About Elias Njima
Before the world had eyes it was simply smiling. Its smile, however, was internal and no one knew what it meant. But in the blink of an eye this smile transformed into a grin, a grimace, a guise behind which the world could hide. The paintings, silk screens and drawings of Elias Njima form the stage for this returning central figure: a subject that has turned its gaze inward; a mocking face, an impenetrable surface. If the portrait was the first painterly gesture, why, Njima askes, do we paint? Njima traces portraiture back to a three-thousand-year old South African pitted pebble or the chalky outlines of a love story from ancient Rome. Imagination turns out not to be a creative act of desire, but a claustrophobic tendency to project familiarity on everything strange and unknown. In result, the face becomes a pre-linguistic sign in which we hope to recover that very moment before we ourselves had eyes.
– Jasper Coppes