Spotlight on Joburg artist Kudzanai Chiurai and his new solo show

Remember Joburg artist Kudzanai Chiurai from our 2011 Urban Issue? ELLE‘s Cheska Liackman popped over to his Jeppestown loft apartment to chat to him about his work, life and his State of the Nation solo exhibition opening tomorrow night at The Goodman Gallery.

How did your loft style come about? I like the industrial look, so this warehouse was the perfect find. Also, I work big so I need a big space. As you can see, I love Dokter and Misses and I own a lot of their pieces. I studied with Katy [Taplin] and we’ve known each other for nine years. I commissioned Dokter and Misses to make my dining-room table and now they produce them commercially and named the design after me, the K-table. I change things around often, moving this piece here and that piece there. As you can also see, I like to keep things simple: a space does not have to be full.

Who or what dictates your personal style? Price! Everything has to be as cheap as possible. Even my Nike sneakers were on sale.

Where do you hang out? I love Kitchener’s and Arts on Main, and Main Street life are just around the corner. I always hang out with Maria McCloy at her stand at Market on Main. She finds all my clothes for me; she is a genius at sourcing amazing pieces. I like to cook at home, but when I am working, my signature dish includes take-outs and meals from Woolworths.

What is a day in the life of Kudzanai like? When I am working, I become nocturnal. My day starts at 5pm and ends at 3am. I like to work at night; it is quieter, there are no distractions, no-one is around. But people now know this and phone me at 1am to call me to a club!

What is State of the Nation about? The exhibition features photographic prints, drawings, large oil paintings, video, sounds installations and performance art. State of the Nation proposes fresh ways of looking at the sociopolitics of Africa today. Basically, the pieces look at the state and the nation; there is always a separation between the two. Melissa Mboweni is the curator and I collaborated with photographer Jurie Potgieter and singers Thandiswa Mazwai and Zaki Ibrahim. References include child soldiers, African liberation movements and civil wars.

What do you hope the reaction will be to the exhibition? The subject matter isn’t pleasant but, even if this is the case, you cannot avoid it. I hope people will appreciate the work.

What next? I am off to Marrakesh, Morocco for the Marrakesh Biennial. I will be doing a residency there during December and will return in February 2012.

Catch Kudzanai Chiurai’s State of the Nation exhibition at the Goodman Gallery Projects (Arts on Main, 264 Fox Street, Joburg) from 3 November – 3 December 2011. For more, visit www.elle.co.za

* Photographs: David Ross & Steve Karallis (top image)

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