To welcome in this era, the K.T. Wong Foundation has partnered with the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town for a special screening of Chinese contemporary multimedia artist Yang Yongliang’s (YYL) masterpiece “Five Dragons”.
The screening will take place on Saturday (February 10) and will be free to the public.
This initiative is the brainchild of Lady Linda Wong-Davies, who founded the K.T. Wong Foundation in 2008, in the UK.
The goal of the organisation – which is a leading cultivator and producer of cultural collaboration and exchange between East and West – is to nurture and foster cultural understanding between China and the rest of the world, and vice versa.
The foundation currently has outreaches in South Africa, the UK, Europe and China.
As part of its work, the organisation also supports several initiatives with local public arts and educational institutions by linking the vibrant African arts scene with the established but often unknown cultural scripts in China.
In addition, the donation of this public screening to the Iziko South African National Gallery will run for three months.
“I am delighted to be able to share this exceptional work by one of China’s most important contemporary artists today,” Wong-Davies said.
She added that the aim of screening this art piece is not only to welcome in the Year of the Dragon, but to reflect on the artistic representations of landscape in contemporary encounters between Asia and Africa.
It is also to promote awareness to South African audiences about other cultural histories.
“I am grateful to the gallery for their support and their important role in facilitating this cultural exchange,” Wong-Davies said.
But she added that one of the most important reasons for the screening is to welcome in the Year of the Dragon.
The “Five Dragons” screening also forms part of the foundation’s ambitious “Marvellous Realism” art exhibition, which will entail curated African photographic artworks travelling to Shanghai later in 2024.
The exhibition’s purpose is to present a reorientation of the meaning of Africa beyond the commonplace imagery circulating about the continent and its people.
And when it comes to the Chinese New Year, astrologers believe that dragons are traditionally water gods that overlook the ocean and protect the ecology.
But they also believe that since the 20th century, dragons have been widely misused as auspicious figures or generalised as Asian cultural symbols.
In the screening of the “Five Dragon” series, artist Yongliang has focused on melding fantasy and ancient wisdom.
This is in a bid to set a new narrative for self-interpretation and reflection by the viewer.
The artist also explained that “Five Dragons” unveils the cohabitation of five dragons amongst a natural landscape, with their destinies unforeseen.
The work is inspired by the Southern Song Dynasty master painter Chen Rong’s (C.1200 – 1266) traditional depiction of these mythical beasts.
Meanwhile, chief curator at the Iziko South African National Gallery Andrew Lamprecht added that he is equally pleased that the gallery can be involved in this sharing of cultures as the year of the Dragon is ushered in.
“I am thrilled to be part of this cross-cultural event which brings the historical art of China into a contemporary focus,” he said.
“We are grateful to the K.T. Wong Foundation for bringing this innovative example of cutting-edge video art to the Iziko South African National Gallery and look forward to exciting collaborations in the future.”
Lamprecht added that 2024 is specifically the year of the Wood Dragon and that the year ahead is anticipated to deliver opportunities, evolution and abundance.
Astrologers believe that the dragon is traditionally the emblem of Chinese emperors as they are the earthly manifestation of the sons of heaven.
In addition, red is also most often the colour associated with the dragon and in Chinese mythology, wearing red or adding this colour to decor is a traditional way to attract good fortune.
The details for the screening of “Five Dragons”:
Where: Iziko South African National Gallery
When: Saturday, February 10, at 2pm
Cost: Standard entry fee.