Asanda Kupa’s (b.1981) work is grounded by the experiences of those forced to the periphery of ‘The New South Africa’; despite its great re-birth. Born in Molteno – a semi-rural village in South Africa’s poorest province, the Eastern Cape – Kupa’s scenes depict the chaos and energy of life for many of South Africa’s subjugated black population, a life that is defined by struggle and by lack of access to basic resources.
Explore La mazwi aphethe ubulumko, a curated online exhibition of Asanda’s work. You can also view Asanda’s portfolio for AKAA Paris 2017 here.
Kupa is concerned with how the new political regime has failed its people – the very people who brought it to power through their own sacrifice – whilst also celebrating the self-determining spirit that marks a long history of civic action. Protest, spurred by grass-roots community frustration, is a central theme of his work. His series of striking crowd scenes, inspired by the Marikana mine-worker massacre of 2012, shows militant action not only as an expression of fury, but also a place of refuge and hope in post-apartheid South Africa.
When working with paint, Kupa brings incredible energy to his figures – human or animal – through a layering of pigment over blacked-out canvases. The effect is a mass of murky yet dynamic forms that vividly express movement, and atmosphere. In Kupa’s work, dense, moody landscapes are also haunted scenes; the figures are anonymous types, brimming with emotion.
More recently, Kupa has started to investigate the role of ritual and ancestry in contemporary social strife. He asks questions about people’s rejection of indigenous modes of being and living. How might our ancestors feel about the way we behave today? Why do we fail to become our true selves?
Asanda Kupa lives in Johannesburg, and works from his studio at the Bag Factory, situated in central downtown Johannesburg. He returns to his childhood home often, and is an active Molteno community member. Kupa’s work sits in a number of important South African collections, including The Southern African Foundation For Contemporary Art. In 2013 he was the recipient of the Reinhold Cassirer Award.
Exhibitions, Awards & Collections
2016 The Southern African Foundation For Contemporary Art
2013 Reinhold Cassirer Award, South Africa
2013 Joburg Fringe Art Fair, Johannesburg
2013 Thami Mnyele Art Competion Exhibition, Johannesburg
2013 Albany Museum, National Arts Festival, Eastern Cape, South Africa
2013 ‘Urgency’, Bag Factory, Johannesburg