The exhibition “In Search Of…”, presents two bodies of work by the emerging South African photographer Musa N. Nxumalo— Alternative Kidz and In/Glorious. According to the artist, these two series look at “the melting pot that is urban youth culture in Johannesburg.” Besides the images’ inherent energy and crackling life, the photographs also offer us a partial self-portrait of the artist and a side-long representation of the world in which the artist is immersed—young, black, alternative culture in South Africa’s largest city. Like a modern-day Larry Clark or Nan Goldin, Nxumalo is both voyeur and participant, providing a unique and intimate view of his world.
Through first-hand observation and intuitive documentation, Nxumalo repositions his peers to negate the prevailing social/racial stereotyping that remain stubbornly ingrained in South African culture. Journalist Sean O’Toole describes Nxumalo’s subjects as, “Soweto’s skinny jeans crowd, twenty-something black kids sloughing off the constraints of their assigned identities—Zulu, Xhosa,
Kwaito, hip hop, BEE [Black Economic Empowerment], choose your prejudice—and doing things differently.”
Musa N. Nxumalo was born in 1986 in Soweto, Johannesburg, where he now lives and works. Although he calls upon a range of influences and inspirations—both local and international—the young photographer is forging a distinctive visual identity of his own. What’s most striking about Nxumalo’s images is their casual ease, their care-free directness—an easy-seeming appearance that belies the talent underneath. In the words of photography writer Ken Miller, “It seems like the simplest thing (just ‘point and shoot’) but it’s in fact the hardest, most skillful variety of photography to practice. There are no second takes when you’re engaged with the moment.”
The exhibition will feature work from the two series shown above and will also showcase Nxumalo’s book (titled In Search Of… as well). The book includes many of the photos in the exhibition but also a selection from other recent series. The book has been nominated for the prestigious First Book Award, making it another enticing reason to see the show. If you can’t make it to Johannesburg any time soon, the least we can say is that Nxumalo definitely seems like a photographer worth keeping your eye on.