By Nii B. Andrews.

A massive exhibition comprising over 200 artworks going back 100 years from the collections of over 70 private individuals and institutions spanning 26 countries is scheduled to open at the landmark Zeitz MOCAA located in Cape Town.

The exhibition titled WHEN WE SEE US: A CENTURY OF BLACK FIGURATION IN PAINTING will run from November 20, 2022–September 3, 2023. 

The lead curator, Koyo Kouoh has organised this exhibition around six themes: The Everyday, Joy and Revelry, Repose, Sensuality, Spirituality, and Triumph and Emancipation. 

This mammoth exhibition acknowledges the prominence of figurative painting in CAA over the last decade while at the same time exploring the long historical antecedents of the practice among artists of African descent.

These important themes are meticulously explored and teased out in a hardcover, eloquently written and fabulously illustrated accompanying catalog edited by Kouoh.

All the works on display are richly illustrated in the publication. 

*****Zandile Tshabalala, Two Reclining Women, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 91.5cm******

These include pieces by Ben Enwonwu, Kingsley Sambo, Sungi Mlengeya, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Cyprien Tokoudagba, Amy Sherald, Mmapula Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi and Joy Labinjo, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Zandile Tshabalala, Jacob Lawrence, Chéri Samba, Danielle McKinney.

The artistic lineages highlighted include art schools and movements from the Nsukka School in Nigeria, Ecole de Dakar in Senegal, the Kumasi School in Ghana and the British Black Arts Movement to the Department of Fine Arts at Makerere University in Uganda and the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) in South Africa.

The diverse artistic talent and power on display enable the exhibition to highlight relationships between artists and artworks across geographic, generational and conceptual contexts.

Koyo Kouoh refers to this as ‘parallel aesthetics’….though in several instances a convergence is discernable. 

The celebrated fashion house – Gucci, has provided generous support for the exhibition and catalog.

The exhibition is preceded by the 2022 Zeitz MOCAA Gala Dinner + Party, also supported by Gucci, and thus a poignant catalyst and inspiration for the Gala’s theme of Art & Opulence.

Other sponsors are V&A Watefront, Radisson Hotel Group, the Mail & Guardian, YourLuxury Africa and Hidden Valley Wines, with BMW South Africa as the official vehicle partner. 

Gala Party tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at zeitzmocaa.museum/gala.

This event is projected to yield approximately 30% of Zeitz MOCAA’s annual exhibition and education budget.


When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting

November 20, 2022–September 3, 2023

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

Silo District, S Arm Road, V&A Waterfront

Cape Town 8001, South Africa.

Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm

T +27 87350477



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