22nd Jun, 2022 18:00

The Present Future: A Private Collection of African & International Contemporary Art (Live Auction)

Lot 16
Lot 16 - Serge Alain Nitegeka  (Rwanda 1983-)


Serge Alain Nitegeka (Rwanda 1983-)
Obstacle 1; Studio study III

oil on board

Artwork date: 2012
Signature details: signed and printed with the artists' name, date, title, medium and dimensions on a Stevenson certificate of authenticity on the reverse
Exhibited: Stevenson, Cape Town, 'Serge Alain Nitegeka: Black Cargo', 17 January to 23 February 2013.

Sold for R341,400
Estimated at R300,000 - R500,000


oil on board

Artwork date: 2012
Signature details: signed and printed with the artists' name, date, title, medium and dimensions on a Stevenson certificate of authenticity on the reverse
Exhibited: Stevenson, Cape Town, 'Serge Alain Nitegeka: Black Cargo', 17 January to 23 February 2013.


115.5 x 223 cm; framed size; 129.5 x 236 x 7 cm


Private collection, Cape Town.

Stevenson, Cape Town.


Serge Nitegeka's Obstacle 1; Studio study III appears at first to be a minimalist study of space, line and perspective, marked by the absence of a figure, a red square visible beyond a structure composed of linear forms. The work may not contain a direct representation of a body, yet embodiment is implied.

This painting needs to be read in relation to the artist's sculptural installations with wood, often sourced from packaging crates such as Structural Response I, which spilled into the exterior through the doors of the Galerie Le Manège at the French Institute in Dakar in 2012. Here, Nitegeka's language draws on minimalism and abstraction to create complex, labyrinthine constructions of rectilinear beams that occupy gallery and museum spaces, transforming the viewer's movement into a complex journey.

The journeys Nitegeka's work references are those of displacement, dislocation and forced migration, anchored in his own lived experience – the artist’s family fled war-torn Burundi and then the infamous genocide in Rwanda when he was a child – and those of the refugee and migrant on the African continent. In 2012 when Nitegeka began this painting series, he distributed hand carved stools to asylum seekers awaiting appointments outside the notoriously inaccessible Home Affairs in Pretoria. Obstacle 1 can be read as a study for an installation or a work that positions the viewer outside of an abstract field of vision which they cannot easily enter, the red square a kind of inversion of Kiev-born avant-garde artist, Kazimir Malevich's famous Black Square (2012), the black rectilinear forms implying negative space or absence transformed into presence. Here black, white, red are not signifiers of race, but float on the surface of the symbolic differences we take as given: each line a border that radically dislocates our viewing, a metaphor for the precarity that haunts the work's minimalist beauty.

Bettina Malcomess

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