Sharlene Khan, born in Durban 1977 holds two Masters degrees in Fine Arts from Westville and Johannesburg and has successfully exhibited both locally in South Africa and internationally (France, India, Switzerland, USA, Germany, Sweden). For over eleven years her work has focused predominantly on issues with the informal trading sector on South African city streets. She works in various media including painting, drawing and site specific projects, also becoming involved in several mural projects in the KwaZulu-Natal region.
‘Other Stories’ is her latest exhibition which will feature at the beautiful Gallery MOMO in Johannesburg over the next month. The series depicts the African immigrants and refugees who trade daily at traffic lights around the local shopping malls that Khan herself frequented during her MA studies in Johannesburg. Shockingly many of these traders are previously educated people forced from their homes to migrate to South Africa escaping the exhausted economic conditions they face in their home countries of Zimbabwe, Malawi, the Congo, Sudan.
The work of Sharlene Khan explores the lives and stories of the people’ she conducted interviews with the traders questioning their working conditions, the reactions of the South African people to them, their hopes and dreams and their families and children back home. These interviews were transcribed and painted onto canvases over which the portraits of the traders were drawn on and finally embroidered.
There are three sections to this series by Khan; the first four artworks are from before the xenophobic attacks which erupted in townships around Johannesburg during May 2008, while the second four artworks were completed after this date incorporating an extra embroidered layer which depicts the empty streets as immigrants fled South Africa during May and August 2008. The final four paintings in this series depict the return of the migrants to the street selling industry, despite the continued threats of xenophobia they are faced with.
The exhibition opens today Thursday 31st March and will conclude on 30th April 2011.
Gallery MOMO# 52 7th Avenue, Parktown North, 2193, Johannesburg
By Lucy Mclean