Day 13. The END & A BIG thank you!

Airport Bulawayo

On behalf of the  Mondriaan Fund, the Flanders Arts Institute,  the Danish Arts Foundation and Pro Helvetia, we would like to thank all the  institutions and people we visited/met during this orientation trip. You all really made this trip into a unique experience for us all. We surely hope that this trip will lead to future collaborations on both sides.

Many people have given the trip long-term support, and this is the opportunity to warmly thank them for their advice, help and making things possible: Joost Bosland (director Stevenson Gallery Cape Town), Pauline Burmann (African Art & Theory and director of the Thami Mnyele Foundation), Chiko Chazunguza (director Dzimbanhete Arts Interactive) and his team, Raphael Chikukwa (Chief curator National Art Gallery Zimbabwe), Jabulile Chinamasa (Conservation/Education officer at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo), Tandazani Dhlakamat (curator Zeitz Mocaa), Amy Ellenbogen (Curator Galleries & VIP Joburg Art Fair 2018), Barbara van Hellemond (Ambassador for The Netherlands in Zimbabwe), Georgina Maxim and Misheck Masamvu (directors of the Village Uhnu Crative Open Art Studio), Thato Mogotsi (freelance curator), Silenkosi Moyo (administrator and P.A. to the Regional Directorat the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo ), Gaudencia Muzambi-Hwenjere (Embassy of the Netherlands in Harare),  Azu Nwagbogu (Chief curator Zeitz Mocaa) and the team at Zeitz Mocaa, Rooksana Omar (CEO of the Iziko Museums), Hayden Proud (Iziko Museums), Doreen Sibanda (director National Art Gallery Zimbabwe), Valerie Sithole (Curator National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare), Daniel Smit (Embassy of The Netherlands in Pretoria) and Claude van Wyk (Consulte of The Netherlands in Cape Town) and last but not least our driver in Harare and Bulawayo Mister Eddie.

Up until the last day (picture above: writing for the blog at Joburg Airport before departure) we have all tried to do our best to write for the blog. If you see mistakes please let us know so we can correct things.

Haco de Ridder (Mondriaan Fund)

Day 12: Bulawayo

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo

The Gallery’s history dates back to 1970 at a time when local artists felt that they were increasingly isolated from the main institution in Harare. They lobbied and started their own gallery at what was then the Grand Hotel building. The National Gallery in Bulawayo attained its national status in 1994 when it moved to its current premises at Douslin House – a classic example of colonial Edwardian architecture. The Gallery operates under the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and its permanent collection reflects the diversity of cultures and traditions which have contributed to the development of art in Zimbabwe ranging from traditional artifacts to modern paintings and sculpture.

Apart from pursuing excellence in the visual arts in Matabeleland and maintaining general outreach, the Gallery sees it as their mission to encourage, train and develop artistic skills – especially for emerging artists.

In the beautiful courtyard and sculpture garden one thus finds a great number of studios where local artists can be witnessed at work. The gallery also houses a research library as well as various workshop facilities. In other words, The Gallery is a dynamic – and very intriguing! – meeting point for artists, patrons and the community.

We were welcomed by Silenkosi Moyo – administrator and P.A. to the Regional Director – and Jabulile Chinamasa – Conservation/Education officer – who took us on a tour in the galleries, which hosted various exhibitions by resident artists (Talent Kapadza and Jeu Verbre) as well as a major group show with Zimbabwean artists curated by Raphael Chikukwa (Lost & Found – Resilience, Uncertainty, Expectations, Excitement & Hope) that interrogates the social and economic fabric in the country in light of its most recent political transition. From a certain perspective the show is indeed mourning Zimbabwe’s turbulent history, but it also seems to mark a turning point while reaffirming at the same time the position of the artist as the primary storyteller. “A new glimpse of hope for the healing of the nation and for moving forward” as one reads from Chikukwa’s curator’s statement.

Afterwards we were also joined by Valerie Sithole (from The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare), and Silenkosi and Jabulile provided generous information about the Gallery’s history and policies. A recurring theme was their emphasis on public programming, education and developing appreciation of the visual arts. Building partnerships is also very much on the agenda – both national and international, public and private as well as with NGOs. One of the serious challenges the Gallery is faced with is securing sufficient funds for conservation, acquisitions and operational costs, but loan fees and increased patronage from the private sector helps solve the problem to a certain extent. Furthermore, there is hope that recent developments in Zimbabwe’s administration will resuscitate the arts sector.

We then gathered with members of the artist community for a meet and greet which gave us an opportunity to learn more about their work. Also, the two artists in our group (Patricia and Farren) gave presentations. We were delighted that so many people showed up and shared their vision, which once again confirmed the tremendous generosity we’ve generally experienced on our trip, and it was only regretful that were not able to stay for long, but other appointments awaited.

