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  • Emma Lee


Gallery 1957 hosts a new solo exhibition by Cape Town-based artists Nabeeha Mohamed, Tending Bell Flowers, making Mohamed's inaugural showcase at the gallery's London venue following her solo presentation in Accra in 2022. In this exhibition, Mohamed explores the themes of tending, both individually and collectively, as she delves into a poetics and aesthetics of care.

Nabeeha Mohamed, St Josephs and the Bell Flowers, 2023, Oil on canvas.

Within this collection, the act of "tending" becomes a focal point of individual and shared tenderness, giving rise to a visual garden shaped by the poetics and imagination of care and (self)recovery. Comprising paintings and sculptural works, Mohamed's exhibition serves as a poignant visual call to prioritize self-care and self-preservation through depictions of flower arrangements, self-portraits, sculptures featuring elongated surreal high-heels, and landscape paintings.

Mohamed elucidates on the concept of 'tending': "The idea of ‘tending’ was something that came up in my last body of work: I was building this language of sculpturally creating these flowers, and I mean, I've done it in other things not only my flowers, but it’s the flowers that I feel have really come alive in that language. I felt like a gardener or like I was cultivating these flowers. Imagined and not, they’ve always kind of spawned from something I see but they become their own thing as I’m building them… And so, I think that the notion of ‘tending’ came to me in the same way as when you are cultivating or when you are gardening. It’s quite a gentle and slow process. There's love and care that goes into it.”

Nabeeha Mohamed, Masego in Root, 2023, Oil on Canvas.

The exhibition also features landscape paintings that revisit Boschenheuvel Arboretum, a site located less than a kilometer from Mohamed's childhood home, which is subject to a historic land claim by original landowners who were displaced during Apartheid in South Africa. In contrast to previous interpretations, the significance of Boschenheuvel Arboretum in this exhibition has shifted from histories and politics of displacement, 'home,' and inequality to evoke a pastoral aesthetic and sentiment. This shift signifies a call towards rest, slowing down, and taking a moment to catch one's breath.

Examining the material surface of the landscape paintings, brought to life by Mohamed’s bold and expressive paint application and vibrant colors, the core theme revolves around an exploration of a revolutionary and radical poetics of rest and care within a social framework that often ties productivity to one's worth. The portraits, when viewed collectively, may be interpreted as piecing together a space of ontological possibilities where individuals can reclaim their subjectivity through care and rest.

Tending Bell Flowers is complemented by a critical essay authored by Lindi Mngxitama and runs from 27th October to 2nd December 2023 at Gallery 1975.


Emma Lee is an arts news writer for FETCH London. She has written for Vogue, The Art Newspaper and The Financial Times and specialises in art news and art market analysis.

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