Curated by Carlyn Strydom
Presented at UNDERLINE 12-15 September 2019, Museum of African Design (MOAD), Johannesburg, South Africa
WOMXN Underground is a two woman show featuring self taught South African artists Babalwa Tom and Amy Simons. The title refers to the ways in which these two individuals have worked thus far in their careers: each has managed to teach, learn and grow as an artist and exhibit outside of the often challenging, competitive and somewhat exclusionary South African art scene. The exhibition is twofold: to show the creative womxn scene and to give voice to those who are constantly pushed under by toxic masculinity. This includes the private and public conception of what the womxn must do and be. Using the term womxn is deliberate as this is how these individuals identify. It also points to the notion of being ‘other’ and working outside of conventional structures.
Both artist’s works focus on the healing power of art; their works are therapeutic and reflective and offer ways to think through issues plaguing womxn (and others on the margins of society). Some of the themes explored include healing from past trauma, sexuality, the body as a site of empowerment, the fragile nature of ourselves as human beings, and the contemplation of ourselves in nature and our place in the ecosystem.
The exhibition aims to demonstrate that there is an alternative art scene, occupied by talented womxn artists, who are working on the fringe to achieve their goals and who are challenging the norms in our society.
Amy Simons shows a selection of new and older works that display her developing technique. Working primarily with watercolour, Amy’s works deal with issues of the female form and the body as a site of trauma and healing. A self-taught artist and art therapy teacher, Amy’s chosen medium embodies the fragile, yet resilient female body and psyche through her painterly technique. Each painting demonstrates the calmness found within the myriad difficulties faced by womxn in this country and globally. Her artworks are a meditation on the issues we must deal with including sexuality, loss and love.
Babalwa Tom is a multidisciplinary artist and presents a series of digital prints and a short film titled Womxn Water. In her work as filmmaker, Babalwa explores the ways in which forms are visualised and conceived of. For the film Womxn Water, featuring the performance artist Marion Versitile, we delve into the water (literally – the film is shot underwater) to witness how the body moves. In her signature kaleidoscopic style, and a with music by Dumama and Kechou, the film explores the feminine and masculine of the artist and the connection between the self and water. The digital prints from the series NaturaJuxa explores the connection between living plants and our place within the natural ecosystem. The work is a comment on our dependency and connection to the natural environment.