Anders Gardboe Jensen

Mzililkazi Art & Craft Centre
Our next stop is the Mzililkazi Art Centr

How to experience the incredible art scene of Bulawayo in just one day? After the lively discussions at the National Gallery of Bulawayo with a full-packed room of local artists, Valerie planned for us a short but intense tour through various organizations, including three studio visits. Our first stop took us to the Arts & Crafts Center located in Mzilikazi, one of the oldest high density suburbs of Bulawayo. Established in 1963, the Mzilikazi Center is one of the oldest vocational arts and crafts institutions in the Southern part of Africa. Jabu tells us about the beginnings of formal art education in Zimbabwe and how it originated in the colonial era and in the context of the missionary schools founded by the Anglican church. Referring to Canon Paterson of the Cyrene Mission, Jabu tells us of the white Anglicans sympathizing with the black community through arts and music, installing a school within a black community in a time when they were not allowed to mix with the privileged whites. The Mzilikazi Arts & Crafts Center was not only built to foster professional art skills, but to empower unemployed school leavers and keep them off the street. Most of Bulawayo’s artists have since received their formal arts training at the Mzilikazi Arts & Crafts Center. Today the center functions under the municipal government of Bulawayo.

As opposed to the Bulawayo Polytechnic College, the center allows enrollment without academic qualification. Five disciplines are taught in a comprehensive 2-years training: fine arts (painting and drawing), commercial arts, ceramics, wood and stone sculpture, pottery and batik. Luckmore Muchenje, a former student and now a teacher for ceramics, guides us through the painting and drawing class, where we encounter a group of young students working with a wide range of techniques and motives. We move on to the pottery and ceramics class where two students demonstrate the crafting of pottery, their hands skillfully modeling the clay that is milled in their own school. After a six-weeks introduction into all disciplines, students can choose the discipline they want to specialize in. Mr. Muchenje tells us that fine arts is the most popular discipline.

Afterwards Mr. Ndiweni, who is in charge of the cleansing and selling of the ceramics products, takes us through the production spaces of the school as well as the school’s pottery shop. Whereas the products used to be marketed internationally, the arts industry has, like every other industry in Zimbabwe, been greatly affected by the country’s economic instabilities, and shifted more towards local markets. Mr. Ndiweni tells us that the pottery production is currently shut down for economic reasons with no funding to keep it running.
When I ask Luckmore Muchenje about the potentiality of adding a photography course to the curriculum, he tells me that even though there is great interest to include new media, the school currently has no funding for an expansion. Photography is still very absent in Zimbabwe’s art scene, in formal training and in actual practice. Most of the artists we encounter in Zimbabwe are painters and sculptors, among them Charles Bhebhe, who has exhibited at the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the Venice Biennale , as well as Tafadzwa Gwetai and Neville Starling, one of the very few artists we have encountered that work with the medium of photography.

So how to even begin to write about all of these tensions we’ve encountered on our trip? After all, we’ve only been able to scratch the surface of how the colonial and apartheid regimes continue to influence todays social (and mental) fabric, with many questions marks also with respect to how (western) capitalism will shape the current transitions taking place in the art world and throughout. The complexity of these issues can hardly be understood after just two weeks – despite the intensity and richness granted by the incredible (and incredibly humbling) privilege of meeting and speaking to so many inspiring and dedicated people in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Harare and Bulawayo. All we know for sure is that many of the personal stories, social realities and repressed voices remain to be told, disseminated, analyzed and heard as counter-narratives to the dominant history of the white colonial settler.

Doris Gassert

Bulawayo in one day: part three or is it four?
Not to be missed if you are trying to do all the important art venues in Bulawayo is the ‘Bulawayo Home Industries’. Located opposite of the Mzilikazi Art & Craft Centre it is a place which facilitates women in making a living. In a country where women emancipation is not as far as one should hope for, the Bulawayo Home Industries is an inspiring place. Manager Miriam Ndlovu shows us the premises.

Women as well as other unemployed people can enter the space and learn traditional skills to make all kind of articles. These articles are for sale on the spot as well in other places in Bulawayo. Annually there is also the Sanganai/Hlanganani Fair, an exposition for tourists where the pieces are on display and for sail. Part of the price is commission fee for the artist who made the piece. And the good news is: the centre is accessible for the women without having to pay for the facilities. The funding for the institute is by the Bulawayo City Council.

Annually 300 women make use of the facilities and adapt skills as weaving with cotton, wool and ilala palm. They make products as baskets, sandals, floor mats, floor rugs etc etc. At the end of the tour the group of course was tempted to make an investment. So I think all of us bought some souvenirs. But please don’t make the mistake to underestimate the dynamics of the place.

Bulawayo Home Industries is not only empowering women and conserves the traditional arts & crafts techniques, it is also a hidden gem for artists who are inspired by those techniques. So if you are an artist who is lingering on for instance weaving techniques … you might go to the Textile Museum in Tilburg (the Netherlands) but one could also consider flying to this place. Make a financial commitment to the place and in turn learn al about local skills and their hidden heritage. For sure manger Miriam Ndlovu would welcome you . Curious? Send her an email :
And off we went to our next stop. Never thought Bulawayo was such an inspiring place to be.

