'Creativity and beauty are like medicine for the soul in uncertain times,' says Nonzuzo Gxekwa, who is based in Johannesburg. For The Mask Project she joined hands with Pierre Le Riche, who resides and works in Cape Town. The pair worked together remotely to create a body of work incorporating elements from Africa's rich use of textiles and fabrics.
Le Riche, who works predominantly with fabrics and textiles, created six masks that were then incorporated by Gxekwa in her photographs. 'I initially started making face masks for friends and family when South Africans were first encouraged and then required to wear them in public, and there was still a shortage of them in the country,' said Le Riche. 'As I fabricated countless masks, trying to capture the personality of the intended wearer with my choice of fabrics and trims, the reality of a masked society started dawning on me. I couldn't help but fantasise about how these objects would integrate into our daily lives—pictured them becoming an extension of fashion and flesh. The elaborateness of the masks transforms them into objects which blurs lines between objects of functionality, art, craft and fashion. Inevitably, these masks become props for a masquerade which can hopefully distract from the spectacle of a world riddled with a pandemic.'
'Now masks have become part of our everyday costume as there is a great responsibility among each and every one of us to protect each other from the virus,' added Gxekwa. 'The beautiful artistic creations that we have made inspires the wearer to wear the mask without feeling the eminent threats of our present times. The nakedness of the models represents our vulnerability as this pandemic has stripped us of everything that we know—of life as we know it. The pandemic has affected everyone, rich, poor, black and white. It is asking that we take a deeper look at ourselves and the world we live in.'
Press release courtesy THK Gallery .