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6 vital artists expanding the perception of South Africa's art scene

Bubblegum Club’s Lindi Mngxitama highlights the emerging artists reimagining the creative expression of a restless nation, from Lunga Ntila’s collage work to textile and tapestry artist Talia Ramkilawan

A groundbreaking South African magazine and agency, Bubblegum Club does the dual work of seeking out cutting-edge creators and independent artists, and providing exposure to emerging artists or collectives. In doing so, it both functions as a place to showcase new work, while also nurturing future trends. As well as a physical space Bubblegum Gallery, a multifaceted site in Johannesburg with a focus on offering developing artists the opportunity to exhibit work, their initiatives include Bubblegum Invites, a residency programme providing a series of chosen image-makers access to facilities and studio space.

Bubblegum Club joins 2021’s vibrant Dazed 100 – a part of Open To Change, a larger platform from Dazed and Converse aiming to provide a platform to underrepresented creatives. It’s all about spotlighting the cultural changemakers breaking new ground across the globe, platforming ideas that will enact radical change, and looking at what’s next for the creative industries too.

As part of the programme this year, five of the Dazed 100 cohort will explore their field, their practice, and their hopes for the future in their own article for Dazed. From open source digital archive and curatorial platform Habibi Collective to the queer NYC skate collective Glue Skateboards. This final iteration sees Lindi Mngxitama of Bubblegum Club spotlight six of the most vital artists emerging from South Africa today.

If Bubblegum Club were to win the Converse x Dazed 100 grant, they’d use the money to make manifest some of the vital work they’ve already been doing, to embolden and support South African creatives from every discipline. “We’d run initiatives that support emerging creatives in Johannesburg including a gallery, a residency programme and more,” they say.

You can explore the full 2021 Dazed 100, in partnership with Converse, and cast your vote now – stay tuned for the winners announcement soon.

Below, learn more about Lindi Mngxitama’s chosen six artists – from the evocative collages of Lunga Ntila to the traumas, culture, and identity issues unpicked by textile and tapestry artist Talia Ramkilawan, Natalie Paneng’s striking digital performance pieces, observant artist and bookstore owner Daniel Malan, ‘anti-disciplinary’ Xhanti Zwelendaba, and the expressive Ketu Meso.

"How can we think about art, aesthetics, and imagination without reducing it to a single story? How do we sit in conversation with the various H/histories, identities, memories and embodied experiences that are contained in art, aesthetics and imagination without replicating the violence of essentialism?" says Lindi. "In the same way that culture is not stagnant but rather, evolves, shape-shifts and mutates in its contact with society — so too does art and the impulse of expression moving it forward."  

"I think of art as a space of communion," she continues. "A space of communion with where we have been, where we are and the possibilities of where we could go. At the dawn of a new decade, South Africa stands — still — suspended between two edges, clutched inthe hold of apartheid’s legacy while trying to birth itself into its something new."

"Questions of our shared national past, and how this past has informed our identities, our lives, and our conceptions of self continue to drive the young artists paving the way for reimagined creative expression in the country," she finishes. "For me, Natalie Paneng, Xhanti Zwelendaba, Lunga Ntila, Talia Ramkilawan, Ketu Meso, and Daniel Malan are some of the most vital young figures emerging today."