Annet Zondervan

We end the day with a diner

Day 11. Harare & Bulawayo

Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions
On Thursday 13 September we traveled from Harare to Bulawayo. After having moved in the ‘international way’, hopping from city to city, the upcoming six-hour bus drive would allow us to get a sense of distance and scale. This was well prepared for by an intense experience of space and place during our visit to Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions, located 25 kilometers outside of Harare. Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions (Dzimbanhete meaning “light footstep” in Shona, and according to our guide Jonathan Dube a quality you need to become a healer) was established in 2008 and has many facets.

The first is that it builds architectural structures of different African villages: huts from the Zulu, an ethnic group of South Africa, the Shona, an ethnic group of Zimbabwe, and for instance a Himba hut from the nomadic people of Namibia. In the photos you see the interior of a Shona hut with its clayed interior zones, stove and cupboards, each element in the space to be used or occupied by different groups within the community. The aim is to represent “Africa without borders” and to eventually have 54 African villages represented with its 155 structures (!). One could compare this endeavor to an open-air museum, like for instance the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem, but better is its comparison with the Venice Biennial (thank you Helena) as the first connotes folklore, while the latter is more in line with the undertone of DAI’s activities, aiming to actively introduce indigenous approaches and methods in cultural practice. It’s about preserving but with an emphasis on collecting and offering a spectrum of typologies: founder, artist Chikonzero Chazunguza, refers to DAI as an arts and culture “resource center”.

The huts are also used to accommodate artists in residence, the second facet of DAI. It invites artists from the region, as well as international artists, to study, work and stay at the premises of DAI.

The third facet of DAI is that it offers mentoring projects, inviting young artists from Harare to use the workshops and available materials, and get feedback from DAI’s director and other (visiting) artists and curators. Chiko Chazunguza, founder and director of DAI, explains that he aims for a “mentoring in our own culture, introduce them to a thinking that is found in indigenous culture.” A big house, with a couple of rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, an exhibition space and a veranda, is the central gathering point, situated on a lawn surrounded by trees and rocks, and with several huts, workshops and an open-air kitchen plotted around.

About five kilometers from DAI, the collection of African domestic architectures finds a pendant in a collection of exhibition structures, the fourth facet of DAI. This collection is in progress, with a first pavilion realized. It is situated in a vast open field, designed by artist Rachel Monotov and produced by the CTG collective, an initiative of the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery based in New York. It is a concrete pavilion in the white cube tradition, with a big round window opening to the landscape, unpolished walls, and a wooden door. It is an elegant space (small scale and one room ground plan) with a robust touch (textured sturdy walls) protecting the art works from the impact of the elements (it reminds a little of Insel Hombroich). Chiko explains that the pavilion is financed by the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, that also curated the exhibition currently on show, outcome of a residency of the artists Xavier Robles de Medina, Andrea Abbatangelo (high chair), Felix Kinderman, Rani Bam, Caucine Gros, Rachel Monosov, Terrence Musekiwa (golf club snakes crawling in the sand around the pavilion) and Justin Orvis Steimer. The idea is that this is the first of more architectural structures to come, built and financed by external partners that can programme it as a branch of their institution and after a four-year lease hand it over to DAI. The pavilion is open during the opening, occasional live events, and upon request.

What made the visit impressive and made me introduce this report referring to the intense experience of space and place, was our introduction to the sacred space of the Nharira Cave located on DAIs premises. After a walk uphill on terrain covered by light green leaves with  cocos scent, Jonathan led us to a space hidden by massive rock formations with 500-year-old paintings made by bushmen of the animals found in the area. During our visit, witnessed by a troop of Baboons, Jonathan, who’s healer name is Samaita, told us about the seven-day (no rest, no going home) rituals taking place in and around the cave, appeasing the spirits through offerings, drumming, clapping and singing. He explained us the principle of ancestors and guardian spirits: the ancestors, totems represented as animals, are in mother (left leg) and father (right leg) lineage and can’t quit you (parents), while the spirits can (friends).

On our way to and from the gallery pavilion, we passed the dwellings of local inhabitants, almost all working for either the adjacent Lion Cheetah Park or Snake World, both owned by Bristol. The whole area is under huge pressure: many Chinese corporations, Jonathan mentioned the number 26, have their eye on the area as it is rich with metals they would want to mine, meaning that the sacred rocks in their magnificent forms and formations would be destroyed. The pressure is huge as the new government is eager to get developers on board, but as Jonathan states: ”we don’t have a seed to grow another mountain.”

Frederique Bergholtz

Catinca Tabucara Gallery CTG Harare/ Zimbabwe

– A cool Art Space in the middle of nowhere, like a white cube gallery, but definitely different, meant to form precedent for collaborations with international high score galleries.

