Sun, 3rd Mar 2019 12:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

  Lot 42
Lot 42 - Simphiwe Ndzube (South Africa 1990-)


Simphiwe Ndzube (South Africa 1990-)
Sarah and some Gentlemen, diptych

acrylic, charcoal and collage on paper

Artwork date: 2014
Signature details: signed and dated

Sold for R512,100
Estimated at R250,000 - R350,000

Condition Report

Cockling, otherwise good. Not examined out of frame, full report available on request.

Please note, we are not qualified conservators and these reports give our opinion as to the general condition of the works. We advise that bidders view the lots in person to satisfy themselves with the condition of prospective purchases.


acrylic, charcoal and collage on paper

Artwork date: 2014
Signature details: signed and dated


153 x 142 cm; 153 x 174 cm


Partly Influenced and informed by Sapeurs, Simphiwe Ndzube's work is at once playful and menacing. The La Sape movement – an abbreviation based on the phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (French for ‘Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People’), and referencing the French slang word sape (attire) – is a subculture which originated in the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo respectively, and has now spread across the continent. The movement embodies the elegance in style and manners of colonial dandies, passed on from generation to generation. Sapeurism can be traced back to the colonial period when slaves chose to subvert the oppression exerted by their European masters by adapting and embellishing the coloniser's style with their own exaggerated high-fashion reimagining of European period costume.Loaded with these and other more politicised historical references, Ndzube's work depicts the disenfranchised on the outskirts of society. He creates portraits of figures that reflect on the struggle many South Africans have in trying to cope with the legacy of colonial and apartheid history while at the same time inhabiting their agency in forging a new future, becoming the subjects of their own making.

The figures in this work, though playful and carnivalesque, are simultaneously imbued with an underlying menacing character. They express the dangers inherent in the unpredictability and unknown quantity of the ‘Other’ and play on the inherent ambivalences of prevailing sentiments around freedom and inclusivity in a ‘new’ South Africa.The title is also a reference to Sarah Baartman, who stands out as the primary figure depicted in the work, in a pose reminiscent of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Ambiguously emerging from a pool and standing on a display podium, she is bedecked in a wig and regal sceptre with flowers at her feet, heightening the tension between readings of the figure as monarch or as colonial anthropological curiosity. She is a model of royal dignity, surrounded by the ominous gentlemanly dandies under her dominion, populating a space that defies physics – a premonition contrasted with apocalyptic sky and decorative floral motifs adorning the ground. The figures are positioned on the precipice of a time gone by, stepping into a new, though sometimes compromised, future.

Ruarc Peffers

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Sun, 3rd Mar 2019

Aspire Art Auctions set a new bar for the market in its Autumn 19 Auction in Cape Town, with a South African auction record for its cover lot.

An early work, by international star Marlene Dumas, Love Lost (1973/4) achieved R7 283 200, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of R3 000 000. Further successful sales included a range of paintings by Alexis Preller from across his career, and new world records for work by Jane Alexander, Simphiwe Ndzube, and Moshekwa Langa. These results further establish Aspire’s growing reputation as the discerning auction house for handling contemporary South African art.  

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