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MESSINA/MUSINA (article first published : 2007-11-9)

Pieter Hugo is the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art 2007. The award entails a solo exhibition of his new work, which opened at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June 2007 and thereafter travels to major centres throughout South Africa. It ends its run at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg in July 2008. Pieter Hugo’s Messina / Musina will reach the Durban Art Gallery in a few week’s time.

Pieter Hugo was born in 1976 and grew up in Cape Town. He underwent a two-year residency in 2002/2003 at Fabrica in Treviso, Italy. His work stretches, reinterprets and often subverts the traditions of documentary and portrait photography. His eye is drawn to the peripheral, particularly in Africa, and he negotiates contexts where the cultural nuances of our time are amplified.

He has held numerous solo exhibitions including exhibiting at venues such as Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town; the Museum of Modern Art, Rome; and Fabrica Features, Lisbon to name just a few. Recent group exhibitions include Black, Brown and White at the Vienna Kunsthalle (2006) and Nie Meer at De Warande in Turnhout, Belgium (2006).

He was included on ReGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow, 2005-2025, an exhibition identifying 50 young photographers who will be considered great by 2025, accompanied by a book published by Thames & Hudson. He was also selected by Getty Images as one of their Young Photographers 2006 and as one of ‘100 artists on the cusp of international success' in the December 2005 issue of Art Review magazine.

The title of his exhibition, Messina / Musina, refers to Musina which is the northernmost town in South Africa, lying as it does on the Limpopo River on the border of Zimbabwe. The town was formerly known as Messina, and in 2002 its name was changed to correct a colonial misspelling of the name of the Musina people who previously lived in the region.

Located in the heart of the bushveld, with its hunting farms and diamond mine on the major trucking route north, Musina attracts a conglomeration of disparate peoples. They are drawn to this town by the opportunities it offers, be it working in the mines or on the farms, policing the porous border, smuggling contraband and alien immigrants, or prostitution. In his photographs of individuals, families, interiors, landscapes and incidental details, Pieter Hugo reflects on the wounds and scars of race, class and nationality that persist here, on the border of Zimbabwe. The circumstances of Musina can also be seen as broadly reflective of any community that is confronted by transition.

Messina/Musina runs at the Durban Art Gallery from November 21 to January 13. More information from the Durban Art Gallery on 031 311 2264. The Durban Art Gallery is situated in the Durban City Hall. Entrance is in Smith Street and there are wheelchair facilities.




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