11 September 2023

2021 Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award winner, Abongile Sidzumo's exhibition, has taken centre stage at the Johannes Stegmann Gallery on the main campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein. Abongile has brought his unique and diverse collection of art entitled “Amagoduka” a term used for people who live in urban areas but are originally from rural locations to a city renowned for culture and inspiration.

Abongile’s practice is influenced by his life experience and the performance of everyday life in black communities. He uses discarded leather offcuts in his body of work and assembles them to create imaginary landscapes. Stitched together by thread, the leather works explore ideas around migrant labour, land, and class, with the act of repurposing leather offcuts drawing influence from the livelihoods of the working class.

Abongile's artwork delves into the often-overlooked suffering and violence experienced by black people. His pieces capture the essence of specific spaces and their impact on people's life journeys. They emphasise the significance of having a place to visit and spending time with loved ones as a form of healing. This sponsorship and exhibition, in partnership with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (a.k.a. SANAVA), align with Absa's commitment to bringing possibilities to life for visual artists and their broader mission of being an active force for good. Abongile’s solo exhibition is a culmination of his work and the opportunities afforded to him as the winner of the 2021 Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award.

Reflecting on his achievement, Sidzumo expressed heartfelt gratitude, utilising the Xhosa saying "Umntu Ngomntu Ngabantu," which encapsulates the idea that, "A person is a person through other people." Winning the Gerard Sekoto Award has not only been a defining moment in my career but also a humbling experience that has deepened my commitment to my art practice.”

“As I embark on this artistic journey and showcase my work in Bloemfontein, I carry with me a profound sense of appreciation for the opportunities that have come my way. I am grateful for the support of the Gerard Sekoto Award, Absa, French Institute of South Africa, the Johannes Stegmann Gallery, and all those who have believed in my artistic vision.’’

Through this exhibition, Abongile aspires to share his perspective, narrative, and art with the wider Bloemfontein community. He hopes to foster connections and conversations, to inspire and be inspired, and to contribute to the cultural tapestry of the city of roses. The expectation from this tour is to engage with art enthusiasts, to provoke thought and introspection through his work, and to create a meaningful dialogue that transcends boundaries and brings people closer through the power of art.

Dr Paul Bayliss, Senior Specialist Art and Museum Curator at Absa Group, spoke eloquently about the Absa L’Atelier programme, saying, "It is a legacy of nurturing the next generation of young African artists, offering them vital support, recognition, and the exposure needed to forge enduring careers. We take immense pride in our role within this journey, as we remain steadfast in our commitment to both showcasing and investing in the emerging artistic talent that Africa has to offer."

Absa's dedication to championing and safeguarding the arts is truly admirable, and Abongile exemplifies this commitment as a living embodiment of inspiration and cultural enrichment. These solo exhibitions not only honour the artist's unwavering enthusiasm and devotion but also enhance the cultural richness of the area. This is a significant event that underscores art's remarkable ability to transcend borders and foster unity among individuals through creative expression.