In her debut solo exhibition titled 12 Seconds, Johannesburg-
based multi-disciplinary visual artist Muofhe Manavhela presents a series of artworks delving into the depths of black womanhood. Currently on show at the Bubblegum Gallery in Braamfontein, Manavhela’s first solo exhibition is accompanied by aesthetically-pleasing self-composed representations of self constructed by Black femmes within their own microcosm. Drawing inspiration from her own positionality and experiences as a black woman, Muofhe’s work dismantles the contemporary harmful narratives about black women in a landscape of society that continues to diminish them.
How were you feeling ahead of your first solo show?
I was feeling quite anxious. With all honesty, I did not expect people to receive it well. There were many risks that I took from how I chose to communicate ( my visual language) to what I chose to communicate. It is my debut show so I really wanted to pull out all the stops and clearly define my place as an artist in South Africa, but the uncertainty of how it would be received made me extremely anxious in the process of preparing for the show.
How did this exhibition and the collaboration with Bubblegum Club come about?
This exhibition was a result of the Bubblegum Residency they are currently offering. I was made aware of it by someone and I chose to apply for the residency.
What Inspired 12 Seconds?
Some time in my childhood, I read a fact somewhere – I used to read a lot and I retain information pretty well – that stated that a dream was 12 seconds. I have always believed this to be true and according to me, dreams are 12 seconds long. I used this concept of a dream, and moreso the concept of actualizing a full storyline in 12 seconds, or establishing a full scene in 12 seconds (like in a movie), as a starting point for what I wanted to show. I thought about my character, this archetype black woman I’m trying to create and I asked myself what a badass like her would dream/fantasize about. Quite similar to my dreams, she wants to smash the patriarchy with a twist – she wants to embezzle the patriarchal members in order to fund her dreams.
She represents the black woman in one or many ways and conceptually this speaks to a new reign of black woman. I’m trying to maintain excitement about the future of black women when I see how well we are doing now – how beautiful we are now. This show speaks to that, it speaks to our growth, it speaks to our freedom that not many before us could think of, it speaks to our language of fearlessness, it speaks to our vibrance. With all the vibrant imagery and fine details in the art, I added an extra layer of meaning that speaks to black women, their power, and their worth.
What has been a highlight of the exhibition process for you?
I really enjoyed the actual exhibition itself. I kept peeking inside to see how people were receiving the work and I managed to steal a few moments of people taking time to analyse/read/look at/take a picture of the small details that I had placed there.
What’s your favourite painting from your debut solo exhibition?
It has to be “man-sassin” the pink one with the checked black and white outfit and the banana gun.
What would say to your younger selves who would want to follow in your footsteps of the arts?
I’d say go for it. It took a lot of bitter sacrifices for me to get to this point. But the joy within the struggles of this career reminds me that this is where I belong. Having struggled in spaces I didn’t enjoy nor belong in, this is reassuring to me that your mind finds peace when you take care of yourself enough to not live a lie.
If you missed the opening of this exhibition, make an appointment so that you can visit the gallery and view the artworks in a physical space.