Otherscapes: Four Installations by Four Contemporary South African Artists

28 June – 4 November 2023

Otherscapes proposes surveying the scene of contemporary South Africa through the artistic practices of four contemporary South African artists whose installations can be viewed as ‘scapes’. These address a local context by interrogating the tension between utopia and failure. Siemon Allen, Wim Botha, Sethembile Msezane and Nicholas Hlobo reflect their subjective views of South Africa by embodying narratives that elucidate the complex issues in which the country is entangled.

The exhibition introduces the South African-focused programme taking place at JCAF during 2023, which will culminate in the inaugural journal launch in December.

Download the catalogue here.

The South African Context

South Africa’s transition from the apartheid regime to democracy was heralded globally as a miracle, ushering in utopian visions of a rainbow nation, which proved to be stronger in symbolism and legislative change than in structural transformation. Three decades later, South Africans are grappling with the notion of failure, overshadowed by the ideas of what this democracy could have been. Unresolved dispossession, an ailing economy, unemployment, continuous load-shedding, corruption and crime have led to a state of social exhaustion and political disillusionment.


Exhibition reproductions, from left: Aerial view of the long queues of voters during the 1994 general elections in South Africa (27 April 1994). Photo Gallo Images/Sunday Times/Raymond Preston | South African President Nelson Mandela congratulating Springbok skipper François Pienaar after handing him the William Webb Ellis Trophy. The Springboks beat New Zealand 15–12 after over-time in the Rugby World Cup final (24 June 1995). Photo Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP via Getty Images | Dr Alex Boraine and Bishop Desmond Tutu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (11 November 1997). Photo Gallo Images/Business Day/Lori Waselchuk | Thousands of striking mine workers demonstrate on a hill near Lonmin’s Karee Platinum Mine, Rustenburg demanding a wage increase. Violent clashes between mine workers and police left at least 18 people dead and several others injured (16 August 2012). Photo Gallo Images/City Press/Leon Sadiki | Lindokuhle Sobekwa, Death of George Floyd (2020), taken during load shedding. © and courtesy Lindokuhle Sobekwa/Magnum Photos



Within this exhaustion, Otherscapes poses the question of whether the tension between utopia and failure can introduce different ways of creating a sense of belonging in South Africa. Based on Arjun Appadurai’s notion of ‘scapes’ (ethnoscapes, ideoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes and financescapes), the exhibition suggests other types of ‘scapes’ that can be thought of in the current context. Allen considers the effects of colonial history and official representations of South Africa; Msezane meditates on local indigenous narratives; Botha explores the dialectic between the real and unreal; Hlobo explores our unknown future symbolically in the form of a labyrinth. The artists in this exhibition reflect on the state of South Africa today, not through direct visual representation but as philosophical threads that weave together a narrative about people and nation, identity and place, body and space.

Explore the exhibition below.



Siemon Allen. Photo Graham De Lacy | Wim Botha. Photo Graham De Lacy | Nicholas Hlobo at SCAD, Savannah, GA, USA (2019). Courtesy Goodman Gallery | Sethembile Msezane photographed at Studio Malick Sedibe, Bamako (2022). Courtesy the artist. Photo Uiler Costa Santos

Siemon Allen (1970–) was born in Durban, South Africa, and is based in the United States of America. He obtained an MFA from the Technikon Natal, KwaZulu-Natal in 1999. Select group exhibitions include 23 Kilograms Galerie West, The Hague, Netherlands (2013) and Desire: Ideal Narrative in Contemporary South African Art, South Africa Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2011); and solo exhibitions include Records, Goodman Cape, Cape Town, South Africa (2013) and STAMP COLLECTION – Imaging South Africa, Hemicycle/Corcoran Museum, Washington, DC (2001).

Wim Botha (1974–) was born in Pretoria, South Africa. He graduated with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art from the University of Pretoria in 1996. Select exhibitions include Wim Botha: Heliostat, Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa (2018), Larger Than Life – Stranger Than Fiction, 11th Triennale für Kleinplastik, Fellbach, Germany (2010) and A Premonition of War, Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa (2005).

Nicholas Hlobo (1975–) was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He graduated with a Bachelor of Technology from Wits University of Technology in 2002. Select group exhibitions include The White Hunter: African Memories and Representations, FM Centre for Contemporary Art, Milan, Italy (2017) and What we talk about when we talk about love, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa (2011); solo exhibitions include Uhambo, Level 2 Gallery, Tate Modern, London, UK (2008) and Umtshotsho, Standard Bank Young Artist Award, Monument Gallery, Grahamstown (2009).

Sethembile Msezane (1991–) was born in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town in 2012 where she was also awarded a Master’s in Fine Arts in 2017. Select solo exhibitions include Liguqubele iZulu, BKhz, Johannesburg, South Africa (2023) and All Things Being Equal, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town (2017); and the group exhibition Speaking Through Walls, Maa ka Maaya ka ca a yere kono, 13th Bamako Encounters African Biennale of Photography, Bamako, Mali (2022).