Chiko Chazunguza (the director of Dzimbanhete Art Interactive) followed us to the project Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, located in the countryside surrounded by bushland and small villages 3 km from Dzimbanhete.
The gallery, which is designed by artist Rachel Monosov, is the first step of a larger project.
It is co-founded by the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery in NY, a contemporary art gallery founded by the Romanian-born curator Catinca Tabacaru. The project is more than just a gallery, under the names CTG Collective and CTG (R), it includes a traveling art residency program initiated in collaboration with Dzimbanhete Art Interactive back in 2015. Through an Open Call artists from all over the world can apply. This year they had over 120 applications from artist from 40 different countries. Of these, 8 were selected to participate in the 1-month residency.

The current exhibition consists of works as a result of the residency – a group exhibition with the 8 artists; Xavier Robles de Medina, Andrea Abbatangelo, Felix Kindermann, Ranti Bam, Rachel Monosov, Terrence Musekiwa and Justin Orvis Steimer from respectively France, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Surinam, USA and Zimbabwe. The exhibition is open for the public every day, but I doubt that there will be that many visitors due to the far distance location. On the other hand, their events attract many visitors from the creative crowd around Harare. I don’t assume that reaching a large number of visitors has been an ambition, but instead to create a unique and prestigious project profiled as anchored in the local art scene. But as Chiko Chazunguza explained, the project is under continuous development. On a longer term the aim is to get more international galleries to follow, so that the area in the future will have several pavilions to create income and be able to buy the land and hopefully a get a more sustainable economy.

Kit Leunbach

Up to Bulawayo – Hotel N1
After many hours of driving, some stops and even a road fire we arrive at our hotel in Bulawayo.

Day 10. Harare

Gallery Delta, at the heart of Zimbabwe’s art world since 1975.
Our first stop of the day is Gallery Delta. We are welcomed by the fantastic and hospitable Derek Huggins and Helen Lieros on the front porch of this idyllic ‘Robert Pauls’s Old House’, 110 Livingstone Avenue. The path towards the complex runs through the first part of the beautifully done sculpture garden in which Helen and Derek welcome us.

Helen Lieros introduces us to the vibrant history of the gallery filled with numerous collaborations and enthusiastic stories she had experienced since their establishment in 1975. In the forty-three year’s they’re running the place they didn’t only present a series of exhibitions and numerous public events (they hosted plays, poetry nights, music) but also educated a lot of students. A humble but passionate story packed with collaborations artists that studied there and now found their way into the canon of contemporary Zimbabwean art. But also stained by the difficulties the country has faced.

Helen, also practicing artist, understands better than anyone how you can help an artist to develop a practice. And of course what kind of assistance is needed in Harare with the slowly developing art scene in Zimbabwe and the continent.  She works from an -in her words – ‘anti gallery system’ approach. A passionate, personal approach in which she does not draw up contracts with the artists, giving them a lot of freedom. The main reason to do this is to give every artist the freedom to exhibit where they want and to make their own choices along the way.

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-17 at 19.14.35(1)Right from the start Gallery Delta offered room for young, talented and aspiring African artists to explore the boundaries of creating. This gave a lot of artists over the year the freedom to step away from being traditional sculptors, the only art form that was populair at the start of the gallery, and focus on becoming painters. Something they found very important but a kind of practice that was non-existing since they didn’t have art schools in the country.  All stoled under a personal preference. “I’m not interested in pretty pictures, I’m looking for innovative work.” Helen explains.

Now, over four decades later they have an amazing line of artists they’ve worked with and it’s save to say that the biggest chunk of the contemporary artists in Zimbabwe all were students at Delta, studying under Helen at one moment or another.

Which logically made the yearly exhibition of young artists a very big part of they program. Creating single handed a market for them and turning Gallery Delta into a real institution in Zimbabwe and I think even the entire continent. Since it’s inception  over 360 artists studied there and many more showed works.

It’s not for nothing that they’ve been closely involved as advisors and in the development of Zeist Mocca’s catalog for the current exhibiton FIVE BHOBH. An exhibition of contemporary painting from Zimbabwe, featuring twenty-nine artists that all stept foot in the gallery.


Meeting Derek and Helen is truly humbling. And just walking through the gallery and sharing a Greek coffee with them on the porch only gives us a small idea of what happend. But it became very clear that the history is rich. I would have loved to stay there for hours, talking about their history.

Florian Weigl

First Floor Gallery Harare: Welcome to the Family
Oddly enough, First Floor Gallery Harare (FFGH) is located on the second floor of a large office building. Business has been going well and the gallery recently moved from their 1st floor (tiny) front room to their current location which also houses a few artist studios and a huge terrace boasting impressive city views.

Valerie Kabov and Marcus Gora founded the not for profit trust space in 2009 as a response to the total lack of artist-run experimental spaces in Harare. They follow what they themselves coined an environmentally responsible model, meaning that they want to invest heavily in the local art scene, and bolster visibility of the Zimbabwean artists internationally as well as locally. Valerie also refers to the gallery and its artists as “the family” since they go above and beyond to support their artists and creating the circumstances for them to continue working, be it by helping them out with paperwork, providing studiospaces, or even taking them or their family members to the hospital. It’s also a way to involving the bigger support structures of the artist (parents, spouses, friends, children) and growing the local audience.

