Day 7. Johannesburg


VANSA (Visual Arts Network of South Africa) is a support and development agency for contemporary arts practice in South Africa. It operates as a network of artists with over 8000 members; membership costs the equivalent of one euro. The urgency of VANSA’s activities is outlined by its new director Kabelo Malatsie (who has worked as a curator in both independent and commercial contexts, and has explored alternative funding and institutional models that are rooted in their viability in the South-African context). There is a lack of independent, public institutions for the arts in South Africa; and where public infrastructure for the arts fails, she says, it fails the artists. Yes, there is a growing commercial arts scene, with galleries and private museums; and yes, a group of South-African artists features prominently on the world stage of biennials and fairs. But behind this story of success and glamour, hides a structure that is structurally not supportive and often exploitative, whether deliberately or not. VANSA aims to look beyond the few dominant players, and beyond discussions about which artists are good, which themes are popular, and which critical debates are given a symbolic stage, to advocate structures across the entire field of art that are more fair and safe.

An important tool is VANSA’s website, which is a resource for information about resources, funding and job opportunities, residencies, internships, and networks. VANSA also offers legal advice, about contracts, copyright issues, collectors who fail to pay for their acquisitions within reasonable time. VANSA also lobbies with governments and institutions, for example for artist’s fees and resale rights.


The kind of fair practice VANSA advocates, is an issue everywhere. But the predicament of the majority of South African and other African artists, Kabelo explains, is extra harsh because of the massive gaps between the international ‘scramble’ for African contemporary art, and the real material conditions behind the scene, which tend to remain unspoken. Discursive programming and supposed criticality are part of every biennial, exhibition, even commercial gallery show these days. But we don’t talk about the artists who did not make it to the selection because they could not afford to travel abroad. We don’t talk about the artists who did not manage to meet the international curator in their own town because they could not afford to front the taxi fare and fancy latte macchiato for a vague ‘get together’ with no clear purpose or intended outcome. Kabelo’s examples are confronting, because they are so very recognizable, and they also implicate all arts professionals engaging with (South)African artists, including ourselves.

In order to help build opportunities and equity across the country, one of VANSA’s focus is to support independent practice outside of the main city centres, fostering diverse local opportunities and networks, so artists are less pressured to relocate to the urban centres where their chances at a career and at a life are actually not necessarily better. At the same time, VANSA is part of an international network of independent arts organisations, like KUNCI Cultural Studies Center in Yogyakarta (Indonesia) and lugar a dudas in Cali (Colombia), which share knowledge and exchange strategies.

Anke Bangma

Johannesburg Art Gallery
Today we went to the Johannesburg Art Gallery, a beautiful building from 1915, surrounded by a sculpture park. If you search for JAG – Johannesburg Art Gallery on Wikipedia, you’ll read this: ”The Johannesburg Art Gallery is an art gallery in Joubert Park in the central business district of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is the largest gallery on the subcontinent with a collection that is larger than that of the Iziko South African National Art Gallery in Cape Town”.

Unfortunately it was not the experience we had (or I had). It seems that a large part of the museum was closed down. Only a very small selection of the collection was on display, almost hidden away in the lower floor. However, there were some very good works, e.g several photo series by David Goldblatt, one called “Going home” or “Going to work”, featuring the time the black working class spent every day on busses between home and work. And a painting by Mmakgabo Mapula Helen Sebidi, which we saw at the Noval Foundation, tiled “Modern Marriage” (1988-1989). In an additional exhibition space a small collection of heritage items from the KwaZulu-Natal region from 19th and early 20th century (a collection acquired in 2013) were shown. It didn’t catch my full attention, which may as well be because of my state of mind and the limited time.

But impressively, they had this very beautifully installed comprehensive solo presentation titled “Fragile” by Wolfgang Tillman on display. Even though you may have seen a lot of him during the last twenty years, it still works. The on-going concern with issues about intimacy, relations and minority community, seems as relevant as always. The well balanced shift from close-ups and small details to depictions of situations from everyday life and communities. The characteristic way to compose the layout of his works and the way you, as a viewer or recipient, have to shift position watching the images. Sometimes you have to go really close to see the motive and then step back to get the needed distance to capture the content of the big scale photos, and then again kneel down to get close enough to se the small snapshot-like photos.

We were supposed to meet with the director Khwezi Gule, but unfortunately he didn’t show up, being too busy with the JoburgArtFair and the Art Week. A pity because it could have been very interesting to hear something about future plans and hopes for the museum. We heard that he was newly appointed and therefore must have a lot of ideas of what’s to be done. It was clear that the whole building needed restoration. Already from the outside it looked dilapidated. Of course, to finance such a massive renovation project and to build up a sustainable economy must be the biggest challenge. I wish him all the best of luck. There really is a potential to create a great institution.

