Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa

Live Virtual Auction, 28 February 2023

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa
About the Session

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa is a dynamic collaborative project conceived by Strauss & Co to address the need for diversified representation of artists from across the African continent in the secondary market. Curated by Strauss & Co Heads of Sale, Kirsty Colledge and Kate Fellens, with input by seven international art experts with embedded knowledge of Africa; Serge Tiroche, Valerie Kabov, Heba Elkayal, Danda Jaroljmek, Anne Kariuki, Dana Endundo Ferreira, Kimberley Cunningham. Curatorial Voices presents collectors with a broad selection of work by leading contemporary artists alongside select pieces by important historical artists.

Sold for

ZAR 567 500
Lot 4
  • Simphiwe Ndzube; Night Birds in Tango
  • Simphiwe Ndzube; Night Birds in Tango

Lot Estimate
ZAR 500 000 - 700 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 567 500

About this Item

South African 1990-
Night Birds in Tango

signed, dated 2018, and inscribed with the title on the reverse

acrylic and mixed media on canvas
216 by 201 by 4,5cm, unframed


Best known for his enigmatic and vividly coloured figure paintings, Simphiwe Ndzube was an untrained community artist when he met artist Peter Clarke, who sponsored his early formal tuition. Ndzube subsequently entered the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2015, winning the prestigious Michaelis Prize for his socially conscious practice combining sculpture, textile, photography, and painting. The centrepiece of his graduate exhibition was Raft (2015), a large sculpture made from found materials and directly inspired by Géricault’s painting The Raft of the
Medusa (1819). For Ndzube, the work referenced the difficult lived realities of Masiphumelele, the crowded Cape Town township he grew up in.

Ndzube moved to Los Angeles in 2016. His new work refined visual ideas and material interests evident in his earlier painting and sculpture. Masculine cultural rituals enacted by working-class Zulu dandies known as swenkas and Xhosa initiates, or amakrwala, were of particular interest. Although steeped in cultural ritual, Ndzube’s aim as a painter is to abstract the specific. Often adorned with figural embellishments, here an outburst of hair, his paintings translate cultural experience into surreal and metaphoric statements of black life.

His vibrant Los Angeles paintings of prancing figures, of which this lot is a fine example, also have a strong basis in literature. Ndzube has used the literary term “magical realism” in relation to this work. The swollen and attenuated figures of his early Los Angeles paintings have many likenesses in world literature, including the inebriate narrator of Amos Tutuola’s novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952), Shakespeare’s fat and boastful knight Sir John Falstaff, and Alfred Jarry’s grotesquely comical king Ubu. Unlike Jarry, Ndzube is less jaded about his fantastical figures. As in his own life story, resilience, and transformation is central to their being.

Ndzube has had numerous solo exhibitions both locally and abroad and has completed a number of prestigious residencies. His work is included in public collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (USA); Musée d’art Contemporain de Lyon (France); Iziko South African National Gallery and Zeitz MOCAA (Cape Town); Denver Art Museum (USA); and the Rubell Museum (Miami).


Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles.

Private Collection.

View all Simphiwe Ndzube lots for sale in this auction

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