holds a BA from Harvard and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts. She lives in Jozi with her family and is active on Instagram. Gymnasium is showing at Stevenson till 27 June and you can view the exhibition by appointment.
edit: here’s another great article about Nkosi and her Gymnasium series, that i happened to see after i wrote this post – it is well worth the read. (WeTransfer’s blog has fantastic stories!)