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Nicholas Hlobo:
Where is Your Navel?

by Pamela Allara


According to South African critic Amy Halliday, contemporary art from the African continent is “often either excluded from, or uncomfortably assimilated into, an overarching Western narrative.” Nicholas Hlobo, a young South African sculptor, mined this narrative for his 2008 installation at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, where his work was featured as part of the Momentum emerging artists series. Hlobo has been exhibiting internationally since his graduation from the Technikon Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 2002, effortlessly adapting the vocabulary of international contemporary art to reference his own “uncomfortable assimilation” into a globalized culture while maintaining his Xhosa heritage and South African gay male identity. He recently received the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award in Visual Art, a prize that included a year-long touring exhibition with stops at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town, among other venues. This year, he was selected for the Liverpool Biennial (opening September 18). He has also won the Visual Arts award in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Art Initiative and will spend the next year working with Anish Kapoor.

Thoba, utsale umnxeba, 2008.
Fabric, rubber inner tube, ribbon, lace, tassels, and impepho mat, view of ICA performance.

Image: John Kennard, © Nicholas Hlobo, Courtesy Michael Stevenson, Cape Town


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