Ingubo Yesizwe (detail)
Photo Credit: Clifford Shain, Courtesy of Nicholas Hlobo, Michael Stevenson Gallery and TATE Modern
"Ingubo Yesizwe" is comprised of hundreds of stitched small pieces of discarded leather and rubber.
Hlobo’s extensive use of leather in his works reflect the economic, social, political, and spiritual importance of cattle in Xhosa culture. Wealth is measured by the size of a man’s herd, and men are only able to marry once they have accumulated sufficient cattle to pay lobola (bride wealth) to their future father-in-laws. Significant moments in the life of the community – such as initiation or marriage – are marked by the slaughter of cattle. Even today, death is frequently accompanied by a ritual slaughter in the hope that this will prevent further misfortune. The cowhide is then used to cover the corpse before burial to protect the deceased as they enter the afterlife. "Ingubo Yesizwe", which means ‘clothes or blanket of the nation’, refers to this ritual.
The leather top, representing traditional Xhosa values and practices, and rubber bottom, signifying modernization and urbanization, are carefully integrated so that the beginning of one material and the end of the other is not easily discernible. The underlying theme of vulnerability is emphasized by the ruptured belly, its innards spilling onto the floor, recalling the ceremonial slaughter of the cow and suggesting discord between the elements.
Courtesy of TATE Modern(read less)
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