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Trevor Stuurman captures the distinct essence of being African

His exhibition, A Place Called Home, transcends time and space as it is reminiscent of precolonial pride and self-assurance, while evoking images from various African regions like Dakar, Lagos and Kimberly
Thu, May 26, 2022

PHOTOS: Trevor Stuurman

It is not always easy to reckon with the idea of home amid the persistent migrant posture of the city of Johannesburg, or ‘Johana’, as those of us from Limpopo and Inhambane, Mozambique have christened it to carve out a slab of the concrete jungle for ourselves.

Sometimes, warm tufts of sunlight on black skin on the derelict corners of Marshall and Goud Streets evoke a sense of home when faced with an impending Jozi cold front. When the sun embraces our faces, the memories of home basking in the sun provide the peace before the storm of an impending day of household chores.

And so, at a house in the west of Parktown, a global contemporary visual artist considers ways to present his iteration of home. In Trevor Stuurman’s first solo exhibition, A Place Called Home, the artist explores the concept of home in the various locales he has traversed. Throughout the house cum gallery, the rooms are impeccably styled and infused with a deceptive generousness. Spacious yet comfortable. The artist’s signature is evident in the details, and perhaps extends his aesthetic preferences.

It would seem that the home in this exhibition is a place of refuge, a sanctuary for individuals to explore their true selves and identities. Such a region stands in stark contrast with Black South African reality.

There is a certain level of technical acuity and warmth in the curated photographs. These works reveal the artist’s affinity with his home continent, which is the focus of the artworks. In some of the rooms, he pays homage to the influences of Dakar, Lagos, and Kimberly, his place of birth.

“Home is the place where we surrender to our vulnerability. A space meant for people to be molded and ultimately thrive in. It’s where humans discover their own version of comfort, solace and meaning. Home is a place where one is known. Home is also the centre point that allows us to navigate the world,” Stuurman affirms.

The most striking element of the exhibition is the black and white photography of hairstyles from northern and western Africa. This detail is captured with poise and dignity, making them look regal and mighty. In a sense, it’s a precolonial posture of pride and self-assurance. It is these arresting images that compel the viewer to ponder the construction of the images beyond their simple beauty. While Stuurman is not necessarily a technical artist, he is a visual guru guided by his commitment to the truth and his sense of optimism.

The work also contains portraits reminiscent of the work of the late Malian photographer, Malick Sidibe, who documented popular culture in Bamako in black and white during the 1960s. Stuurman adds colour to his portraits but still within the studio setting as Sidibe did. Their Sunday best sets them apart, with dresses and outfits that make a statement. His collaborators are portrayed to carry the feeling of home with them wherever they go and beam with pride in spite of the hardships of daily life.

  • The exhibition is set in a home in 26 Rhodes Avenue, Parktown West, Johannesburg, and will be open to the public until 19 June. It is open from 11am-5pm.

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