Through her work, Lungiswa Gqunta grapples with the complexities of the South African post-colonial cultural and political landscape. Focusing on creating multi – sensory 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 nots, 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.
Lungiswa Gqunta, Building Mountains, 2021, clay, rusted iron, dimensions variable, exhibition overview Terra Incognita, 2022, AKINCI, photo by Peter Tijhuis
Lungiswa Gqunta (1990, Port Elizabeth) is a visual artist working in performance, printmaking, sculpture and installation. From 2019-2021, Gqunta has been in residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam. Gqunta has also obtained her undergraduate degree at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2012 and her MFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in Cape Town in 2017.
In addition to her practice, Gqunta is one of the founding members of iQhiya, with whom she participated in Documenta 14 and Glasgow International. She has participated in the Manifesta 12 (2018) and the 15th Istanbul Biennial (2017) and has also been included in the group exhibition ‘Not a Single Story II’ at the Wanas Konst Museum in Sweden. She has been actively involved in the South African art scene, having exhibited with both the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art and the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), as well as held two solo exhibitions, Qwitha (2018) and Qokobe (2016), with WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery in Cape Town, SA. In 2019, AKINCI presented both her installations ‘Feet under Fire’ and ‘Sleeping Pools’ within the exhibition ‘Heroines Now’.
Gqunta has had a solo exhibition at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, DE (2021) and will have a solo exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK (2022). Recent exhibitions were at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, (2021), Centraal Museum Utrecht (2021 – 2022) and Marres House for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht, NL (2021). Her work forms part of the public collections of the MMK Frankfurt, Kunsthal Zurich, Centraal Museum Utrecht, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, The University of Cape Town and Zeitz MOCAA.
Solo exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute
8 July – 30 October, 2022
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK
Whiteness as Property: Racism and ownership
Curated by Ana Hoffner ex-Prvulovic
After the text of the same name by Cheryl I. Harris.
11 February – 6 June, 2022
Künstlerhaus, Austrian Artists’ Assiciation, Vienna, AT
The botanical revolution
Curated by Laurie Cluitmans
11 September – 9 January, prolongued until 1 May, 2022
Centraal Museum, Utrecht, NL
Ubuntu, a lucid dream
Curated by Marie-Ann Yemsi
November 26 – 20 February, 2022
Palais de Tokyo, Paris, FR
Solo Exhibition – Title to be confirmed
Whatiftheworld, Cape Town, ZA