Kit Leunbach


In Good Company 


Our final night in Joburg is spent in good company. In Troyeville Hotel, located in one of the eldest suburbs on the eastern edge of Johannesburg, we are having an informal dinner with a few local artists and curators, some of whom we’ve met in the previous days.


Thato Mogotsi, who was instrumental in getting the whole crowd together,  in the grey hoodie, is an independant curator and researcher, a teacher at the Market Photo Workshop and currently in the process of obtaining her masters’ at Wits University.

We also spoke to Molemo Moiloa, to Thato’s left, the founder of Vansa, and a member of the artist collective “MADEYOULOOK”.


Speaking to Anders Gaardboe Jensen is Rangoato Hlasane, an artist and scholar and a founding member of Keleketla! Library, a space that addresses issues of heritage and the danger of one story. Instead, it proposes to be a place where multiple stories and multiple narratives can exist parallel in order to challenge dominant narratives. Keleketla! Library was also part of the last Berlin Biennial.


We also spoke to Thenjiwe Nkosi (front left), a South African/Greek artist based in New York. In her work she deals with the questions second generation exiles face. Victoria Wigzell (back left) is an artist and researcher who recently started an artist run film production company called News From Home. Chlöe Hugo-Hamman, seated in the back right, is an actress and artist working in mixed media. She’s talking to Jamal Nxedlana whom we’ve met the day before at Bubblegum Club.


Seated between Rangoato Hlasane and Frederique Bergholtz is Minenkulu Ngoyi, an artist and founding member of the print collective Alphabet Zoo, affiliated with Danger Gevaar Ingozi. Anna Rubbens is seated on the right. We bumped into her at Stevenson gallery and it turned out she was a recent animation graduate from LUCA Ghent travelling in South Africa. So we invited her to join the program for two days.


Hugging Haco is Kwezi Gule, the director of the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Helena Kritis

Day 6. Johannesburg

Launch of 9 More weeks by Sinazo Chiya at STEVENSON.
Publishing conversations like snap shots

Today we start by joining a public conversation in Stevenson gallery celebrating the launch of Sinazo Chiya’s 9 More Weeks. A publication containing a series of artists interviews done by Sinazo. Joost Bosland, director of Stevenson Cape Town, leads the conversation in which he will try to give some insights in the interviewing process and the choices that have been made.

The project ‘9 weeks’ started when Belgium curator and writer Hansi Momodu-Gordon documented the conversations she had during her a nine-week visit to South Africa turning them into the first publication by Stevenson of which this is the sequel. It’s great to immediately read the different approach by both authors. It’s amazing how embedded and knowledgeable Sinazo is. In the conversations it becomes -between the lines- clear how invested she is in art historical theory and she explains that she choose to keep away from this knowledge making it vocabulary absent in the interviews. One way of stepping away from this was starting the conversation with common references like populair culture as shoes and music but she also referred to local history.  Creating an interesting read anyone can pick up. Something that worked in all interviews she did, wether it was via Skype, e-mail, talks in the gallery or the conversation over beers in the bar. In all of the interviews she managed to create a strong verbal portrait that she likes to call a ’snap shot’.

The base of every interview is extended research of the artist’s body of work and previous interviews, aiming to make the document part of the discussion on the continent, something that can be the root of the conversation about art and explaining the context. This is also the reason why she always narrows down hour long conversations trying to not only create a journalist document but also adding to the art-critical discourse.

The conversation ends with the search for an overall theme within the interview, which could be intuition. A state of mind all the artists in one way or another work from, as feeling or spiritual idea of ancestry. But, maybe even closer to all of the art practices, the continuously changing story… that even throughout the creation of work and the long interviews end up far away from where it started. Maybe with hidden inside it ‘a revelation or two’.
About 9 More weeks. 
Florian Weigl


By coincidence we bump into a dreamy pastel coloured minimalistic gallery on the hip Smith Road, close to Stevenson. With it’s pink and purple walls something we need to explore. Right away we find out it’s not your every day traditional gallery but the artist-run exhibition / studio- space BKhz. Run by the 23 year old artist Banale Khoza. His work, ghostly soft watercolours in which the same dreamy pastel hue is present als seen everywhere in the space.


Funnily enough Khoza found his way to painting through the encounter of the work of Marlene Dumas in his preteen living in Swaziland. Dumas, an artist well known to many readers of this blog, is an South African artists based in Amsterdam that painted Moshekwa in 2006. A bruise-colored expressionist study of artist Moshekwa Langa. Khoza saw the portrait in 2008, the same year he moved to South Africa, and credits it with inspiring him to be a painter.” He is clearly inspired by Dumas but has it’s own signature that can be seen in all of the paintings.


