Kemang Wa Lehulere at MAXXI, Rome

The exhibition, BIRD SONG, curated by Britta Färber, Chief Curator at Deutsche Bank Art, Culture &Sports, and Anne Palopoli, curator of MAXXI, presents about twenty works by the young South African artist (born in Cape Town, 1984), winner of the annual award that Deutsche Bank dedicates every year to emerging or mid-career artists who stand out for the artistic and societal relevance of their work.

History, time, and the role of the artist in society are some of the great themes of Kemang Wa Lehulere’s work. BIRD SONG is a project focused on the dialogue between the works of the artist and those of Gladys Mgudlandlu (1917-1979), a self-taught artist and the first female black artist to exhibit her works in a South African gallery in the 1960s.

The title of the exhibition, BIRD SONG, comes from a jazz song written for Miriam Makeba. Jazz is an integral part of Wa Lehulere’s life and work: in an exclusive edition for the exhibition, the artist composed and recorded an album with the musician Mandla Mlangeni, of which the score is part of Lefu la ntate (2017) composed of a black hair pentagram, a tribute to music, black identity, resistance and to the struggle for freedom and equality, represented by African hairstyles.

The force behind Wa Lehulere’s work lies in the issues he deals with and that relate to writing history, to the failure of memory, and to the impossibility for time to be linear. With the analysis of his own history, of the people around him and of entire nations, the works of the artist question us on the common ground between personal memory and authorised history.


BIRD SONG by Kemang Wa Lehulere
Trough November 26