30th Sep, 2021 19:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 49
Lot 49 - Sam Nhlengethwa (South Africa 1955-)


Sam Nhlengethwa (South Africa 1955-)
The Beauty of an African

oil and collage on canvas

Artwork date: 2003
Signature details: signed and inscribed with the date and title on the reverse

Sold for R45,520
Estimated at R40,000 - R60,000


oil and collage on canvas

Artwork date: 2003
Signature details: signed and inscribed with the date and title on the reverse


58 x 43 cm; framed size: 75 x 59.5 x 4 cm


Private collection, Cape Town


With this portrait, Nhlengethwa praises and celebrates the beauty of African women. Bucking a trend of memorialising heroic historical figures of exceptional men and women, this work points the viewer to ‘everyday people’. According to Nhlengethwa, the subject was lifted from archival photographs from the 1960s. “The beautiful face of the lady struck me, and the work came from there,” [1] says Nhlengethwa.

As an artist who often draws from music, the title Nhlengethwa chose references the masterwork by Bayete and Jabu Khanyile’s Mmalo We (1993), the eponymous monumental hit song celebrating the beauty of African women. The work portrays an unnamed ‘every-lady’, pioneering a feminine personal aesthetic in a freshly urbanizing African world. She wears a polka dot dress and pearls, and a head scarf as a fashion item that is both traditional and chic. This soft complexity of identity and style is at the heart of the meaning of the work.

[1] In conversation with the artist, 7 September 2021.

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Auction: Modern & Contemporary Art, 30th Sep, 2021

Aspire Art Auctions brings a significant and insightfully compiled selection of top-quality modern and contemporary art to auction in Cape Town. The sale stars exceptional works by many of South Africa’s big signatures, including, William Kentridge, Robert Hodgins, Penny Siopis, Edoardo Villa, Sydney Kumalo and J.H Pierneef, amongst others. Also featured is an exciting collection of contemporary artists from elsewhere in Africa – Patrick Bongoy and Zemba Luzamba from the Congo, Moustapha Baïdi Oumarou from Cameroon and Gerald Chukwuma from Nigeria.

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