Emancipate the African Flower 2

A solo exhibition by Selvin November

7 December 2023 – 28 January 2024

Sisonke Gallery
90 Bree Street, Cape Town

For November, Nature is symbolised by the flower, a most beautiful natural and sensorial element, with each flower having its own personality. He therefore comfortably creates portraits of people associated with flowers, to capture individual essence.

The Hibiscus flower has personal symbolism for November.

It is commonly believed that this Island flower hails from Hawaii. It is native to warm temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions throughout the world.

Some posit that the Hibiscus is native to West Africa. This colourful flower was a symbol of survival and strength during the gruelling centuries of slavery. The hibiscus has become an iconic symbol of the African roots of the Caribbean. As it travelled out of Africa, its symbolism reinforced a sense of dignity. By allowing African slaves to continue their culinary traditions and culture, they had a link to home in a violent and unwelcoming new world, which helped them to survive.

The flower blooms for only one day.

“I want to emancipate the idea that it’s an exotic flower and rather attest that it’s an African flower and engrained in our DNA.

My grandfather is of slave descent; his father and grandfather worked the farm as slaves. He grew up on a mission station called Steintahl, near Tulbagh, where he lived with his sister as emancipated slaves. They cultivated flowers and vegetables on land granted by the Queen of England.

They came to Cape Town by donkey cart and eventually acquired their own 20 hectares of land, from where they continued to supply flowers and vegetables to the local markets.

Today this piece of land is known as 11th and 12th Avenue in Retreat.

During the 1960s they were forcibly removed from their land by the Apartheid government. This loss and trauma broke my Grandfather. He found solace in alcohol like so many of his peers and died of Consumption at 50.

I dedicate this show to my grandparents, particularly my grandmother, Winifred November, who paved the way for us to follow our dreams. She was a great supporter of my art-making career and always encouraged me to pursue what I loved the most.

This flower is a celebration of Freedom.” – Selvin November

About the Artist

Featured artworks