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The enigma of African aesthetics... Discussing the Cost of Wealth by Elisia Nghidishange

by Kelvin Chiringa

Elisia Nghidishange has at best laid the bridge between the here and now and the past through her colourful exposition of the cost of wealth on people held by the trappings of materialism and the desire for fortune.

Interestingly, her renditions of the commonplace object and open reality border from the abstract to the most enigmatic deliberately dipped in the pool of African patterns.

What makes the enigma even more palpable is the fact that, in most of her works which constitute the exhibition which falls under the carefully opted title, The Cost of Wealth, if you dare search for a message you may find none.

However, there is a poetic touch to how she attempts to relay certain messages which in most cases are devoid of immediate meaning, a stream of consciousness that exposes the demented side of humanity.

Reverting to the title and juxtaposing it with the aesthetics, one can but note how the craving for the unattainable oft leads a soul to the past of an endless quest for power and the material, driving the soul to the edge of insanity.

Nghidishange alters time and place to bring about a utopic, almost elemental world within which her characters find themselves in mysterious dances whose energy reconnects the soul into a very archaic African context.

Loneliness and beauty are caught up in comfort, a peculiar kind of comfort that manifests out of living on the very edge of society.

Nudity is celebrated to alter the destruction of the material such that the artist dares us to be vulnerable, only then can we be ourselves, only then can true beauty be realised.

“I want to bring out traditional elements,” she tells me as I gaze through her works at the heart of the Goethe Institute.

The simplicity is treacherous, visions flirt, and dart about and the message is often frozen with meaning suspended such that what you are left with is little energy, emotion and feelings that speak in a gibberish unintelligible language.

“So which one do you like?” a voice softly speaks by my side as I squint my eyes through the beam of light which illuminates the gallery.

It’s hard to like Nghidishange’s works, one can but let the artworks whisper their language softly, alluringly, into a world that distastes power and wealth and questions the relevance of such.

Reading the introductory remarks that speak of the inspiration of the art, one would deem the work as that simple to comprehend, far from it, the artist weaves a thread of mystery through twisted imagery and deceiving colours.

The long and short of it is, the quest for wealth has no end, the appetite for such grows by the eating and results in alienation from the real world that hungers for unity, peace and compassion.

Through the diamond hill, Trapped in my interest and The Wealth Owner all weave a thread of narcissism, individualism, paranoia and a rapacious appetite to dare remove the self from the collective in the pursuit of affluence.

The cost of all these is loneliness, a trail of destruction and greed!

In certain of the artworks, I can see myself finding comfort in an artist who cares less about meaning but the beauty of form and the relevance of energy.