when I paint the body, it is an expression of this marking of black bodies in a white supremacist world.... ghost bodies, shadow bodies, dangerous bodies...
In Dangerous Bodies, artist Jamal Nxedlana exposes the surreal scars which structural racism lacerates upon the black body. And yet, it also offers a beautifully confrontational depiction of resilience in the face of horrors, both seen and unseen.
This deeply personal series reflects his experiences as a black man in post-apartheid South Africa, navigating a world of monolithic stereotypes. Through subtle, surreal abstraction it tells a story of living in a body marked from birth as inferior and dangerous. And he candidly and honestly reflects on how he is himself expected to perform his African-ness for a white audience.
The work draws on the visual language of traditional portraiture- but to subvert its codes and prejudices. The actors adopt classical stances and poses, but reframed to represent the creators own complex biographical experiences of structural oppression.
It uses colour to jolt the viewer to attention, and to render powerful contrasts in the image. The interaction of bodies and objects creates surreal, yet harmonious, forms. Together, it asserts a striking visual account of the interplay between social oppression, subjectivity and physical embodiment.
The series offers a lush critique of whiteness and coloniality, through a highly personalised account of the artist’s own experiences of reacting to, and critically expressing these stereotypes.