The University of Pretoria is in an auspicious position to have an active annual acquisition art programme. The UP Art Committee purchases works from both established and upcoming South African artists. This month, we share two of our latest acquisitions by the UP Art committee, which are artworks by Philiswa Lila and Johannes Maswanganyi. The new acquisitions will eventually be publicly exhibited within the museum galleries. These works are permanently accessioned into the University of Pretoria’s art collection.
Philiswa Lila (b 1988)
Bead, string and wood
1600mm x 670mm
The first artwork, Simangele (2019) by Philiswa Lila, is a work made entirely out of beads. The artwork is meant to be displayed hanging down from the ceiling almost reaching the floor. The UP Museums curator Lelani Nicolaisen asked Lila a few questions about her work being acquired by the University of Pretoria, as well as of her experience of the lockdown situation.
According to Lila, the artwork Simangele (2019) is included in a body of work influenced by women who have influenced and played a critical role in her life. For Lila, these are "woman who have raised me, women who showed they are independent at the expense of being ridiculed for their choices and women who understood that their gendered role is not less than that of a man.” Lila continues that “Simangele is the name of my late aunt. This artwork is a dedication to her life. It is, therefore important for Lila that the women in her family, culture and community receive the special attention they deserve and are represented within her work.
Lila is excited about her work being included in the University’s collection. She told Nicolaisen that “It feels really amazing to have my work in the UP new acquisitions. I appreciate the support of collectors, and for a university to see the importance of my practice is a vision I’ve always had in terms of seeing my work in an academic setting and a space where students have the opportunity to interact with art.” The UP Museums are also excited to have Lila’s work exhibited and for the public to view Simangele in the Edoardo Villa Museum and Sculpture Gallery early next year.
Many artists have been affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions of the national lockdown. We accordingly asked Lila how she was impacted by the national lockdown due to COVID-19. According to Lila, the lockdown did not have an impact on her practice in terms of making art. Most of the artist’s time was spent in her “… studio producing artworks, experimenting, thinking and writing. The first three months of lockdown felt like an artist residency, only without a new city or the experience of another place, culture, people and spaces [laugh]. Not having access to travelling, galleries, museums, meeting friends and all of that is starting to feel like a need at this point in time but I have to think about my health first, and the safety of my family and friends too.”
In her work, Lila explores the physical, mental and spiritual spaces of her own experiences by exploring methods of remembering these as stories. Lila is particularly interested in memory histories and personal identities. The artist is also influenced by the nuances of language as she explores individual experiences within the framework of culture, mainly in isiXhosa, while also keeping in mind that there is an interconnectedness within the different cultures of South Africa. The notion of language in her work is explored within the meaning and experiences of individualism, especially concerning the physical and emotional senses that are related to humans and animals.
Philiswa Lila is a multimedia artist and scholar based in Pretoria, South Africa. She has a B-Tech degree in Fine and Applied Art (Tshwane University of Technology), an Honours degree in Curatorship (University of Cape Town) and a Masters in Art History (Rhodes University). Lila works across disciplines like painting, drawing, bead sculpture, performance and writing. In her practice she explores different mediums to create artworks that reflect elements of animal skin (sheep, goat and cow), beading, wood, paper and video. In 2019, Philiswa completed a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France after winning the prestigious Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award in 2018. In 2020, the Absa Gallery hosted her well received debut solo exhibition Skin, Bone, Fire: The First Album, which then toured to various venues in South Africa in association with Alliance Francaise. Dr Esther Mahlangu selected Philiswa as her ‘artist to watch’ for the 2019 SEED auction. Philiswa Lila is represented by the Melrose gallery. Recent projects include: RMB Turbine art Fair special projects Tactile Visions – Woven
Read more about the artwork Simangele in our Artwork 4 the week blog.
Leopard attacking a man, ca. 1990
Johannes Maswanganyi (b. 1949)
Carved and painted wood
1500mm x 850mm x 600mm
Johannes Maswanganyi was born in 1949 in Msengi, near Giyani in the Limpopo Province. He does not have any formal institutional art training and learnt the method of carving by observing his father creating functional and everyday wooden utensils. His first exhibition was in 1985, where he adapted storage containers and other day to day objects into artworks. From the late 1980s and early 1990s, Maswanganyi began to create more complex compositions, using various pieces of wood to incorporate multiple figures and to include the subject of the landscape. As an artist, he employs a bold use of colour to wood and his works are easily recognisable as portrait depictions of local and political leaders. In 1995, he participated in the Tributaries exhibition held in Munich, Germany.
Maswanganyi’s artworks are located in major collections such as the Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town; Durban Art Gallery; University of the Witwatersrand; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Sanlam Art Collection, Bellville, Cape and now the University of Pretoria Art Collection. Leopard attacking a man (ca. 1990) was purchased by the University of Pretoria Art committee in 2020 from Strauss & Co Auctioneers as a contemporary addition to the museum sculpture collection.
Read more about the artwork Leopard attacking a man in our Artwork 4 the week blog.