They pride themselves on not being a UFO but instead are looking at the cultural imperatives on the ground. The challenges are plentiful in Harare, and artist are lacking funds and access to materials, decent art education and technical skills. But even though the artistic community might be cash poor, they are resource rich and FFGH and their artists are getting things done through collaboration, trading and asking senior artists to coach the younger ones.

With a fierce objective to accelerate this whole process, they developed two programs for kickstarting young artists’ careers. The first one being a three week, by invitation only, bootcamp residency for emerging artists from all over the continent. This fully funded immersive experience pushes the artists to get out of their comfort zone and freely explore the boundaries of their chosen medium. At the end of the bootcamp, the work is presented in the gallery. The second program involves FFGH’s own artists (all of whom are under 30!) who are regularly invited to present solo exhibitons, with the aim of propelling their practice and speeding up their development as artists.

It’s a far cry from the increasing urgency in the West to slow down and look for the more sustainable approach to developing an artistic practice. But in an environment where even the basic standards of arts education are not upheld one wonders if in fact FFGH is not onto something.

FFGH’s need to experiment is imperative and they are consciously staying away from Western funding, which is almost always ideologically conditioned and usually comes with strings attached, to avoid compromising their independence. Under these circumstances it took them about 8 years to become economically sustainable. Only five years ago they were the first ever Zimbabwean gallery at Berliner Liste and they’ve been doing well on the international art fair circuit since.

They are hopeful that the change of regime will attract more international visitors and curators and with their new space and ambitious program they are ready to accelerate.

Helena Kritis

Studio visit Portia Zvavahera
After our visit to First Floor Gallery we drive with our wonderful chauffeur Eddie to the outskirts of Harare. The urban landscape is changing in a rural area. New homes are being built with a barbed wire fences.

Our driver: Eddie

Why? I wonder, because the road is not easy going and as a potential thief you have to endure quite a lot of pits to get away with your loot. In addition to the large houses, small shacks are scattered here and there. Children in school uniforms wave and smile happily at us. Women in colorful clothes with their children tied behind their backs look surprised. Followed by a big smile showing their beautiful white teeth and they wave back. The landscape is arid with here and there a tree of which the blossom in exuberant colors purple and red does its best to contrast in the yellow arid landscape.

Halfway up a golden sand road  Portia Zavahera is waiting for us in her shiny red pick-up. She is the artist we are going to visit in her studio. Immediately a part of our group wants to leave the stuffy van to sit in the back of the pick up and feel the wind through the hair and the sun on their skin. The landscape has changed. Large granite boulders are scattered in the arid landscape. We wonder if this is the same  material from which the sculptures were standing in front of the National Gallery of Harare, which we visited a day before. The pits become deeper and the road becomes more impassable. We look at some of our colleagues who shoot up one by one in the back trunk like little pull puppets.

We arrive at a beautiful large house built from granite stones of the area with a thatched roof. In the yard are beautiful sculptures carved from the boulders that we saw on the way. Everything radiates peace and harmony. Portia opens the door to her studio and in choir we release a sigh of admiration.

The studio is very spacious and cool. Works in progress are hanging on the wall. Portia is a gentle shy woman. the conversation starts cautiously and I suspect it is because a group of 14 people in jolly voices are invading a place where peace and harmony predominate. Then the energy has to find a place. And it happens too. Soon there is a silence and I feel the peace descend into the group.

Portia is currently working on new works for 2 shows in Joburg and San Francisco respectively.

Portia is inspired by her dreams. She makes sketches of her dreams as a starting point for the further elaboration of her paintings. She works entirely from her emotions and intuition. Her work is literally built up in layers. She designs her own templates   which she stipples in her work. This refers to fabrics that are decorated by women of her culture, through traditional block prints. Religion is an important aspect in her work. She believes that God gives her messages through her dreams. In her sleep she deeply connects to Him. I have rarely seen a person so much in balance with herself and her surroundings.

Portia  loosens up and starts to talk more and more enthusiastically about her work and her sources of inspiration. She explains the importance of Totems in her culture. Everyone has a totem which represents  an animal. The animal symbolizes a character trait. As a person you can not eat your own totem and you can not marry into  the same totem. This is to keep the bloodline clean. The totem is passed on via the father line. Portia is an Elk that symbolizes hard work, but also prostitution. She giggles softly when she says that.

That she is a hard working mother of two beautiful children is clear. Success gives her the freedom to purchase materials and mix her colors. That is a luxury because many artists in Zimbabwe can not afford to buy expensive paints and colors and therefore depend on cheap synthetic acrylic paint in screaming colors that barely mix. On the kitchen counter stands a bottle in containing bright orange liquid, representing orange juice. Annet enthusiastically starts filling up glasses and some of us drink thirsty. Portia turns around and starts to laugh. It turns out that the the content needs to be diluted with water. We all laugh hilariously and the last remaining reserves disappears like snow in the sun.

Together we drive back to our next appointment on our way to Unhu gallery.
Zimbabwe has stolen my heart. Artists who, despite the limited infrastructure with so much creativity and few resources get so much done. Goethe once wrote that in the limitation the mester is recognized. I have already encountered  many potential ‘masters’.
Portia says that she is happy and grateful voor everything in her life. She is a living example of living a life in love peace and harmony.

