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          Rich Mnisi, Dzuvula (Shedding Skin)
          Dzuvula 2024 - Rich Mnisi

          Dzuvula (Shedding Skin)

          Rich Mnisi

          Cape Town
          8 February - 30 May 2024

          Dzuvula expands on the cosmology of duality that emerged with Mnisi’s debut collection Nyoka (2021). This latest body of work complicates the interplay of the mundane and the magical, the matriarchal and magisterial - themes that emanate from the artist’s embrace of fluidity as a guiding philosophy and aesthetic approach.

          Dzuvula 2024 - Rich Mnisi
          Dzuvula 2024 - Rich Mnisi

          Southern Guild Cape Town presents Dzuvula (Shedding Skin), a solo exhibition of collectible design by Rich Mnisi, from 8 February to 30 May 2024. Comprising sculptural bronze furniture and lighting, as well as a hand-woven limited-edition rug, Dzuvula is an expansion on the cosmology of duality that emerged with the designer’s debut collection, Nyoka (2021). The body of work complicates the interplay of the mundane and the magical, the matriarchal and magisterial – themes that have emanated from the artist’s embrace of fluidity as a guiding philosophy and aesthetic approach.

          The snake – with its embodiment of fear and beauty – makes a reappearance in Dzuvula, the undulating arcs of its movement distorting and disrupting borders and edges. A hiss resounds through this collection, a sensuous whisper hinting at something deviant, rubbing against boundaries, smoothing hard gradients, holding within its resonant sound conflicting truths and contrasts.

          A polished bronze table, titled Mbhoni (Witness), bulges and swells outwards, held up on a serpentine limb that at once embraces and impales it. A pair of sculptural seats, Ripfumelo I and Ripfumelo II, combining bronze armatures and sheepskin seats, introduce a soft lushness to the collection, embodying fear/comfort dualities.

          In Vutlhari II (Wisdom), a bronze chandelier, the serpent contorts over and into itself in a manner best described as swirling, consuming wisdom handed down by our forebears. In this edition of the chandelier – a collaboration between Rich Mnisi and designer Charles Haupt that debuted in Nyoka – the shades have been printed with an intricate snakeskin pattern.

          Dzuvula also references Bumba, the Bushongo mythological god who created life by vomiting up elements of the natural world. Shiluva (Flower), a rug in Tibetan wool and silk, depicts the primordial soup of Bumba’s regurgitation of life. Nyoka II, a curved console which also first appeared in Mnisi’s 2021 solo, is punctuated by the winding form of a bronze snake, its storage cavity concealed by richly patterned beading inspired by Mnisi’s 2022 Mafamba Yexe fashion collection. Bursts of gleaming bronze are interwoven with insights from the past and the future.

          Collaborating closely with Southern Guild, Mnisi brought his visions to life by working with various artists and artisans including Haupt, Monkeybiz and PACO. This aligns with both Southern Guild and the designer’s commitment to promoting craft and South African handwork.

          Collaboration is an incredibly intimate praxis, requiring connection and closeness before it can reach for comprehension. Intimacy as a theme runs throughout Mnisi’s works, in the way their forms hug the body and require the viewer to move around, their silhouettes changing with every view. Nwa-Mulamula’s Embrace (2021) is named after his great grandmother and models its form on the curved shape of the late matriarch. Reworked in concrete for this collection, it is a powerful evocation of the transfer of knowledge between generations, here transmuted into a gesture of peace, reflected in its title, Rhulani (Peace).

          Where Nyoka attempted to hold the frictions and tensions of creation and life, Dzuvula expands on this world to draw parallels between the snake’s duplexity and our own conflicting nature. Nyoka spoke to creation through regurgitation and the drawing together of things; Dzuvula speaks to the things that quietly encroach in between. This new body of work is the spark created by that friction: the animation of life. Reflective surfaces refract and manipulate light, creating many forms from the teasing apart of one.

          “We are at once faithful and faithless, bound and free,” Mnisi notes. “Sustaining existence within life's many tensions defines the human experience. Dzuvula turns the acceptance of this immutable truth into a sensory journey. Every piece reflects the result of growing into oneself – risk and vulnerability, strain and ease – through a vocabulary of forms, patinas, patterns and textures.”