The reason we got excited about the space and it’s approach is the mission it has. It doubles as both personal studio and exhibition space. The backroom, his fully equipped studio, is the place you can find him working on a daily base while the front room is a place where in the first place his first solo exhibition is presented. The artists founded the space because of the lack of places for young artist to exhibit. Right after this current exhibition he planned a photography exhibition with a group of young local artists that isn’t being represented by a gallery yet. Reason enough to peek into this ambitious gallery space between your flat-white and visit to Stevenson Johannesburg.

Florian Weigl

After BKhz we visit to the headquarter of the  Bubblegumclub the self proclaimed ‘cultural intelligence agency’ that consist of six members with background in graphic design, fashion, politics, film and journalism.

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-11 at 20.32.21

Although all of the individuals have multiple projects and practices within Bubblegumclub they are active in two domains. They work, to quote them, to help brands and organizations understand and engage with contemporary South African youth culture. Creating video’s and editorials in which they are apart from the brief completely free to make the work they want. “Conceptualizing within this commercial work the broader social context of trends and activations to help out they’re clients to organically access youth culture.” Besides offering advertorials and video’s they are also regularly invited to curate night programs that usually have a musical layer.

On the other hand they create autonomous personal work and publications and exhibitions and work by others. This came after the frustrations they also have about the lack of prevention platforms for young emerging artists. And the lack of local African context that goes further than the gallery context.

They created an approach in which they can offer a residency of 8 weeks, with a selection made from an open call on Instagram. Offering a place to create and exchange. During this time the young artists got mentorship, acces to their network and a publication and exhibition at the end. Aiming to create a group of new artists that are able to self organise. You can see this as an long turn project that can evolve or develop in closer collaboration with the artists.

As criteria for this residency they mainly look at how artists approach their practice. It can be fashion, poetry, photography, paint, design. With the lack of support in the arts in general they find the need of inclusivity most important. It’s all about the proposal. Are they proposing to create something new? Are they making a new step in their practice? The main focus is to be open for something new, broadening their approach.


We visit their exhibition space in which they present a beautiful selection of Zines. The outcome of their current research around zine-making in Cape Town and Joburg
To Zine or not to Zine? – The cultural significance of self-publishing

Florian Weigl

Sabelo Mlangeni
Umlindelo mama Kholwa ( the vigil nights of believers)

Those who assume that a people have no history worth mentioning are likely to believe that they have no humanity worth defending. A historical legacy strengthens a country and it’s people. Denying a peoples heritage questions their legitimacy. – William Loren Katz

Umlindelo mama Kholwa is an ongoing photographic series by Sabelo
Mlamgeni. Focussing on Zionist churches in Driefontein and Johannesburg.


The Zionist church is one of several prophet-healing groups in southern
Africa; they correspond to the independent churches known as Aladura (q.v.) in Nigeria, “spiritual” in Ghana, and “prophet-healing churches” in most other parts of Africa.The use of the term Zion derives from the Christian Catholic  Apostolic  Church in Zion, founded in Chicago in 1896 and having missionaries in South Africa by 1904. That church emphasized divine healing, baptism by threefold immersion, and the imminent Second Coming of Christ. It’s African members encountered U.S. missionaries of the Apostolic Faith pentecostal church in 1908 and learned that the Zion Church lacked the second Baptism of the Spirit (recognition of extra powers or character); they therefore founded their own pentecostal Zion Apostolic Church. The vast range of independent churches that stem from the original Zion Apostolic Church use in their names the words Zion (or Jerusalem), Apostolic, Pentecostal, Faith, or Holy Spirit to represent their biblical charter, as for example the Christian Catholic Apostolic Holy Spirit Church in Zion of South Africa. These are known in general as Zionists or Spirit Churches. Since the 1920s the racial and political concerns shared with Ethiopianism (an earlier movement toward religious and political autonomy) have declined, especially in South Africa; the better
established Zionists have become Ethiopian in type, or more like white evangelical or revivalist churches. These tendencies are apparent in the two largest South African groups—the Zion Christian Church (founded 1925), whose membership is estimated at 80,000 to 600,000, and Limba’s austere Church of Christ (founded 1910), which had about
120,000 members in the 1980s.

For believers life on earth is seen as a waiting room where the congregants prepare themselves for a happier live. But waiting is also a way of connecting to each other. Whilst one waits stories are shared and it’s a way of creating the communal. Although the waiting seems to be a passive act, it is by no means because in the moment of standing still, other paradigms can be opened to the world. Love in relation to being black is often an overlooked opportunity to think creatively in an open discourse about life and new possibilities for another world and another humanity. It is not about a repetition of love within the dominant moral and religious languages. Not love in the theology of the West inherited from modernity and stalked by the trinity who have traveled over sea’s namely Christianity, capitalism and colonialism. They gave us a bible and told us to close our eyes and when we opened our eyes the land was gone Sabelo says. He questions himself on how he can one be a Christian and at the same time be woke. There are a lot of contradictions in the way stories in the bible were brought to him.. For example they were not allowed to connect with their ancestors, but who are the characters in the bible? Aren’t they ancestors as well?


