Lhola Amira

b. 1984, Gugulethu, South Africa

Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa


Lhola Amira was born in 1984 in Gugulethu, South Africa; she currently lives and works in Cape Town. The artist Lhola Amira was borne from the body of curator and academic Khanyisile Mbongwa, both Womxn share a plural existence, co-habiting the same body. In essence, Lhola Amira highlights new manifestations of inequality. Her practice speaks of the survival of Black individuals, in particular Black Womxn, in a world dominated by white women and white men. Khanyisile Mbongwa is a founding member of both, the artist collective Gugulective and Vasiki Creative Citizens. She recently completed an Inter-disciplinary Masters Degree in Performance Art, Public Art and Public Spheres at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in affiliation with the Institute of Creative Arts (ICA).

Central to Lhola Amira’s practice are gestures toward collective healing, emanating from an examination of the wound left by colonisation and systematic discrimination, as well as it’s continued weeping. She addresses the demand from the present to engage with the past and the future. With Black history in mind, Lhola Amira subverts the gaze on Black Bodies; the gaze to the “stage”, the pedestal and the spectacle of performance by calling her practice ‘Appearance’. The embodiment of ‘Appearance’ draws from Southern African Nguni spiritualism, that denotes plural existences in one body -Lhola Amira shares a body with Khanyisile Mbongwa- as well as an understanding of the Zulu notion of Ukuvela which contextualises an individuals’ existence in relation to collective historical and future narratives.

Confronting the historical and contemporary precarity of Blackness, ‘Appearance’ acts as an emancipatory practice moving from Black Bodies that perform to Black Bodies that ‘Appear’ on their own terms. In this sense, a Black Body that ‘Appears’ is imbued with POWER-the power to be, to protest, to imagine, to dream, to subvert, to laugh, to drink wine, to self-actualise. Lhola Amira’s works translate into film, photography and installation. A residue of her ‘Appearances’ are the arresting images and films that reiterate her engagements with past and contemporary history. Lhola Amira problematizes the spectacle-spectator relationship as there is no pre-conceived show to see, no script, or stage direction- instead there is purposeful embodied ‘presence’ and the gestural. These gestures, within de-colonial practice, position ‘Appearance’ in accordance to critical subaltern agency and the contestation of cultural value systems which have been monopolised by colonial hierarchies.

Lhola Amira was awarded the AiRS (Artist in Residence Skövde Art Museum) residency in Skövde, in 2017. Earlier residencies include participation at the Jiwar Creation and Society in Barcelona, Spain in 2015, and at Vasl Artists’ Collective in Islamabad, Pakistan in 2010. Lhola Amira has made numerous solo appearances both locally and abroad. In 2017 the artist presented her solo show at SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch titled Looking for Ghana & The Red Suitcase as well as LAGOM: Breaking Bread with The Self-Righteous at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town. In addition, Lhola Amira made three appearances in Bloemfontein, South Africa, entitled 29 ̊ 06’S 26 ̊ 13’E  ̊ as part of her most recent project. Her short-film by the same title was selected for screening in Gothenburg; Sweden at the Götenborg Film Festival in early 2018. Lhola Amira was selected to present within the SOLO Section, curated by Nontobeko Ntombela, at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair in 2018, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) in Cape Town, South Africa.

Lhola Amira’s work forms part of numerous public and private collections such as: The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), in Cape Town, South Africa; Skövde Konstshall, in Skövde Sweden; the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, Gibraltar; and the Iziko South African National Gallery, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Amira recently hosted her solo exhibition ‘SINKING: Xa Sinqamla Unxubo‘ at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa.


Lhola Amira is included in the 33rd São Paulo Biennial, Affective Affinities, curated by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro. Amira was invited by Wura-Natasha Ogunji to present new work in a group exhibition which forms part of one of seven artist-curated projects proposed for the Biennial.



Press Highlights

Article by Kabali-Kagwa in Mail and Guardian, 19 January 2018: SS Mendi ritual breaks new groundPDF

Article by Astrid Gebhardt in The Lake magazine, February 2017: Lhola Amira AppearsPDF

Interview by Carina Claassens on Culture Trip, 16 March 2017: Meet Lhola Amira, the Artist Who’s rediscovering Post-Colonial AfricaPDF

Interview by Siyavuya Khaya in Vukani Newspaper, February 2017: Gugulethu artist tackles social issues in post-colonial eraPDF

Review by Thuli Gamedze in Cape Times, March 2017: Amira’s political take on Ghana – PDF