14th Sep, 2022 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 70
Lot 70 - Simphiwe Ndzube (South Africa 1990-)


Simphiwe Ndzube (South Africa 1990-)
In Search Of, triptych

light-jet print on Dilite aluminium composite panel, diasec

Artwork date: 2016
Edition: from an edition of 5 + 2APs
Exhibited: WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, 'Dear Europa …', 31 August to 15 October 2016.; EBONY CURATED, Cape Town, 'The Cabinet', 23 May to 12 June 2020.

Estimated at R150,000 - R200,000

Condition Report

The condition is excellent.

Minor abrasions to the edges of the aluminium composite.

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.


light-jet print on Dilite aluminium composite panel, diasec

Artwork date: 2016
Edition: from an edition of 5 + 2APs
Exhibited: WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, 'Dear Europa …', 31 August to 15 October 2016.; EBONY CURATED, Cape Town, 'The Cabinet', 23 May to 12 June 2020.


120 x 80 x 2.5 cm each; 120 x 240 x 2.5 cm combined


Private collection, Cape Town.


Simphiwe Ndzube’s triptych, In Search Of, is as the title suggests – a quest. Its progenitor is Raft (2015), in which Ndzube begins his journey, using second hand clothing, found objects and cheap acquisitions from Chinese shops. Arte Povera becomes a core dimension in his oeuvre when, at the Michaelis School of Art, he finds himself unable to afford the classic means and tools, canvas and paint. However, the rationale runs deeper still, for Ndzube’s reappropriation of the second-hand, namely, ‘dead white man’s clothes’, amavuku-vuku or salaula, as it is known in Ghana, Zambia and South Africa, signals the long shadow of imperialism.

Ndzube’s quest is oceanic, terrestrial, internal, a journey ‘through many objects and memories … in order to stitch together an account for the experience of being black in post-apartheid South Africa’[1]. The gargantuan needle and rope which dominates the triptych serves as emblem and drama, for it is undoubtedly an adventure we are witnessing. The matter of race, however, is implicit rather than fact, because Ndzube’s person is concealed, the signatory impact of skin colour erased. What we do see is a series of animated stills, the artist centre-stage upon a random heap of clothes, a crutch, wheelbarrow, tyre. The wooden pallets which typically support these sagas is absent on this occasion, their theatricalisation however persists. This because this body of work by Ndzube is performative, and what it implies is the generative and transformative power of art – and in Ndzube’s case, that of art by a black man in particular.

“The first step … is to make the black man come to himself, to pump back life into his empty shell …. This is what we mean by an inward-looking process. This is the definition of ‘black consciousness’”[2]. These word by Steve Bantu Biko are a driving incentive in Ndzube’s journey. Things remaindered – including black bodies – pulped, retooled, now assume their ghostlike second life.

Ndzube’s diasec, In Search Of is a quest “for labour, work, freedom, greener pastures”[3]. In this work, armed with a gigantic needle and thread, the artist performs a suturing of the remaindered dregs of colonialism and capitalism, in which the art world plays its peculiarly exemplary part. While optimism reigns in Ndzube’s vision – his current great success in America supporting this fact – I cannot however forget another very different raft, surely an inspiration, French painter Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa (1818–19). It is not the dark story of cannibalism, treachery and survival which shadows the painting that interests me, but English writer Julian Barnes’ reflection on it, which for me carries over to my reading of Simphiwe Ndzube’s journey, for what Ndzube too reminds us of is that “We are all lost at sea, washed between hope and despair, hailing something that may never come to rescue us”[4]. This pathos, in a stitched optimistic thicket, remains.

Ashraf Jamal

[1] Jamal, A. (2017). Simphiwe Nzube: Raft in ‘In the World: Essays on Contemporary South African Art’, Milan: Skira Publishers, pp. 288-3017

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, Fondation Gandur pour l'Art, Geneva.; Musee d’art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon.; Pérez Art Museum, Miami.; HOW Art Museum, Shanghai and Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 14th Sep, 2022


Aspire Art will impress collectors with this focused, boutique-style auction. Including 81 carefully selected lots the sale boasts impressive examples by many of South Africa’s most celebrated artists. A fine selection of William Kentridge works, including two original drawings, Eduardo Villa sculptures, painting by Robert Hodgins and Walter Battiss and a wonderful early Penny Siopis drawing are on offer.

Also featured are two special sections – Black Modernism and Photography. Aspire has firmly cemented itself as a champion of both these collecting segments and collectors will be spoilt for choice with a rare drawing by Dumile Feni as well as works by other modernists including Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba and Lucas Sithole and photographs by David Goldblatt, Mohau Modisakeng and Simphiwe Ndzube amongst others.


The exhibition preview is open to the public.

Viewing is from Friday 9 to Wednesday 14 September.

Weekdays from 09h30 to 16h30, Saturdays from 09h30 to 14h00, and Sundays by appointment.

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