Entering the exhibition we see cobalt blue walls the color of his church.
A blue cloth with a cross and a white stripe attached to it, which makes the cross look like a star, hangs from the ceiling . It is the flag of his consecration. When Sabelo speaks about his church and his community, it is modest but also full of passion. The photographs in the exhibition are a loving and intimate portrait of a large part of his life and of the people with whom he has shared a lot. Initially, the thought came to my head ​​why he in God’s name embraces Christianity, while it is precisely the missionaries and the church who share responsibility for bringing so much misery into the former colonies. But when I ask further it turns out that Sabelo and his community experience a different form of believing than we know in the West. African spirituality is mixed in the daily rituals and the ancestors are always honored through rituals. Sabelo also had inner struggles and turned his back to the community for a period of time. He had many questions which were never discussed within the community, such as the position of women and homosexuality. The latter is certainly present, but it is not openly discussed. The role of woman is subservient and subject to a rock-solid tradition. Her position is still such as that it is written in the Bible. I find it courageous of Sabelo to question these positions and to investigate these in his work. He doesn’t do this in a loud and confrontational manner, but modestly and with respect for the others of his consecration. However, it also shows the terror which lies hidden within tradition when one is not allowed to question it. Life and the people who live it are in constant change. Traditions sometimes need to be questioned in order to stay in tune with the music of life.

The mainly black and white photos of Sabelo give me the opportunity to look through other windows without glass to a partly unknown world. I say partly because in my youth I was taken to various church services. My mother did not take it that strict with religion. Which meant that I sometimes attended services of the Pentecostal church, then sat in a Catholic church and was fascinated by their rituals and the overload of images and painting or to an empty Protestant cold church. The sense of community, as Sabelo imagines in his foo’s, I have therefore not known. As also goes for the deep spiritual experience of being a believer. I discovered my spirituality later and learned to experience Christianity in a different way. Entering the intimacy of his world and even being allowed to touch it if I wanted to do so, is an incredibly generous act, because as a child of a diaspora, but brought up in the West, I always had this desire for that secure intimacy of a community. Being allowed to touch the photo’s is also a way to de-sacralize them but also art in general. Contemporary art is about money and therefore the object, art piece gets value. Money is the ‘religion’ of Capitalism. Art should take a turn and move to another direction. With his photo’s Sabelo is leading the way. I just have to follow the path.

A short History of the South-African Photobook

Patricia Kaersenhout


In late afternoon the group went to the monumental and somewhat overzealous Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton to visit Theatre on the Square, which hosted a special preview screening of the new “Johannesburg” episode of season 9 of the Peabody Award-winning documentary television series Art in the Twenty-First Century. The series is produced by Art21, which since 1997 has been recognized as a celebrated global leader in presenting high-levelled content about contemporary art. It remains one of the non-profit and New York-based organization’s beliefs that artists are role models for creative and critical thinking. Its mission aim, moreover, is to inspire a more tolerant world through the work and words of contemporary artists. Through a continuous digital presence, publications, various educational initiatives and a video library with over 500 videos all open and free to the public, Art21 reaches audiences worldwide.  


Season 9 is presented in three parts, drawing upon artists’ relationships with the places in which they work: Berlin, Germany; Johannesburg, South Africa; and the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA.


Throughout 2008 and 2009, Art21 worked closely with artist William Kentridge (who was also among the audience) on the production of the feature film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible, and thus represents a continuation of the organization’s relationship with South Africa.

 The new “Johannesburg” episode features David Goldblatt, Nicholas Hlobo, Zanele Muholi, and Robin Rhode, charting not only the city’s emergence as the artistic capital of sub-Saharan Africa, but also telling the story of four artists from a diversity of South African ethnic backgrounds, identities and generations working across photography, painting, sculpture, and performance. The episode gives an impression of the creative processes as well as the physical and visual challenges of achieving an artistic vision in the face of Johannesburg’s urban fabric, its value systems and (sometimes) brutal landscapes. On their own specific terms, the artists presented are dealing with race, history, and de-colonialization, while demonstrating at the same time the immense possibilities arising from Johannesburg’s cityscape and its artistic communities.


After the screening event, which was arranged in partnership with the FNB JoburgArtFair, the theatre hosted a conversation and Q&A session with artist Nicholas Hlobo, who was joined by Art21’s producer and director, Ian Foster, and moderated by Dr. Same Mdluli, Manager of the Standard Bank Gallery.    

 The new season 9 of Art in the Twenty-First Century broadcasts online and on PBS on 21 September.

For more information, visit
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 Anders Gaardboe Jensen