Look to your ancestral past at new Sainsbury Centre exhibition

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele by Sethembile Msezane (inserted) is on at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until 31 October 2021 in the East End Gallery. - Credit: Andy Crouch/Kate Wolstenholme

A new display of work titled Nibizwa Ngabangcwele has opened at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts showcasing the work of award-winning South African artist Sethembile Msezane. 

The exhibition marks the ending of Sethembile Msezane’s three-month long residency with the Sainsbury Centre and the Sainsbury Research Unit and explores the legacies and African knowledge systems that were eradicated by colonialism.

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele by Sethembile Msezane is free to visit at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele by Sethembile Msezane is free to visit at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until 31 October 2021 in the East End Gallery. - Credit: Sethembile Msezane/Andy Crouch

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele translates from isiZulu as ‘you are being called or summoned by your ancestors’. Msezane's work encourages the viewer to look to their ancestral past as she explores the now collapsing imperial ideas which ripped through many indigenous cultures.

This work was inspired by a carved Zulu spoon in the Sainsbury Centre’s collection, which was used in the 20th century for dispensing snuff in what is today KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa.

The carved Zulu spoon in the Sainsbury Centre’s collection which inspired Nibizwa Ngabangcwele. 

Sethembile Msezane holding the carved Zulu spoon in the Sainsbury Centre’s collection which inspired Nibizwa Ngabangcwele. - Credit: Andy Crouch

Sir Robert James Sainsbury, was the son of John Benjamin Sainsbury, and along with his wife, Lady Li

Sir Robert James Sainsbury, was the son of John Benjamin Sainsbury, and along with his wife, Lady Lisa Sainsbury, began the collection of art housed at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. - Credit: Archant Library

In the artist’s own words, this work positively asserts that black ancestry is worthy. It is scholarly. It will rise again through the decolonial actions of current generations. Nibizwa Ngabangcwele can be understood as part of a rise in global decolonising movements such as Rhodes Must Fall, Black Lives Matter and the repatriation of artworks.

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele by Sethembile Msezane is on at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until 31 October 2021.

Sethembile Msezane pictured at the opening of her show Nibizwa Ngabangcwele at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. - Credit: Andy Crouch


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Sethembile Msezane is a South African artist based in Cape Town. Born in KwaZulu Natal, she has exhibited work widely across South Africa, Europe and North America.

Msezane's work explores issues around spirituality, commemoration and African knowledge systems, stemming her work from politics or spirituality to create performance, photography, film, sculpture and drawing.

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Her work asks questions about the remembrance of ancestry, exploring the myths which evolve over time and adapt how history is constructed and remembered. Whilst doing this, she calls attention to the absence of the black female body within the narratives of historical tributes.

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele by Sethembile Msezane is free to visit at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until 31 October 2021 in the East End Gallery.

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele by Sethembile Msezane is on at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until 31 October 2021.

Nibizwa Ngabangcwele by Sethembile Msezane is on at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts until 31 October 2021 in the East End Gallery. - Credit: Sethembile Msezane/Andy Crouch

Funded by the UEA Global Talent Fellowship and supported by Dr Alison Dow.


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