Patricia Kaersenhout

Village Uhnu
Creative open art studio
After riding on a jeep’s trunk from Portia Zvavahera’s studio in the countryside nearby Harare, we arrive at the so-called Village Uhnu. Just moving in to their new place, in a residential house of Harare, this art space run by Misheck Masamvu (successful artist represented by the Goodman Gallery in South Africa) and Georgina Maxim (his wife) feels like home. They are using the place to host exhibitions, as well as workshops, art lessons, residencies (and as a participation, the artists invited have to give one of their work in return to support the open art studio as well) and Misheck’s studio as long as he doesn’t need “another place to finish the paintings, with another light and another environment”. In the future, they also want to invest the garden, which is now hosting a container hanging on an iron structure. The idea is to build a terrace, a library, a studio, and a bar, making the place even more friendly and welcoming for artist to experiment and visitors to discover artworks. Regarding to the specific artistic landscape of the city of Harare, and the well-respected work the Delta Gallery is aiming, Village Uhnu intends to be an additional art space and wants to push the artists on more experimental projects and hangings. “Helena and Dereck are the foundation of all the artists in the country” they say (about Delta’s directors), whilst with Uhnu they want to extend the possibilities of experimentation in the area.

Georgina Maxim and Misheck Msamvu, directors of the Village Uhnu Crative Open Art Studio.

After the warmest welcome and around a delicious meal shared together, we discover the practice of Tawanda Takura, Evans Tinashe Mutenga and Epheas Maposa who we also have the chance to meet and talk to. When the first one uses trash (especially cigarette butts) and found objects from the street to build figurative sculptures, the second creates aleatory paintings on carton superimposing them and then snatching the multiples layers. The third, Epheas, uses the canvas as a way to condense several elements of the condition of life in Zimbabwe, and the composition of the paintings is particularly balanced. Feeling the atmosphere of Harare, and also the lack of facilities for the artists to be able to work, one can also relate these works to this specific context. Found objects reveals their poetic meaning, while an iconoclastic approach reminds of the publicity or propaganda imposed in the streets, and of gestures of vandalism being badly seen.

Village Uhnu depends mostly on selling the artworks of the artists they present, and the directors invest all their energy and dedication to be able to propose this space as an experimental place for the artists who want to benefit from it.
“Philosophically, the term Hunhu or Ubuntu emphasizes the importance of a group or community. The term finds a clear expression in the Nguni/Ndebele phrase: umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is a person through other persons)”. Misheck and Georgina, trying to distant themselves from the indivual approach in the artfield, definitely are building a community of solidarity in the arts around their place, and hopefully will acquire the building in the future.

Tawanda Takura “Junky II” 2018 mixed media/found objects

Evans Tinashe Mutenga paints, addition the works, pasting them one on another, and then snatches it, revealing aleatory compositions.

Epheas Maposa creates figurative paintings in which the question of composition in preeminent.

Olivia Fahmy

Day 9. Harare

National Gallery of Zimbabwe

At the very day that an exhibition with 29 contemporary artists from Zimbabwe opens at Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, we visit Zimbabwe’s National Gallery in Harare. Chief curator Raphael Chikukwa is not only responsible for exhibitions here, but also founding curator of the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the Venice Biennial. He explains how his success in raising international funds for the first edition in 2011, provided the leverage to convince the government to launch the pavilion. It is evident from his stories that he has been a true ambassador for Zimbabwean art. Exhibiting at the Venice Biennial pavilion has been a turning point in the careers of artists such as Portia Zvavahera and Charles Bhebe.

The National Gallery does not only engage with contemporary art but holds a collection that runs from Chris Offili back to the 17th century, stored and presented across three venues, in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare. Significant historical donations were made by British textile magnate Stephen Courtauld (who spent the last 15 years of his life in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe), including works by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Lucas van Leyden and many other key figures in European art history. But the majority of the collection involves art from Zimbabwe since the Gallery’s establishment in 1957. Raphael strives to make the museum as “a living organism”, rather than a depository, where curators and artists interact with the collections and bring them alive through exhibitions as well as collection mobility.

The National Gallery has two exhibitions on display, which each deserve special mention. One is the exhibition ‘The Equalities of Women’, which was assembled after an open call to women artists from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Nigeria for works addressing the position and experiences of women in society today. The exhibition includes powerful and gripping works, which touch on topics ranging from motherhood to what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated context. Over the days in Harare, this proves to be an urgent topic that comes back again and again. The open call principle is a fruitful tool to reach out to more established artists such as Portia Zvavahera, as well as less-know and younger artists, even students. Olivia Botha, for example, presents an impressive installation with textile and bloodlike liquid, in response to the illegality of abortion and its consequences for women’s lives.

