By Keith Estiler
The ADA \ contemporary art gallery in Ghana specializes in spotlighting the works of emerging artists across Africa and its diaspora. The gallery is currently presenting an exhibition of new paintings by the South African emerging female artist Zandile Tshabalala. Entitled “Enter Paradise,” the presentation features a selection of new figurative self-portraits as the artist continues to explore the representation of the Black female figure in her studio practice.
More precisely, the nude portraits examine the varying portrayals of Black women while challenging existing representations with the artist offering more raw, intimate and deeply personal views through her bold pieces that feature vibrant colors and luxurious animal print patterns. Tshabalala’s depictions of Black women are confident, steady and desirable in contrast to the overarching “inferior” observations deeply rooted within societal constructs and history.
“A bald, Black woman herself, Tshabalala mirrors her personal engagement and confident affirmation of her body in her art. Beyond, or in addition to, their status as universal Black female figures, her characters come to embody the artist herself, her rejection of set standards and notions of beauty and advocacy for individual empowerment,” said the gallery in a statement.
As for the title of the exhibition, the artist expressed: “I have found myself engaging with the term ‘Paradise’ in a different manner, moving away from an idealized representation of ‘Paradise’ to an everyday, tangible perception of smaller ‘paradises.’ This kind of engagement required of me to apply not only full attention to my thoughts and emotions but also awareness to the moments I often overlook.”