Main Image: Supplied Zainab Ismail’s works speak to intricate ecosystems.
Glimpses into a shifting city is the theme for the new exhibition at the African Art Centre in Durban’s Florida Road.
The much-loved community gallery is continuing its support for local talent by showcasing an exhibition for the winners in the fine art category of the Interpret Durban 7 (ID7) competition.
Entitled The Shift, the exhibition invited the three winners – Zainab Ismail, Iain Robinson and Levi Matthew Arrikum – to each produce a body of work that serves as a creative interpretation of the city.
The exhibition opened to a crowded gallery as friends, family and loyal supporters flocked to the event.
The chairman of the African Art Centre, Yanni Vosloo, said this initiative was part of a movement to keep artists in KwaZulu-Natal.
Ismail, a third-year graphic design student at the Durban University of Technology, presented pieces that varied from acrylic to detailed ink work.
The idea behind her work, she said, was to portray the beasts of South Africa.
“I want people to see that there is beauty behind these beasts. They are not just animals, they are living, walking, breathing organisms with a unique structure and imprint.”
Her ink and charcoal drawings are incredibly detailed works that draw on her love for henna design and speak to the intricacy of our ecosystems.
Robinson, more popularly known in Durban as hip-hop artist Ewok, won second place and his exhibition curiously straddles different themes, one being a collection of hands in rap gestures and the other a city engulfed by greenery.
While the former may be consistent with his hip-hop roots, it is the latter that does the theme justice – the bright and various greens express the unique vibrancy of flora in Durban.
The greenery also remains true to Ewok’s style because the leaves are painted in the form of graffiti tags.
It is these pieces that seem to really capture the essence of this city, a bright green mass that shifts between natural and urban beauty.
The standout work, though, is Arrikum who attempts to grapple with the theme of a shifting city in a more abstract way.
Layered paper with burnt edges and dripping paint tell the story of a complicated Durban.
Arrikum, whose works are based on walks through the city, said he was influenced by the elements of homelessness, desperation, exploitation and poverty he had seen.
His works seem to best encapsulate the theme of The Shift; the layers of the art speak to the layers of the city and they raise pertinent questions – what is happening to our city and where is it going?
And what perhaps best captures the city is that, despite their sombre renderings, there is a spark of hope in his pieces that speaks through the grit.
It’s worth the visit, if only to be assured that art is truly alive and kicking in this city.
• ‘The Shift’ runs at the African Art Centre in Florida Road, Durban, until July 29.
• This article was originally published in The Times. (https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2017-07-04-durban-artists-offer-intriguing-glimpses-into-a-city-in-transition/?device=feature_phone_