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#NAF18 | Mind Mapping

Winner draws on his background for inspiration

Combining elements of mysticism, religion, self-reflection and the continual quest for selfhood, this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award (SBYAA) winner for Visual Arts, Igshaan Adams, says although his art has evolved through the years, he still draws a lot of inspiration from his upbringing.
Born into a Muslim family and brought up by Christian grandparents in Cape Town during the 1980s, Adams said his latest work, When Dust Settles, drew on his own interests – Sufism, mysticism and selfhood – while exposing tangible elements from his past.
“I would describe my work as more of a mind map – my search for understanding selfhood, my own self, the things that go beyond the senses – so I think that search and longing for, and with the fascination of God and religion and mysticism.
“But it branches off into various different things really. In terms of selfhood there is my political, cultural identity, then there is the spirituality, the mysticism, the interest in the otherworldly and then sexuality, my being queer and how these things at some point seriously were fighting each other.There was such big conflict which I had gone through, which showed up in my work over a number of years.”
Adams’s previous performance at the National Arts Festival, back in 2014, involved his father washing and preparing his body “in the Islamic ritual as if I had died”.
“It was in a space that resembled a tomb and the smell of earth – the space made the whole performance. It was a fear not of a physical death, but of a spiritual one, with elements of death of some sort which I could feel.”
Moving from portraits to more abstract artistic expression, Adams said the transition was one which he needed to do as his work evolved.
“In 2013 I delved into abstraction and I think that abstraction – that need, that desire to go there which had no limitations to representation because abstraction is so immediate.”
Being recognised as a SBYA winner gave Adams both a moment to reflect on his past, as well as to look to the future.
“It was on my list of one of the things I wanted to achieve. It means a really great deal to me just looking at the list of previous winners and seeing my name added to this list – it was quite a moment.
“Beyond all of that, in terms of the business side and my practice itself, this was really an opportunity and a moment to reflect on everything I had done up until now.”
Reminiscing on his family and childhood, Adams said if he had not recognised the effect and impact his environment and relationships had on him, “[it was] going to kill me or I was going to kill myself because of it”.
As a means of expression and to attempt to influence perceptions Adams sees art – in all its forms – as a vital part of society and it should be treasured as such.
“I think that art is the most amazing platform in terms of having these discussions, these difficult discussions and I don’t see anywhere else where these discussions happen and I am talking art in the broader sense – across the board, it is really where we get to deal with and iron out these things.”
Adams’s installation at the Gallery in the Round at the Monument brings together an eclectic multi-sensory, large-scale installation including aspects of sculpture, textiles, found objects, furniture and performance.

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