RONALD MUCHATUTA’S UKUBHABHA / KUMBURURUKA / TO FLY

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16 Aug 2018

– We want to fly but we need a Moroka An emboldened Ronald Muchatuta has crafted the largest single work he has ever put together. The ambitious mixed media artwork which is rendered in oil pastel, acrylic, mosaic and collage consists of sixty square panels of 50cm x 50cm each. The entire work covers three metres in height and five metres in length.

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Inside the intimate setting at WORLDART his latest offering, which is named Ukubhabha / Kumbururuka / To Fly, dominates a wall which usually holds two or three canvases. The work is part of the exhibition, What is South Africa, even?, curated by Carlyn Strydom of Museum Her whose approach to curating leans heavily towards the more idealistic and participatory purposes of art than a directly commercial focus. In this mode of experimentation Strydom has acknowledged the necessity in allowing unsung artists the space to reflect on current contemporary South African struggles. The question posed by the curator is a complex one. Spoken out loud the question is Millennial-speak for a state of being perplexed. The question posed by the exhibition might as well be a maze.


On first impressions the connections to the well known Picasso work, Guernica, seem like they’re obvious due to the size and the minimalist palette. With the exception of Muchatuta’s introduction of the colour brown (by means of collage) they are quite similar in their choice of greyscale. The clearer connections are perhaps the references to Greek culture and mythology which pervaded Picasso’s work throughout his seventy-eight-year career.

On the top, side and bottom rows of To Fly the figures portrayed are reminiscent of those in ancient Greece’s temple reliefs. The row depicts people engaged in warfare, and with this row he lays the foundation for his ‘argument’. Under the reign of Alexander the Great ancient Greece rose to its position of world power but we know that his empire crumbled soon after his death – being split between his generals. Empires rise and eventually they fall – the ruins of their achievements remaining behind as a symbol of their past glory. Stepping back to survey this artwork, more references to the Greek empire become apparent but one needs to be more observant. Hidden in plain sight one can see the white outlines which form an architectural structure resembling the front of the Parthenon. The artist points out the conquests of ancient empires but also shows us the structures (represented by pillars) which held up the summit (the Parthenon’s roof) of Greece’s achievements...Click to continue reading