Blessing Ngobeni is the winner of the Reinhold Cassirer Award 2012, funded by Nadine Gordimer. He recently teamed up with German based Nigerian artist Emeka Udemba for an exhibition entitled Emergency Exit. The show presented work created by both artists during their three-month residency at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, one of Joburg's leading visual arts organisations.
The title of the show played on South Africa's current political landscape and the private lives of artists who have committed themselves to their careers, regardless of circumstance. “You can get yourself into certain things because of your passion – say becoming president, or an artist,” says Ngobeni. “Once you're there you find you are not able to pull out. You start looking for an emergency exit, but there isn't one. The show spoke to this idea.”
Ngobeni continued the overtly political commentary that saw him selected as the winner of the 2012 Reinhold Cassirer Award. One piece, entitled Evidence of Hardship, creates a striking and beautiful montage of the scenes of hardship that so often make up city life in South Africa: the impoverished recyclers pushing their trolleys, constructions workers selling their labour, people fighting on the street.
Ngobeni doesn't restrict his view to conventional political commentary. In Viral Migration I & II he tracks the movements of our diseases; HIV Aids, TB and others through the world, borne by unsuspecting human transport.
“My work is about the choices we make,” he says. “Not just the choices we think we're making, but the ones we make without understanding, the ones we don't recognise, as a society and as individuals. There is actually a piece called Social Contract, but most of the work talks about this in one way or another.”