Through her work, Lungiswa Gqunta grapples with the complexities of the South African post-colonial cultural and political landscape. Focusing on creating multisensory experiences that attempt to articulate the social imbalances that persist as a legacy of both patriarchal dominance and colonialism, Gqunta exposes different forms of violence and the systemic inequality in South Africa.
Informed by her upbringing in a shebeen household in the suburb of New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Gqunta is no stranger to the economic legacy of the apartheid regime. Issues of inequality, gender violence and substance abuse as cultivated through the South African Dop system, are all subjects that come under Gqunta’s scrutiny. Working primarily with found materials; empty beer bottles, petrol, torn bed sheets and worn wooden bed frames, Gqunta’s work confronts the viewer with a series of uncomfortable negotiations. Between masculine and feminine, the revolutionary and the oppressed and the haves and the have-not’s, her work unflinchingly cuts through idealized notions of domestic space, enclaves of privilege and political apathy. Gqunta’s media of choice: broken glass, razor wire and concrete, are all ubiquitous to an urban township landscape and Gqunta utilizes these emotionally loaded materials to great effect, so that both the potential threat of violence and its aftermath are deftly balanced in her work. Her installations combine these elements with ‘softer’ materials like cotton sheets and soft spoken voices, which in turn carry layers of meaning, history; a contrast of violence and warmth.