Nwabisa Timeni

Winner of the 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art, Igshaan Adams, recently held an exhibition at the Johannes Stegmann gallery in the Free State. In this exhibition Adams presents an eclectic and multi-sensory large-scale installation, bringing together aspects of sculpture, textiles, found objects, furniture and performance in an immersive environment. Nwabisa Timeni spent some time with Adams and reports on their conversation.

Igshaan Adams recently held a two-day exhibition to showcase his latest work, When Dust Settles, at the Johanness Stegmann gallery.

Drawing upon the material and formal iconographies of Islam and coloured culture, Adams’s cross-disciplinary practice is an ongoing investigation into hybrid identity and liminality, particularly in relation to race, religion, and sexuality. For this exhibition, Adams presents an eclectic and multi-sensory large-scale installation, bringing together aspects of sculpture, textiles, found objects, furniture and performance in an immersive environment.

Adams describes himself as a multidimensional body who tries to pull spirituality into his work. He showcased pieces, vinyls and large-scale installations that represented a nostalgic yet dramatic portrayal of his upbringing, identity relations and spiritual cleansing.

Adams weaved together his childhood memories from white cotton thread, garden fence and vinyl hanging from the wall. This material was also placed on the walls and depicts a sense of home. He sourced white cotton threads and used vinyl’s from Bonteheuwel in Cape Town, his own community, as well as Khayelitsha, a township on the outskirts of the city.

Adams brings together garden fence, textiles, furniture and wash rags or “waslappies” as he calls them. These are not typical materials that many artists would utilise but they have a deeper sense of meaning for the artist, he managed to integrate all these materials to create a feel of his multidisciplinary exhibition. For instance, the white cotton thread weaved into the garden fence represent personal histories and childhood memories where his grandmother had a beautiful garden where she would plant flowers. The fence and the garden represent the aspirations of the community he grew up in. His exhibition is personal. He uses themes of time passing and how situations and objects take on different meanings over time and space.

“With ‘Dust Settles’, I wanted to bring in the idea of perspective,” he said. “And with the material, it is such an overlooked material, it is material that nobody finds special and that is why people find the space arresting. In a weird way, that is how I felt, as a person of colour in the Cape Flats, I had no value of a life and had attempts of dehumanising. It resonates with me in that regard.”


An outstanding element of the exhibition was a black threaded installation which brought about a feeling of sadness, darkness and a closed space. Particularly with one of his pieces that incorporate wash rags that Adams had collected from various people in his immediate community.

“Those wash cloths, they took a step further and it becomes more personal because that material goes into the most personal spaces in our bodies. But then as a Muslim, we also use them in our cleansing ritual, every time you pray you have to make sure that you are ritually cleansed, and it has nothing to do with physical impurities but it’s the consciousness of the energy that gets stuck on our bodies. We pray with the consciousness of getting clean”.

This installation happened to be the only black piece that was weaved with dark material. In contrast, the wash rags were of different colours and that depicted a sense of light attempting to penetrate through the darkness of the installation.

When asked how his personal views changed as an artist after this exhibition, he mentioned that he is still absorbing everything.

“I often look at art works and the things that I have done two or three years ago, and I say the issue that I’m dealing with now is already present in the work from four years ago. It’s the stretch thing that happens, where you see things about yourself that was present in the world back then that you were not able to see. As you get older, your perspective changes. I don’t know if my perspective has changed yet but I know it will happen – it usually takes a bit of time for the exhibition to settle within myself and I see things differently,” he said.

As an artist, you do not have control over how your work is received. What does Adams hope for people to take away from his work?  “If nothing else, at least reflect on the people who live their lives, the complexity of their lives and history. You realise that there’s more to people than what you think you know.”