The Happily Never After Exhibition

Showcasing at the AVA Gallery


Contemporary artists, Sharlene Khan, Nelmarie du Preez and Lebohang Kganye, have produced a thought-provoking, conceptual photographic exhibition that looks to challenge the norms of everyday life - particularly the norms of everyday life for the South African, whatever race, age or gender, of today. The exhibition, called Happily Never After, explores and expresses the creatives’ concept of identity, and is currently on display at The Ava (Association for Visual Arts) Gallery on Church Street in Cape Town until Friday, 27 July 2012.

Each of these three artists has contributed a series of their own work to make up the exhibition:Sharlene Khan satirises preconceived stereotypes in showcasing her 2008 “What I look like, What I feel like” series;  Nelmarie du Preez parodies expectations of feminity in presenting her very recent 2012 visual conception, “Shooting the Bride”; and Lebohang Kganye deconstructs the influence of Western fairy tales in showing her 2011, self-titled photographic exploration, “B(l)ack to Fairytales”.

Lebohang Kganye herself says, “...I am very much the art I create.” And thus, perhaps, to understand the meaning behind these pieces and, indeed, the overall conceptual display, Happily Never After, we must first understand the artist, the creator.

Sharlene Khan

Sharlene Khan is originally from Durban, where she completed both a BA (Fine Arts) and MA (Fine Arts) at the University of Durban-Westville before moving to Johannesburg to complete a second Masters degree in Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand. The list of places she has exhibited includes Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Switzerland, India, France, USA, Sweden and Holland. While she is primarily a painter, she has delved into many forms of mixed media and photography, a relevant example being her series shown in this exhibition, “What I look like, What I feel like”.

This piece focuses on identity and her depiction of herself, as seen through her own eyes, versus the depiction of how she believes she is seen through the eyes of ‘everybody else’. Often humorous, playful and sometimes acerbic, the series focuses on her stereotypical identity juxtaposed with the visual of her inner being - her inner fears, demons and shortcomings. The image entitled “Postgraduate Beggar” is a powerful representation of such.

Nelmarie du Preez

Born in Pretoria, Nelmarie du Preez attended North West University and graduated with a BA in, interestingly enough, Theology and Psychology. Feeling the call of the arts, she subsequently enrolled in UNISA and completed a BA Arts and Culture with a further Honours Level year in Visual Arts, for which she received Top Student. She has since been accepted into the MFA in Computational Arts program at Goldsmiths University of London. Her social commentary series and play-on-words title, “Shooting the Bride”, explores external appearances of femininity and mimics mini-dramas described by her own recently married friends. Du Preez depicts the bride before, during and after the ceremony in a number of digital photographs captured on backlit film. The scenes show the sometimes bizarre, often comical, beauty rituals women will endure for the perfect white wedding. Her images seem to question the women within our society desperate to ultimately be seen as the perfect beacon of femininity; the flawless bride dressed in virginal white. One image in particular, “Mini drama #5 Watch the Dress!”, Depicts du Preeze dressed in a full white wedding gown doing her very best to make use of the facilities while swathed in fabric! The image is comical and light-hearted, but also shows a human being unable to perform one of the most basic tasks owing to the binding traditional dress.

In the West we call that barbaric.  

Lebohang Kganye

Hailing from a township in Johannesburg, Lebohang Kganye was first introduced to the power of photography when studying Kevin Carter and the Bang Bang Club for a matric assignment. So deeply influenced was she, that in 2009 she began to study the medium at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and she has since completed three courses in photography.  She has done much documentary work, both personally and in collaboration with other artists. Her chosen exhibition, “B(l)ack to Fairytales”, tackles the psychological effect of dreaming of white fairy tales as a black South African.  She takes a ‘mocking’ role as she explores her memories of the Western fairy tales she grew up with as a black child, and by dressing her adult form in elaborately exaggerated costumes emphasizes the fantastical world where, upon being rescued from her tower by the prince, they both live happily ever after. (This is South Africa. That princess would have needed burglar bars on that window, not to let her hair down through it.) Kganye ultimately creates extremely surrealistic photographs highlighting the farce of the ‘white’ fairy tales.

This exhibition can be viewed for free, and gallery times are Monday to Friday: 10am – 5pm; and Saturday: 10am – 1pm.

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By Aisling Holmes

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