Q & A with Sam Nhlengethwa on ‘Joburg Selected’


One of South Africa’s foremost artists, Sam Nhlengethwa, presents his new body of work, ‘Joburg Selected’, at the Goodman Gallery from 12 October 2019. We sat down with him for a quick Q&A session. Read on to find out more about the exhibition and the inspiration behind it all.

Johannesburg in Portrait

Artist, Sam Nhlengethwa presents his new body of work titled ‘Joburg Selected’ at the Goodman Gallery this October. Inspired by Nhlengethwa’s relationship and history with the city of Johannesburg, the exhibition sees the artist move away from his usual character portrait style. Rather than observe people as his subjects, Nhlengethwa presents Joburg as the central character of this collection of paintings, lithographs and tapestries. Featuring iconic city scapes, including The Market Theatre, Ponte and the now defunct Orbit jazz club, ‘Joburg Selected’ is a visual memory bank of lived experiences.

Sam Nhlengethwa, Ponte at Night, 2019, Mixed media on canvas, 95 x 115 cm

Sam Nhlengethwa has lived just outside of the city for most of his life. Born in 1955 in Payneville Springs, he grew up in Ratanda in Heidelberg, east of Johannesburg. Completing a two-year Fine Art Diploma at the Rorkes Drift Art Centre in the late 1970s, he went on to exhibit both locally and overseas. However, it was his 1993 travelling solo show South Africa, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow that set him apart as one of South Africa’s foremost artists practicing critical consciousness in their work. He subsequently won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 1994.

The Goodman Gallery has represented Nhlengethwa for several decades now. Just last year, he exhibited a body of work titled ‘Waiting’ at the Goodman Gallery in Cape Town.

We sat down for a quick Q & A with the artist himself to find out more about his process, the themes of these new works and the story behind ‘Joburg Selected’.

Where did the inspiration for ‘Joburg Selected’ come from?

“As someone whose studio is situated in the city, from time to time one drives around [the city]. When I still had a studio at the Bag Factory, I really penetrated the city, driving from one end to the other, seeing these buildings. That developed an interest in me to try and select buildings that I like. On the other hand, who knows whether these buildings will be here ten years from now? So I wanted to make work that could create the sense that one has recorded something.” 

What styles and mediums have you used to create this body of work?

These works have been created using a mixed media approach, which incorporates collage and oil on canvas. In addition, there are several lithographic prints in the exhibition and a giant tapestry made in collaboration with Marguerite Stephens tapestry studio.”

How long did it take to compile this collection of city scape portraits?

“This body of work was created in the last year, following on from my last solo exhibition at Goodman Gallery Cape Town, titled Waiting in 2018.”

Is there one piece in the collection which stands out as the feature piece for the exhibition?

There’s one work in the exhibition in which I played around with various buildings and fused them into one large piece, titled I love Jozi, which sums up the body of work for me.”

Sam Nhlengethwa
Waiting Behind the Stage, 2018, mixed media on canvas, 140cm x 140cm

When Is It?

‘Joburg Selected’ opens on Saturday, 12 October 2019. It runs until Saturday, 09 November 2019.

Gallery opening times:

Tuesday – Friday from 09:30 to 17:30.

Saturday from 09:30 to 16:30.

Where Is It?

Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg.

How Much Is It?

Entrance is free.

For More Information 

Visit the Goodman Gallery website for more information about Sam Nhlengethwa and ‘Joburg Selected’. Or, follow their social media pages:

Facebook –  http://www.facebook.com/GoodmanGallery 

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/Goodman_Gallery 

Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/goodman_gallery

Contact the gallery on +27 (0)11 788 1113 or via email at jhb@goodman-gallery.com.

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