Artist Amita Makan may not be from Durban, but the stories that she weaves through her embroideries and paintings tell an important story for all South Africans. Her current exhibition, Nomalungelo: Threads to Freedom, pays homage to three female South African icons – Miriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuku and Brenda Fassie – in recognition of the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy. Makan is also showing embroideries of herself and her late mother as part of the exhibition.
The exhibition was inspired by Miriam Makeba’s biography, The Miriam Makeba Story: Miriam Makeba in Conversation with Nomsa Mwamuka, that Makan read just after her mother passed away. Reading about Makeba’s struggle during Apartheid helped to awaken Makan from her grief, and got her creating again.
The exhibition takes its title from one of Makeba’s songs, Nomalungelo, which is represented in the exhibition by an adaptation of an iconic photograph taken by Jürgen Schadeberg. The image is made out of a sari that once belonged to Makan’s mother, and song titles such as African Sunset and Remember Sophiatown are woven into the work. Makan describes Nomalungelo as a homage to the diva and her unwavering fight for freedom. Says Makan: “The concept of my personal freedom comes from a deep place … previous generations did not have the freedom I have now. I try to delve into the history of my country and to project the images of these women. This is homage to them.”
Nomalungelo: Threads to Freedom is showing at the Old Fort, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, until April 4 2014.
Click here to view an online catalogue for the exhibition.