Onjalo Umhlola, Onjani Umhlola

Cinga Samson

Production Year


South African artist Cinga Samson’s works inhabit and extend a painterly tradition, asserting their place within the long trajectory of figuration in art. This commitment to his metier facilitates an exploration of ideas around desire, power, mortality and transience. Weaving together the classical and the contemporary, Samson creates images with symbolic, spiritual and social inferences, drawn together by subjective narrative. The diptych ‘Onjalo Umhlola, Onjani Umhlola’ features an unravelling scenario that the artist intends to be read from right to left. A group of young adults, sitting peaceably on scrub land, are interrupted by the sudden presence of a standing figure, lunging for a bucket containing unidentified cargo. The party lounge impassively, oblivious to his intentions. Moving to the left panel, the interloper wrenches the receptacle, disconcerting at least one of the group. The painting’s title comes from a phrase in Samson’s mother-tongue which is a call and response, interpreting something as strange and inexplicable. In some Xhosa rituals, a young person is called to serve the wider group, and here, in Samson’s characteristic weaving of classical, contemporary, spiritual and social inferences, the attendant is conjured forth as the inexplicable central player in this cryptic tableau.