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This Trio of South African Artists Dazzled at London’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2023

We look back at October’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in celebration of South African artists

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By House & Garden South Africa | November 9, 2023 | Art

Nando’s and Spier Arts Trust presented the work of three South African artists, Colijn Strydom, Vivien Kohler and Nkosinathi Quwe, at the annual 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London.

The only international art fair dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora, this much-anticipated event at Somerset House in central London welcomed the work of over 170 artists from across the globe between 12 and 15 October 2023. Exhibiting as part of a special project at the fair, these three talented South Africans were sponsored by Nando’s as part of Spier Arts Trust’s contemporary art programmes that create career-development opportunities for professional South African artists.

Pretoria-born painter Colijn Strydom, now living and working in Cape Town, presented his ‘Oikos’ series, a modern take on ancient Greek and Western European iconographies. Across 20 acrylic-ink paintings, the established artist and Ruth Prowse Art School teacher, who has exhibited in numerous shows both locally and internationally, captured the daily routines of his home life in a playful construction where ‘physical space is a metaphor for psychic space’.

Fellow contemporary South African artist Vivien Kohler’s multimedia two- and three-dimensional works guided the fair’s visitors through the challenging economic and social issues facing South Africa. ‘And sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky II’, ‘The soil of singing’ and ‘Divine Colour Theory’ capture a nation whose resilience is as vast as its landscape.

‘I am fascinated both by the ability of the human spirit to transcend conceptual decay, and the unique liminality of the post-apartheid South African city,’ Kohler says. ‘My works illuminate the contrasts of lived experiences by showing people mentally cocooned from, yet physically enveloped by, life’s detritus.’

The third artist of the trio is Nkosinathi Quwe, a painter born in 1981 in the small rural Eastern Cape town of Butterworth. Quwe, who describes his work as being ‘inspired by hope, a desire for positive change and self-realisation’, began participating in the Spier Creative Block programme in 2015 before being selected for the 2016 Nando’s Creative Exchange, which led to a major touring exhibition of his works. Quwe’s works on the London show, which included ‘Ukuza kukaNxele (The coming of Nxele)’ and ‘Is’bane Sehlabathi (Light of the World)’, investigate rituals that are performed for the purpose of rejuvenating the body, mind and spirit, such as baptisms, prayer, meditation, sabbaticals or self-imposed isolation for spiritual growth and upliftment.

Spier Arts Trust and Nando’s have participated in the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair since 2015, growing and showcasing contemporary South African art.