Doris Kamupira shows us her installation ‘I Will Be Late for Work’. With a fashionable handbag and pair of shoes on a bedding made of sweeping brooms her work points to growing class divisions: as some women manage to enter the middle class and can afford a life with personal luxuries, the simple fact that they now do their domestic work with vacuum cleaners means that women who earn a minimal income by making simple wicker brooms are increasingly deprived of their livelihood. What if the growth of one group of women is to the detriment of others?

The participating artists we encounter at the opening, and later in Bulawayo, are very happy to be part of this all-women exhibition where they can give these topics visibility collectively.

The second exhibition, entitled ‘Meeting of Minds’ features Zimbabwean artists related to the Netherlands. Our visit was seized by both the museum directorship and the Dutch ambassador in Zimbabwe, Barbara van Hellemond, as a strategic opportunity to highlight international connection and collaboration. Having the directors of the Dutch and Danish national funds for the visual arts present at the opening of the show, sends a diplomatic message to the government that art and museums are worthy of public support.

The exhibition features Zimbabwean Rijksacademie alumni Patrick Makumbe, Admire Kamudzengerere and Gareth Nyandoro (who still lives between Harare and Amsterdam), as well as artists Terrence Musekiwa and Option Nyahunzvi who participated in the Thamy Mnyele Foundation residency in Amsterdam. It is great to see their works, but also great to see Pauline Burmann’s Thamy Mnyele Foundation acclaimed for the role it plays in fostering the careers of African artists, something which is well-known on the African continent and internationally, but often remains undervalued in the Netherlands.

A third point of connection is Tengenenge (‘the beginning of the beginning’), an artists’ community initiated in the 1960s by Tom Blomefield, a tobacco farmer from Dutch/South-African descent, who turned his land into a sculpture farm. With the help of artist Crispen Chakanyuka, Blomefield encouraged his workers to make sculptures with the stone deposits on his land. Tengenenge continues to thrive, allowing artists with and without previous training to develop a practice and use the village as an open-air gallery and as a home for their families.

Tengenege sculptures became renowned, and the village is now hub for artists interested in stone sculpture from all over the world, as well as a popular tourist attraction. ‘Meeting of Minds’ features works by Josi Manzi, Kilala Malola, Amai Manzi, Sylvester Mubayi and Paulo Meza.

With their collection and exhibitions, the National Gallery deserves a larger audience than it is receiving now. The audience mainly exists of other artists, tourists, and school children. Others we meet in Harare confirm that music and poetry are popular art forms, but that Zimbabweans have a troubled relationship with the visual arts and museums. Raphael sketches in no uncertain words why this is the case. Historically, art museums were colonial institutions (this museum opened in 1957 as the National Gallery of Rhodesia) and a no-go area for black people. Signs on the building said: ‘no blacks, no dogs’. Museums still suffer from that colonial legacy today.

To build new audiences, and help build an art scene, education plays an important role in the museum. Not only does the museum reach out to schools, but it also provides talented youngsters with primary art education. Since there are no independent or university related official art schools in Harare, the National Gallery has taken over part of this role, with financial support from HIVOS and the Norwegian government. The entwinement of the Gallery with young talent ensures that the institution can help artists convince their families that being an artist is a respectable profession, offer them a platform with a grad show and other exhibitions, and connect them with other practitioners and professional contacts. Many go on to develop their artistic voice at Delta or Village Unhu (see elsewhere in this blog). Some also come back for further support: when Portia was selected for the Venice Biennial, for example, she was given the museum’s meeting room as a studio, so she could produce new works at a scale her own limited means at the time would not have allowed. The Gallery thus encompasses much more than what the European understanding of the term ‘museum’ would suggest and plays multiple key roles in fostering art in Harare.

Anke Bangma

Njelele Art Station

Njelele Art Station is an independent project space that focuses on contemporary, experimental and public art run by Dana Whabira and her team. The name Njelele is based on a sacred shrine in Zimbabwe and it is located in one of the oldest streets in the city of Harare. Next to engaging with local artists in the neighbour-hood, international artists can also apply for a residency.

Nancy Mteki is a Zimbabwean artist who collaborated with Njelele on her project ‘Looking for Love’. Nancy dressed herself in a wedding dress and asked a couple of men in the streets to marry her. By doing this, Nancy was reacting to the male dominance in the street in a most direct engagement. She had beautiful reactions from the people interacting with her during this project and everybody wanted to have their picture taken with Nancy.

Joyce Jenje Makwenda is an archivist-historian, researcher and author. Joyce participated in the Njelele residency exchange programme. With the help of Njelele, Joyce published various books about the influence of Township Jazz music in her hometown.

Farren van Wijk

Motor Republic Hub
Moto Republic is a space dedicated to the practice of diverse creatives that have as their shared aim, speaking truth to power. It is a cultural activist organization that promotes freedom of expression via different platforms: youth activism, music and satire, tv program’s, new media conferences, and festivals. Next to traditional funding, they finance their activities through outsourcing the expertise in house, for instance assisting in making music video clips, and hiring out their venue.

