Southern Guild and Galerie56 are pleased to present iiNtsika zeSizwe (Pillars of the Nation), a solo exhibition of bronze sculptures by South African ceramic artist Zizipho Poswa. This is Poswa’s debut solo presentation in the United States, as well as her first collection of work made entirely in bronze.
Poswa’s monumental sculptures, often tending towards the modernist, are inspired by the spirituality and traditions of her Xhosa culture. iiNtsika zeSizwe expands on the thematic interests of her first series of major ceramic sculptures, which stacked abstract forms on top of voluminous bases to create totems of female strength and resilience. These works explore the practice of ‘umthwalo’ (load), whereby African women transport heavy items by carrying them on their heads, often walking long distances in rural areas.
As such, this series represents the daily labors that rural African women perform. As a young girl Poswa participated in these tasks – gathering firewood, collecting water, farming fruit and vegetables. In an accompanying photographic series commissioned for this exhibition, the artist is portrayed in the act of ‘umthwalo’ in her home community in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
For Poswa, the strength required to balance these loads, oftentimes arduous and exhausting, is testimony to the resilience of Xhosa women. This series symbolizes both the physical and metaphorical acts of bearing the load. These works are monuments to sustenance and sacrifice, and their presentation in bronze – a material associated with the memorials of colonial and Apartheid-era patriarchs – invites us to explore an alternative framework for respect, recognition and remembrance.
“To me, the practice of ‘umthwalo’ signifies the balancing act African women play in both traditional and modern society, and their resilience and generosity which so often go unspoken,” says Poswa. “It is an immense honour for me to convey the power and capacity of the women in my community to an international audience.”
iiNtsika zeSizwe is Poswa’s third solo exhibition with Southern Guild, and her first in the United States. By partnering with Galerie56, Southern Guild extends its collaboration with eminent art institutions to contribute to a deeper understanding of self, society, and environment.