MTN’s Conversing the Land at the UJ Art Gallery

The Gallery of the University of Johannesburg is hosting Conversing the Land, an exhibition of landscapes from the permanent art collections of MTN and the University of Johannesburg, as well as selected landscapes from the joint MTN and UJ Emerging Artists Development Programme.

The exhibition opens on 22 October and is curated by Katlego Lefine, from MTN, and Annali Dempsey, curator of the UJ Art Gallery.

With an exploration of the South African landscape as shaped by the memories, myths and meanings, the inclusion of works by artists participating in the Emerging Artists Development Programme adds fresh energy to the work contained in two permanent collections. These landscapes allow the viewer not only a glimpse into current approaches to landscape but also the issues explored by a new generation of artists.

The Emerging Artists Development Programme invited artists through public advertising to submit an artwork in response to, or in conversation with, modern and contemporary South African landscapes, thereby offering a platform to showcase talents and interpretations of contemporary South African land issues.

The artworks of ten artists were selected for Conversing the Land and the winner will be announced at the official opening on Tuesday 22 October. The ten artists are Neil Badenhorst, Lebo Magolego, Siyabonga Mahlaba, Setlamorago Mashilo, Tebogo Moche, Michelle Monareng, Nico Ras, Shayna Rosendorff, Selwyn Steyn and Devlin Tim.

As in the UJ and MTN collections the landscapes are rendered in a range of interpretations and media – ranging from oil on canvas and digital media to photography and installation. In Die lyf en hand, his digital print with charcoal Nico Ras maps the human body as landscape in a topographical setting, and Selwyn Steyn uses X-rays on Fabriano in his work The Mind Dissolves in the Substrate That is the Land. In both these works the human body and the inner landscape contained in the body are linked to the outer landscape.

In oil on canvas Devlin Tim takes an inner city scene as his focus in Tryn Times and in his photograph titled Three Hunters and Three Hunter Dogs Tebogo Moche combines a narrative with a crisp depiction of nature. Shayna Rosendorff digs deeper than the surface in Why Invest in Gold if it Leaves You With Nothing to Drink?, I & II to unearth socio-political commentary and in Lebo Magolego’s photograph The Elephant in the Room an urban passage between two structures becomes the “room” where an elephant drawn on the back wall draws the attention to living conditions in an urban setting.

Setlamorago Mashilo introduces cobs of maize cast in concrete in an enamel bowl to draw the focus to the crop of the land, removed from the rural environment where it is normally grown in The Land Will Decide.

Memory and ritual play an important role in Siyabonga Mahlaba’s Re-formed I & II, two digital prints as well as Michelle Monareng’s video still If You Listen, You Will Hear Us. The architecture of ritual features in Mahlaba’s rendition of places of worship and Monareng’s group in sepia colours echoes a moment lost in time.

Neil Badenhorst’s Return to the Garden, digital media, heralds an imaginary and mythical landscape, pristine and uninhabited.

In an exhibition with discerning curation the ten landscapes by the emerging artists form an integral part of this exhibition, commenting on the way the landscape is being perceived – also within the context of technologies emerging and affecting our lives.

Conversing the Land is at the UJ Gallery, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, from 22 October to 27 November 2019.

For more information contact Annali Dempsey at High-resolution images of some of the artworks are available.


About UJ Arts & Culture

UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA) produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni and the general public to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.

In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA ( offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The Faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.