Mphe Mphe Ya Lapisa.  A solo Exhibition by Levy Pooe – 2020 Cassirer Welz Award Winner

20 February – 12 March 2021

The Bag Factory is pleased to present Mphe Mphe Ya Lapisa, a solo exhibition of new work by Levy Pooe, winner of the prestigious 2020 Cassirer Welz Award presented by the Bag Factory in partnership with Strauss Education.

This body of work is an extension of Pooe’s ongoing themes that revolve around his relationship with the urban space, black narratives and the subtleties and enormities of black struggles in the city.

Mphe Mphe Ya Lapisa, motho o kgona ke sagagwe is a seTswana idiom, which can be translated as: “The constant act of asking is tiring. It is better to have your own.” Mphe Mphe Ya Lapisa emerges from navigating the socio-economic condition and the deepening class disparity in our everyday experiences of being black in post-liberation South Africa. From enduring the long wait for the R350 social grant to passionately playing the flute in the street for the nonchalant passerby who sometimes offers neither money nor appreciation, Mphe Mphe Ya Lapisa gives meaning to the universal experience of how we see ways of asking, and how we become victims to this state of being. This theme poses questions such as but not limited to: What do we ask for? When do we ask? Who do we ask? From which spaces do we ask? In addition, this theme further calls us to interrogate the oppressive nature of being in a continuous state of lack as well as how this state further compromises our dignity, our bodies, our voices, and our autonomy.

Taking the artist’s relationship with the city of Johannesburg as a source of inspiration, the acrylic paintings and charcoal drawings presented interpret the theme in various ways. The subtle and mellow work Praying for Employment interrogates the different situations that the youth in South Africa find themselves in and the ways in which they navigate the pressures of not being upwardly mobile in a city that thrives on affluence and materiality. Kopa ungfake VIP (please get me into VIP) highlights the core message of this theme as it depicts the ways in which we navigate social mobility by constantly begging for a place in high-end spaces. Busking in the city takes the viewer on a walk through the city, which recognises the street musicians and how their melodies define their silences and struggles, as well as how they ask to be heard.

Viewers will also have the opportunity to meet the artist and discuss the exhibition further at an artist-led walkabout on 20 February 2021, at 11am, at the Bag Factory.

Exhibition opens: Saturday, 20 February 2021, 11am 

Bag Factory, 10 Mahlathini Street

Walkabout:  Saturday, 6 March 2021, 11am

Bag Factory, 10 Mahlathini Street

Exhibition runs until:   12 March 2021

The exhibition was made possible with support from Strauss & Co.


Levy Pooe (b. 1994) is a seTswana speaking South African visual artist born in Rustenburg during the country’s transition to democracy. He is currently based in Johannesburg. Working in a range of mediums from painting, charcoal and collage to photography, Pooe is passionate about telling stories and creating narratives that speak to the urban black experience. He mostly works from his home studio, produces murals, and creates live interpretations of musical performances. Pooe studied towards a BAFA at University of the Witwatersrand (incomplete) and attended the Market Photo Workshop.


Now in its tenth year, the Cassirer Welz Award honours two doyens of art auctioneering in South Africa: Reinhold Cassirer and Stephan Welz. The award acknowledges excellence in emerging artists (under 35) specialising in sculpture, drawing and painting, and provides an opportunity to showcase their talents to a broader audience. “Since its inception, this award has helped the winners launch their careers and really start making a name for themselves within the South African art market,” says Susie Goodman, Executive Director, Strauss & Co Johannesburg. Previous winners include artists such as Blessing Ngobeni, Nompumelelo Ngoma, Tshepo Mosopa, Asanda Kupa, Thato Nhlapho, Richard ‘Specs’ Ndimande, Keneilwe Mokoena, Olivia Botha and DuduBloom More. The award provides the recipient with studio space, a contribution towards material costs and a transport stipend, as well as the opportunity to interact with the resident artists at the Bag Factory. Through the exchange of ideas, mentorship and skills development, the artist has an opportunity for substantial creative and professional growth.


The Bag Factory is a non-profit contemporary visual art organisation in Newtown, Johannesburg. With a pioneering 30-year history of providing a supportive infrastructure for artists, the Bag Factory is unique in combining art making with cultural debate and art exhibitions, thereby creating a fertile international environment for experimentation, innovation, and cultural dialogue between creatives in South Africa and the rest of the world.

We provide studio space to a cross-generational community of Johannesburg-based artists, and we host a prestigious international artist and curator residency programme. We present regular exhibitions in our gallery that showcase new work by emerging artists to the wider public, and we also support the professional development of artists and curators through workshops, mentorship, and the prestigious David Koloane and Cassirer Welz awards. All our programmes are accompanied by a public programme that encourages greater understanding of contemporary visual art and stimulates interaction between artists and the local community. We are affiliated to the international Triangle Network.

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