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National Museum of African Art Presents Artists in Dialogue 2 Sandile Zulu and Henrique Oliveira

“Artists in Dialogue 2: Sandile Zulu and Henrique Oliveira” will be on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art from Feb. 2 through Dec. 4. It is the second in a series of exhibitions in which two artists are invited to create new works at the museum, each in response to the other. Zulu, who lives in Johannesburg, will join Oliveira, who lives in Sao Paolo, to install the site-specific works in January.

In the exhibition, the artists will inspire one another’s work as they continue their imaginative extensions of the canvas. Each artist “paints” with unlikely materials such as weathered wood and fire, and they will create work in dialogue with each other. Audiences will see how materials and concepts unite diverse individuals, cultures and places. “The museum is thrilled to present these two artists to Washington audiences for the first time,” said curator Karen Milbourne. “Sandile is an icon within South Africa, and the tension he creates between his untamed medium of choice and his taut compositions is truly extraordinary. Here, he will be joined by a rising Brazilian talent who takes the seemingly controllable medium of wood to create surreal environments based on the surface of paintings and the body’s interior.”

Oliveira and Zulu will exchange materials and techniques to create groundbreaking new works that illustrate how contemporary art in Africa and Latin America is in dialogue with contemporary art from around the world. They will bring their subtle and sophisticated manipulation of found and unlikely materials to create visually rich, multimedia installations that speak to their home countries yet transcend place.

Oliveira will share his trademark material “tapumes” (weathered wood that is used as construction fencing across Sao Paolo) with Zulu who, in turn, will introduce Oliveira to working with fire. Oliveira’s revolutionary paintings use wood to create epic “canvases” that can run 70 feet long and envelop the viewer into the experience of being inside a painting. He addresses issues of perception, surface and decay in his work. The museum’s Artists in Dialogue 2 exhibition catalog is the first major English publication highlighting his work.

Zulu’s work gives expression to his wide-ranging interests in biology, botany, history and philosophy, and he explores the relationship between physical and social conditions. His wide-ranging interests and innovative use of fire have resulted in a body of work that stands up to rigorous interpretation but conveys a profound appreciation of patterns and harmony.

Zulu has exhibited extensively locally in South Africa, as well as in the United States, Germany, France, Sweden, Scotland and the Seychelles. He has received many international awards and is represented in public, corporate and private collections around the world, including the South African National Gallery.

Educational Programs and Catalog
“Artists in Dialogue 2” will have a strong educational component. The artists will welcome students from local colleges into the gallery to show them their process and speak about their careers, visit local art and art history classes and participate in a free public program.

On Saturday, Feb. 5, at 1 p.m. in the Mezzanine, Zulu and Oliveira will discuss their work and new installations with Milbourne in a “Conversation with the Artists.” Several Web activities are also planned. Information is available at

As part of its Africa in Motion Performance series, the museum will host a variety of musical performances from Washington-area Afro Brazilian artists who will respond and interpret the innovative artistic styles of Oliveira and Zulu. Performances will include music, dance, spoken word, song and video-art projections. A full-color catalog will accompany the exhibition.

Africa Underground; Feb. 18
Africa Underground opens the doors of the museum after hours for the public to enjoy the museum’s exhibitions, ambiance and performances, as well as to dance and enjoy light refreshments Friday, Feb. 18. This inaugural event will celebrate the creativities of these mixed artists and features performances by Zezeh Brazil Samba and Afrobeat music spun by DJ Adrian Loving.

About the National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art is America’s only museum dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Avenue S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about this exhibition, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the museum’s website at For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285.

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