A day after National Women’s Day, South African actress, filmmaker and visual artist, Mmabatho Montsho launched her first solo art exhibition, Manyano at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.
Manyano is a 20-piece exhibition that features a number of oil paintings portraying the spirit, boldness, and strength of the women of the renowned women’s association of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. If you live in a black South African community, or you grew up in a township like some of us - you are definitely familiar with the image of the dignified women clad in black skirts, red jackets, white collars and hats on their way to women’s prayer meetings every Thursday, and on Sundays for church.
uManyano is a Xhosa word for unity. The black women of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa initiated the Manyano movement in 1907. The women wanted an organisation for themselves as women were not allowed any leadership positions in the church. It was a self-determining project that saw the women evolve from wearing an all-white uniform and just being seen as ‘nurses of the community’ - to asserting themselves as soldiers of God's mission in their red (for the blood of Christ, renewal, and salvation), black and white uniform.
The filmmaker comes from a long line of praying women on both sides of her family. The women's Manyano, including Mantsho's mother, attended the opening night of the exhibition.
In an interview on eNCA, Montsho explained the inspiration behind the exhibition and how it all came to life. ‘The paintings started through visions that I was having, which is usually how stories come to me. I wrote a script thinking that is what was happening. But those visions were only resolved when I created the artworks. Each piece came from a compelling vision, so I can’t say I chose it more than it chose me.’
A painting that stands out and adds some contrast to the exhibition is of three ZCC (Zion Christian Church) women in their rich green and yellow uniform and a gripping portrait of Mama Winnie Madikizila-Mandela in her red church uniform.
The exhibition is open to the public and will run until the end of August 2018.
Visit ConstitutionHill.co.za for details.
Images: Bongani Mndaweni, Instagram @Montshotheblack, @AbantuCreations, @Visitconhill