The South Africans in Paris make most of ‘Being There’

One of the highlights of the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s large showcase of South African art, one of three exhibitions devoted to Africa currently on view in an attention-grabbing Frank Gehry building in Paris, is a suite of 16 portraits by Johannesburg painter Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi. Installed at eye level along two walls in a darkened space, between two contrasting films by Sue Williamson and Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Nkosi’s washed-out portraits depict mostly women, many of them public figures.

A 2013 portrait of exiled writer Bessie Head, her eyes glancing sideways, sits comfortably next to a 2013 portrait of American civil rights activist Betty Shabazz, her mouth ajar and eyes trained elsewhere.

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