In my words: Thenjiwe Nkosi’s first solo exhibition, Gymnasium (2020), is a beautifully quiet body of work that offers young black kids the opportunity to see themselves in a sport that is seemingly only for the privileged. It engages in dialogue around possibility, seeing self in intimidating spaces and having your community there to support you, regardless of the end results.
In her words: “ideology is at work in this sport,” cites Thenjiwe Nkosi. “Gymnastics has been used as a tool of propaganda, of control, of patriarchy and of nationalism. Defining what bodies should look like, what perfection is, what the ideal human is. And here we are now – referencing the dominance of Simone Biles, currently the most decorated gymnast in World Championships history – when that ‘uber human’ is a young, Black woman.”
In the gallery’s words: The paintings in Gymnasium range from fluidly composed figurations of gymnasts and judges to unoccupied spaces verging on architectural abstraction. Nkosi’s figures are decidedly not painted in peak moments of athleticism, rather, moments preceding and following the execution of a move. Gymnasium spotlights the humanity engaged and set aside in the shift from human to performer, youth to labourer, person to demigod, and the reverse.