Sthenjwa Luthuli Evokes Ancient African Traditions and Spirit Worlds in Meticulously Carved Paintings — Colossal

Home / Sthenjwa Luthuli Evokes Ancient African Traditions and Spirit Worlds in Meticulously Carved Paintings — Colossal
Sthenjwa Luthuli Evokes Ancient African Traditions and Spirit Worlds in Meticulously Carved Paintings — Colossal




Art

#Africa
#culture
#painting
#South Africa
#Sthenjwa Luthuli
#wood

August 3, 2023

Kate Mothes

An abstract painting carved from wood with geometric patterns and two headless figures with patterned garments that float through the composition.

“Inzalo Yelanga” (2023), hand-carved super wood block and mixed media, 184 x 136 x 4 centimeters. All images © Sthenjwa Luthuli, courtesy of Unit London, shared with permission

In the Mpumalanga region of South Africa, a mysterious, human-built structure known locally as Inzalo Ye Langa rests in the hills. Three monolithic dolomites complement a network of stone circles, which like other monuments of its kind around the world, align with the celestial calendar. Also referred to as “Adam’s Calendar” or the “Birthplace of the Sun,” the site provides a well of inspiration for artist Sthenjwa Luthuli’s newest body of work, now on view at Unit London.

Luthuli’s exhibition Inzalo Ye Langa: Birthplace of the Sun draws on the rich fabric of African culture, history, and folklore, exploring ancestral connections and ancient heritage. He creates meticulously hand-carved surfaces from wood in a meditative process that reveals intricate geometries and fluid figures. The painted circular patterns are influenced by traditional African healing methods, which often utilize colorful beads arranged in various formations to treat ailments and chase away bad spirits.

Representing the missing identities of the artist’s forebears, headless figures appear to dance, roll, or slip through Luthuli’s compositions as if out of control and lost in time. Separating the head from the body also connects to ideas around the human spirit. Drawing on tales of ancient African birth rites, the artist considers how elders often recognized the reincarnation of past generations in newborns as part of a continuous cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Without faces or consciousness, each figure represents the essence of an individual before they transform into flesh and blood.

Inzalo Ye Langa: Birthplace of the Sun is on view in London through August 24, and you can see more of Luthuli’s work on Instagram.

 

An abstract painting carved from wood with geometric patterns and two headless figures.

“Great Pyramid” (2023), hand-carved super wood block, mixed media, and paint, 92 x 136 x 4 centimeters

An abstract painting carved from wood with geometric patterns and two headless figures.

“Izimpande” (2023), hand-carved super wood block, mixed media, and paint, 92 x 136 x 4 centimeters

Two abstract paintings carved from wood with geometric patterns and headless figures with patterned garments that float through the compositions.

Left: “Spirit Before Flesh” (2023), hand-carved super wood block and mixed media, 136 x 92 x 4 centimeters. Right: “AbaseKhemu” (2023), hand-carved super wood block and mixed media, 136 x 92 x 4 centimeters

An abstract painting carved from wood with geometric patterns and two headless figures with patterned garments that float through the composition.

“The Presence of the Physical” (2023), hand-carved super wood block and mixed media, 184 x 136 x 4 centimeters

An abstract painting carved from wood with geometric patterns and two headless figures with patterned garments that float through the composition.

“Ububele” (2023), hand-carved super wood block and mixed media, 136 x 92 x 4 centimeters

An abstract painting carved from wood with geometric patterns and two headless figures with patterned garments that float through the composition.

“Umcebo Wokhokho” (2023), hand-carved super wood block and mixed media, 184 x 136 x 4 centimeters

#Africa
#culture
#painting
#South Africa
#Sthenjwa Luthuli
#wood

 

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