Dec 4, 2018 – Jan 10, 2019

Everard Read / CIRCA Cape Town is proud to present 20 Years On by Vusi Khumalo. Opening on 4th December at 18:30 the exhibition runs until the 4th January 2019.


Having returned from exile in 1992, Vusi Khumalo became fascinated with the burgeoning shanty towns that mushroomed around the urban centres of South Africa. With the scrapping of the Urban Areas Act, “influx controls” and forced removals, many of the previously-disenfranchised rushed to the cities to seek work and stake their claim on land bordering the cities. Open fields and abandoned land quickly transformed into what we now call informal settlements.


Khumalo set about reconstructing these explosions of humanity, using the very materials that the shanty town was built of – corrugated iron, earth, wood, plastic – pioneering a way of seeing that has since been mimicked by many street artists plying their trade at markets and traffic lights.


What set Khumalo apart then and now is the extraordinary sense of perspective that he brings to his works, as well as an authentic technical genius that recreate these scenes in a hyper-real way, like a diorama, “recording tomorrow’s history today,” as he likes to say. Interestingly and naively, we all thought at the time that these expanding informal settlements would rapidly give way to formal housing arrangements as the Reconstruction and Development programme ostensibly swung in to gear. Twenty years on they appear very much here to stay, not as launch pads to formal housing, but for many as permanent homes. Indeed Khumalo tracks this “formalising the informal” and, while many of his earlier works depicted utterly treeless, muddy wastelands with our fellow citizens going about their daily lives against all odds, now the trees and the notorious bucket system toilets are peppered throughout the urban “village” and Khumalo notices that churches and community centres have emerged, and the odd double story house.


In this sense, Khumalo continues to record history and assert the humanity at the heart of these organic “villages” populated by ordinary people going about the everyday, and testifying to the irrepressible Human Spirit that conjures community out of chaos.



Born in 1951 in Gauteng, Khumalo left South Africa in 1986 as a political exile. Since repatriation in 1992, he has lived in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape. This is Khumalo’s first solo exhibition in four years at Everard Read Cape Town.


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