Kicking Dust by Igshaan Adams at the Hayward Gallery

Site-specific installation is the core of Kicking Dust, the first UK solo presentation of South African artist Igshaan Adams. It’s currently open at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London. Created in collaboration with refugee craftswomen and weavers, the works assembled in the exhibition space reflect many different aspects of local cultures the artist grew up with. The intricate wall hangings, multicoloured rugs and ephemeral sculptures are a delight.

Kicking Dust refers to an important element of the Rieldans. This traditional courtship dance in which the dancers are literally ‘kicking dust’ is captivating and full of joy. It’s possibly one of the oldest indigenous forms of dance in southern Africa. 

Kicking Dust by Igshaan Adams, exhibition view. Photo shows a wall hanging in the backround and three metallic sculptures suspended from the ceiling representing dust-clouds

Kicking Dust by Igshaan Adams – installation view

In order to visually represent the Rieldans the artist filled the exhibit with cloud-like sculptures, most of them suspended from the ceiling. Made of a variety of materials including nylon and polyester ropes, metal springs and wires and multicoloured beads, these sculptures are meant to evoke clouds of dust created by the energetic feet movement of the dancers. As well as the sculptures themselves the shadows they cast are equally important. These metallic clouds are not static but appear floating in the air, with each slight movement of the air the beautiful shadow patterns shift too. 

The only way to improve this already impressive exhibit would be to include a short film or video of dancers performing the Rieldans on display. I think it would give the sculptures more context. You can watch one example here.

Adams’ art explores issues important to his community, the legacy of the apartheid, human connections, coexistence of different beliefs, ethnicities and languages. This kind of interconnectivity is significant also on a personal level. Growing up as mixed ethnicity Muslim, brought up by his Christian grandparents is as important to his identity as being queer in a traditional, conservative community. Such a complex background gave the artist unique insight to the world around him. The weavings presented in this exhibit successfully blend influences of Islam, Sufism and Christianity, for example Oor die Drimpel (Over the Threshold) (2020). 

Oor die Drimpel - Over the Threshold (2020) by Igshaan Adams

Oor die Drimpel (Over the Threshold) by Igshaan Adams (2020)

Detail of artwork Blou Lyn (Blue Line) by Igshaan Adams (2020). Details of tapestry include multicoloured beads and threads weaved in abstract patterns

Detail of artwork Blou Lyn (Blue Line) by Igshaan Adams (2020). Notice how the multicoloured beads and vibrant threads complement each other with their different textures.

A major theme in Kicking Dust is the artistic representation of the so-called ‘desire lines’. Desire lines also known as ‘desire paths’ or ‘social trails’ reflect the agency of people who create their own paths where they are needed, disregarding badly designed ‘official’ paths which were intended to enforce segregation. Despite the efforts to segregate different communities Adams’ research in the suburbs of Cape Town showed that members of those communities formed their own paths visibly connecting with each other. 

Kicking Dust by Igshaan Adams, installation view

Kicking Dust by Igshaan Adams, installation view

This beautifully arranged installation is a feast for the eyes. Definitely worth a visit if you are in London and want to immerse yourself in some great pieces of contemporary art. 

Kicking Dust by Igshaan Adams is at the Hayward Gallery until 25 July 2021

Read more on the Hayward Gallery website


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