Durban - Multimedia artist Robin Moodley celebrates his creative homecoming this weekend when he opens his first exhibition in 30 years.
Time in Space and Time in Memory is a two-part solo exhibition which runs in separate venues on opposite sides of Durban.
He told the Independent on Saturday that the magnitude of the exhibition would be one seldom seen in the province and the country.
“I realised I just needed to push the boundaries and get fully into this art making and fully express myself in all the different mediums,” he said.
The first part opens at the art shed in the AmmaZulu Gardens and Sculpture Precinct in Kloof at 2pm today (Saturday) and the second part at the KZNSA gallery in Glenwood on August 12.
Although there are two venues, the theme remains the same.
The concepts of disenfranchisement, marginalisation and the fractured identities we carry as well as the meaning of decolonising ourselves are the key themes in his work, said Moodley.
His art engages all the viewer’s senses ‒ think music, interviews, the physical washing of feet, paintings 8.5m high ‒ all drawing you into the experience.
One facet of his exhibition is an installation at the KZNSA Gallery commemorating 10 years since 34 striking miners were killed by police in Marikana in the North West.
Moodley said the nation had still not healed from that and if the Marikana issue had been properly addressed, then the response to the deadly looting and the riots that erupted in Durban and Gauteng last year would have been different.
“So the Marikana installation is where I've got sand from Pondoland where the miners come from and interviews with the chief and leaders, and sand from the koppie where the massacre took place,” he said.
Moodley effectively turns the gallery into a room of sand which can only be entered without shoes.
“People walk in bare feet and I’ve got a minimalist landscape which is old rusty lockers with concretised garments, concretised gloves and in the background you have the subtle playing of the mourning songs of the amaMpondo and isiZulu, of those who passed.”
Moodley said as people left the gallery they had the opportunity to wash someone’s feet ‒ not their own ‒ with the buckets and water provided.
In addition, the KZNSA exhibition pays homage to the “kitchen boy suit” with six models showing how he has redesigned it from being an outfit of subservience to one that can be celebrated from a position of affirmed identity, he said.
“I have rebranded the visual elements by restructuring the garment and its current application to rise above the historical memory of marginalisation and disenfranchisement to that of celebration and destigmatisation.”
Moodley’s work strongly reflects his political activist side which led to him being asked to leave the University of Durban-Westville and finish his studies at Natal Technikon in the late 1970s and early 80s.
At the Kloof exhibition he uses concrete to “freeze time” by designing something which looks like an archaeological dig made from hand-made bricks.
These are set in a bed of sand which features the Eucharist feast with a table as well as bread and wine, all symbolising fellowship, said Moodley.
“Life happens,” he said when asked why he abandoned art all those years ago.
What followed was a job at the Mobil (Engen) Refinery in Wentworth, marriage, children and then running a full-time interior design business, but there was always an acknowledgement that he would return to art.
The intervening years were tough. After the death of his wife and then more recently his son, Moodley finally found his way back to art.
The Independent on Saturday