Interview with Lwandiso Njara

Gallery:

The title, ENGINEERING THE NEW JERUSALEM 111 – The Digital City (2021), implies that this exhibition is part of a series. How does the work for this show differ thematically and in content from issues 1 and 11?

Njara:

Most of my past exhibitions focused on exploring a cross-pollinated sense of identity that emerges from the fusion of various elements in my art making process. This year (2021), my exhibition explores the transformation of the actual Jerusalem city in Israel. In other words, this exhibition reflects the holy Jerusalem city transforming into the digital city characterized by the new urban technologies such as the flying drones, food delivery apps, virtual reality platforms etc. In conclusion, one may argue that my new works of art are indicative of how the future cities and people could look like.

Gallery:

You often return to the rural Transkei where you grew up. Do you still find your inspiration from your formative years there?

Njara:

Oh yes! For sure. Sometimes I also go back home to attend the traditional Xhosa spiritual cleansing ceremonies in order to communicate better with my ancestors in the rural Transkei. This is where I get to find my inner strength and inspiration to keep going and creating my works of art.

Gallery:

How has living in large cities such as Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town affected the message you want to convey through your artworks?

Njara:

The everyday use of the new urban technologies such as Wi-Fi internet connections also inspired my art making process.

Gallery:

Your work often references religious symbols in exhibition titles such as Altar and New Jerusalem and in themes of sacrifice, peace and the Madonna. Tell us more about this.

Njara:

To be honest with you, my art works are quite deep and conceptual. Only a few people can understand it and that’s fine and I’m cool with that. I don't make fine art just to sell and buy bread. I create art for my own survival and I express my own feelings through my art making process. Regarding the above-mentioned religious symbols and themes, I think it is best for the viewer to read just a few lines on my artist statement in order to understand the concept behind my works of art.

Gallery:

How do you consider the effect of technology on the planet and its inhabitants in terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Afrofuturism?

Njara:

Sometimes I think that urban technology is good. Sometimes I just feel like people don’t feel anymore, they don't experience life as they used to.

Gallery:

You recently attended a residency in Saint Emillion in France. Describe how this experience enriched your art practice.

Njara:

France was really cool. I think it is good for one to do art exhibitions internationally. When I was in France, I met a lot of art lovers, artists, designers etc. and they just could not resist but smile and buy my drawings in the studio. They told me that my work was different, conceptually strong and not something you see every day. The art residency was a good experience for me in terms of the international exposure.

Gallery:

Name one artist that you would like to meet.

Njara:

I would love to chill with Jackson Pollock but unfortunately, he died.

Gallery:

Where do see yourself within the next two years?

Njara:

I’m definitely on my way to Shanghai in China and I’m not scared of the corona virus.

Link to Lwandiso Njara Artist Statement and About Lwandiso Njara