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          Manyaky Mashilo - An Order of Being
          Manyaky Mashilo - An Order of Being
          Manyaky Mashilo - An Order of Being

          An Order of Being

          Manyaku Mashilo

          Cape Town
          23 November 2023 - 1 February 2024

          Manyaku Mashilo's figures bloom forth from an abstracted liminality, their forms migrating through and beyond lines that appear to contour and cloak a celestial landscape. This expansive future realm liberates and heals, resisting singular compartmentalisation of the self.

          Manyaky Mashilo - An Order of Being
          Manyaky Mashilo - An Order of Being

          Southern Guild presents An Order of Being, the gallery's first solo exhibition by South African artist Manyaku Mashilo.

          An Order of Being is a gentle confrontation with the multiplicity of the artist’s past, present and future facets of selfhood. Mashilo’s practice acts as a vehicle for sense-making; her canvases stand as liminal spaces for synthesising elements of her religious upbringing, ancestral heritage, both real and invented myth, folklore, science fiction, music and sourced archival photographic images.

          This series of mixed-media paintings resists singular compartmentalisation of the self and the cultural practices that have come to define and inform Mashilo’s unfolding sense of the world. Her subjects shapeshift between hybridised identities to welcome an alternative understanding of how a person comes into being. This future world does not repress or shame this complexity; it welcomes and holds expansive space for an evolving and indefinable multiplicity.

          Manyaky Mashilo - An Order of Being

          An Order of Being
          Text by Julie Nxadi

          To the mothers, fathers, birthers, rearers – greetings.
          To the guardians, leaders, pathfinders, and seekers – greetings.
          To the father, the son, to the holy ghost – greetings.
          To the mother, the child, the intangible most – greetings.
          To the timber above and the stone beneath bended knee – greetings.
          To the faithful, the seers told not to see – greetings.
          To the believer and their vow, to the land, to the plough – greetings.
          To the enquiring mind.
          To the cruel.
          To the kind. Greetings
          The seen and unseen acknowledged and forgotten – greetings in this, contemplation and
          celebration of being. Amen.

          The question in these textures is not how did we get here but how will we survive here. Here as in: now, tomorrow, after, freedom – how will we be? We have all known to look to tomorrow in the pit of night before dawn breaks the sky’s surface. Abanye baye ngale abanye ba wele – but today these textures ask: so far, dear traveller, how have you found your way?
          How does it feel to be here, how will we know when we get there?

          Manyaku said:
          “There are other worlds they have not told you of. Here these figures have become this world. We are the place. This is what I was taught. It is by design that feminine energy reads across the board because my spirituality is learned from my mothers and sisters – separate from my brothers and fathers. This is how I learned to pray.”

          I have clung my bare feet to stone – my white dress catching wind – and when the cold water cramped my body so tight that I could not sing I could hear them say: “Do not waver when they hold you under, you have to have not been in order to be born again!” Drown but do not die. And remember the conditions that apply: “child, honour thy parent – parent, offer thy child.”
          to cleanse these sins – to survive this trial.
          We have read, learned – we have been taught.
          But traveller, do you remember how it feels to be born (again)? And I wonder, to remember how to be born, must I remember how to die again?

          Manyaku said:
          “I used to portrait figures based on people I knew, now I invent characters. I have had to find out new things – make from scratch: Make skin tones, plan similarities, consider race, exaggerate features – be deliberate about distinguishing those features, blank my slate while contending with the reality that I cannot unsee or un-know. These moments of making are as spontaneous as history itself. I found myself resting on red – the colour of the rite of passage across African cultures. The reoccurring smear of red ochre on brown skin as a sign post for new beginnings.”

          I have buttered imbola (ochre) on my bare skin and polished the armour I’ve had to wear to make it here. Here as in: the foot of the mountain, the dark of the night, the bed of a rushing river. And when the thump in my chest threatened to tear me in two I heard them say: “Do not go stiff with fear when what you have been seeking comes to find you, it was always going to change you into yourself!” Suffocate but do not die. It is endless – the opacity of who you may have been up until now. Every name before you has been a rung to and past you.

          Tomorrow, honour yesterday – yesterday, offer tomorrow to cleanse these sins. To start again.

          But seeker, do you remember how it feels to be found (again)? To remember how to be found, must you remember how to wander?

          Manyaku said:
          “There are these images that Peter Magubane captured of returning initiates in his African Renaissance collection that remind me that this too is an other world – an other place. A place that we are from. A place that we are. Built on real magic and so told through magic realism. Speculative and confirmed. Santu Mofokeng writes of ‘places where reality blends freely with unreality’ in his Stories booklets, photographing rituals in caves and ‘perhaps chasing shadows’ . He writes of neglecting his own spirituality in his work citing ‘ambivalence, embarrassment, fear of political and other implications, or perhaps the deflection of my gaze’ (Stories, Steidl, 2019). He writes to me. And through the prism of his lens I have been able to witness the past and interfere with my own now. To process and digest – to partake in a futuristic and wild dreaming telekinesis between then and now. Mine is a simple duty: to say I am here. To say we were here."

          Of late I pull at the wet and heavy garments of ritual wanting something confronting. Weary of innuendo and hunting for a competence in protecting this living spirit.

          Manyaku said:
          “I often think with lines and I imagine a pilgrimage. Or mapping. Or roots. Some see fingerprints. Or a vortex. Or routing - pathfinding. I work on different types of canvases: cloth and flesh. I map bodies to spirits. I listen. I find music in lines. So much grounding is hidden in those lines. Like when energy ripples in water, unravelling like fabric or maybe transmitting like soundwaves. It's a technology of processing that I gladly and humbly mimic from nature.”

          This child of bells and drums and horns and Moria and mediation and jazz and life and death and play. This disciple of pilgrimage, prayer, piety - this believer in tomorrow - this being that is tomorrow. I conduct myself with unabashed greed. I cup my hands at the fountain of knowing and rub ubutyebi (abundance) all over me like ointment. I hum free jazz with a knot in my throat and a silver cross leaned into the cave of my clavicle. I slip in the grasp of my loves, solving the riddle that is my body. I stand in the wind with a paraffin lamp flame fluttering in my hands. I speak in movement. I think in sound. I make to contemplate. I name my teachers. I reach out my arms and reject the sacred loneliness. I look into the eyes of others and touch the hem of my sister’s clothes. I am not alone. I cannot be alone not while I am so many materials - gold, red ochre, ink, flesh, sweat, oil, paint, spit, hair, tears, paraffin, placenta on dry grass, felt, cold steel on cotton, rancid fat of youth, wax crayon on canvas, yesterday, today, tomorrow. I am tomorrow: a witness and a promise. To survive here I need only say what I saw.