There’s limited awareness of African spirituality in the western world. Whether it’s down to lack of education or the stigmatisation of spiritual practices that exist outside of mainstream religion, the need for a better understanding of these ‘unorthodox’ practices is something South African-based collective NTU aim to catalyse with their first ever UK solo show NTU:UBULAWU at East London’s Auto Italia gallery.
For this exhibition, NTU founded by Nolan Oswald Dennis, Tabita Rezaire and Bogosi Sekhukhuni have filled the gallery with organic materials and digital screen-based work in an attempt to navigate ideas around medicine, prophecy and communicating with ancestors. The African plant medicine ‘Ubulawu’, known to some as a dream herb is a main feature in the exhibition as the plant is believed to help open the mind, increase intuition and encourage dreams ‘which have personal and prophetic significance for the dreamer’.
Upon entering the gallery, the installation instantly invites viewers into an unfamiliar realm of systems, symbols and sciences alien to the western psyche. The show features large information posters that explain the use and benefits of Ubulawu while white boxes sit upon piles of soil throughout the gallery floor. While the show draws you in with both its otherness and computer aesthetics, the omnipresent sound of the water installation at the back of the gallery has a soothing influence. Using water as a medium for spiritual interfacing, NTU have filled a large section of floor space with flowing water which has an instant and powerful calming effect.
Managing to create an overwhelming experience in a relatively small space, NTU:UBULAWU is a testament to the collective’s skill and subject knowledge and their first UK solo show successfully takes viewers into an unfamiliar yet intriguing culture.
NTU: UBULAWU is on display Thursday-Sunday until 11th June at Auto Italia South East 44, Bonner Road, E2 9JS. Admission free. More information at autoitaliasoutheast.org.
Text by Kadish Morris; Images by Corey Bartle-Sanderson courtesy of Auto Italia and the artists