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.
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