The Thami Mnyele and Medu Art Ensemble exhibition, curated by outgoing Johannesburg Art Gallery director Clive Kellner, pays tribute, principally, to Thami Mnyele’s art making and his contribution to the graphics unit of the Medu Art Ensemble; it also presents archival material about Medu itself, an anti-apartheid cultural organisation based in Gaborone, Botswana, co-founded by poet Wally Serote.
Archival photographs mounted in entrance area of exhibition, showing attendees at 1982 Culture and Resistance Conference (left) and Thami MnyeleThe Thami Mnyele and Medu Art Ensemble exhibition, curated by outgoingJohannesburg Art Gallery director Clive Kellner, pays tribute,principally, to Thami Mnyele’s art making and his contribution to thegraphics unit of the Medu Art Ensemble; it also presents archivalmaterial about Medu itself, an anti-apartheid cultural organisationbased in Gaborone, Botswana, co-founded by poet Wally Serote.After an unsatisfying experience at Rorke’s Drift in 1973, Alexandra-born Mnyele worked as an illustrator for SACHED Trust, joining Medu in 1978. He headed up the graphics unit intermittently until his assassination by the South African military in a cross-border raid in 1985, Medu disbanding shortly thereafter. The publicity for the show and the fact that Mnyele’s output is shown for the first time as a coherent body of work at JAG immediately frames him as an artist setting the conceptual tone for the remainder of the exhibition. In the foyer space his formative drawings are presented interlaced with biographical material. One is then led into the main space where Mnyele’s delicate pencil, charcoal and ink on paper drawings, reminiscent of the protest work of Ezrom Legae, also Max Ernst, are shown. It is hard to believe that an artist who could create such sensitive, layered, organic, semi-abstract and sentimental art could make the kind of bold, expressive resistance work contained in the room filled with protest posters authored by Mnyele and Medu’s graphics unit. READ FULL ARTICLE IN PRINT EDITION