One of the platforms is Magamba TV (magamba means heroes) that provides social commentary and satire in the form of online video reports spread on social media. In a country where there is only one national TV broadcast that is connected to the state that governs all outings, Magamba TV wants to contribute to an alternative narrative. One member of Magamba TV shows us a sketch with a man seen from the back impersonating Mnangagwa (to recognize by his trademark scarf) who is in the process of selecting his ministers for the cabinet who all turn out to be friends. During the previous government one would be arrested for this kind of work, even a re-tweet could be enough.

The current government allows for more freedom, but it is still risky as the government can force social media blackouts or even arrest people at home. As a means of protection, their strategy is to put as much content online as they can, and be as public as possible, so in case things happen international media and the public are aware of it. The fact that they are ‘watched’ became overtly clear last year, when one of the buildings they are in, constructed out of sea containers, on higher order of Harare officials was tried to be demolished. Because the community demonstrated, the city managed to tear down only the 3rd layer as after the “save Moto Republic’ action they pulled back.

Bus stop TV is another, and according to our guide, most disruptive and popular (the Bus stop TV team members are “celebs”) online platform making satirical programs. Here the focus is on featuring events or topics that are taboo, through documentary stories interviewing citizens. Bus stop TV wants to create a platform for every day struggles, create a dialogue, get people’s opinion as they otherwise don’t get their voice heard.

Another initiative is Citizens Manifesto that aims for bringing citizens together and feed them with ideas how to create movements so they can have more impact. When we visit, a member of Citizens Manifesto is busy wrapping cards with USB sticks containing instructions for how to build a movement: they will be handed out for free, a physical and untraceable way of distribution.

The effect of these on- and offline activities is big: they have millions of followers both in the country but far more international. During the last elections youth contributed to the highest vote registration and also the Facebook and YouTube statistics show that there is a big group of diaspora followers.

Frederique Bergholtz

Day 8. Johannesburg

Magical performance by William Kentridge and his team
This morning we set out for our last meeting in Johannesburg before we fly to Harare (Zimbabwe). We are heading for The Center for the Less Good Idea. As is often the case in Joburg, the street decor is constantly changing. One moment we drive through a rough-looking neighborhood. Then the van takes a turn and you are suddenly in a different world. A world of refurbished old factory halls and stylishly decorated cafes where people sit online behind their laptop. In short, comfortable locations but you can find them anywhere in the world.

The Center for the Less Good Idea is located in Maboneng Precinct, in the eastern part of the city; a neighborhood where gentrification has created not only places for artists but also hipster spots for coffee and food.

Bronwyn Lace is visibly busy but receives us friendly and efficient. Great is the surprise when the founding father of this place appears on the scene: William Kentridge. Both tell about the identity of the venue. The Center is in fact the ideal playground for artists and curators. Or as the website says: ‘an interdisciplinary incubator space for art’.

The beautiful name of the institution is a reference to the idea behind the original plan. Lace: “The less good idea is not a bad idea, but the idea behind the initial plan, the idea peripheral to it”. Artists must submit plans and account in the regular system for financing their work. There is little time in that system for the experiment and certainly too little room to deviate from the submitted plan if the process requires it. While very interesting things can happen there. Once again Lace: “This is a safe place for artists to fail; failure is a thing which is very important “. And Kentridge adds: “… giving the impulse the benefit of the doubt and what happens; that is in the core of this center “.

The center has a number of studios where artists from different disciplines work together for a period, learn from each other and make discoveries. Their is no open call; an artist must be invited. The period of research is finished with a final presentation. “To put some pressure on them” says Kentridge. The interdisciplinary nature of the institution is evident. Only this morning we meet visual coasters, a puppeteer, dancers (urban and classical educated), musicians (jazz and classical educated) and spoken word performer.

We are welcome in the studio of Gerard Marx. Under his hands a car has been reconstructed into a sculpture. Using electronics, ‘the car’ has been transformed into an instrument with, for example, the doors as sound boxes for strings. Marx is curious about the performative quality of musicians; to the relationship between looking and hearing. Today is the first time that the sound that is ‘captured’ in the instrument is discovered during an improvisation; with our group as an audience. After a few ‘knor, beeps, scratch’ sounds, some time later, the electronic potpouri creates a certain rhythm and a harmonious sound. A blessing for the ears.

But also exciting to experience how that moment arose from the improvisation of the musicians. Then we are treated to a short but powerful performance by an actor who, through an intervention by the director, sees his physical space limited to a round moving disc with a diameter of 1.5 m. And last but not least we see the pianist with the monkey, actually the collaboration between a classically trained pianist and a puppeteer.

The biggest surprise is yet to come: a gig has been arranged for us in the large hall of the complex. Kentridge was inspired by the Ursonate by the Dadaist Kurt Schwitters. We hang on his lips while he recites this aburdist text from 1932 with a beautiful diction and at the same time look at the parallel video projection. The ensemble is addressed in that part of the Ursonate where improvisation is prescribed. An explosion of sound, image and movement follows. The whole is certainly not inferior to the original performance, it is at the same time disruptive and moving.

Another moving conclusion is the knowledge that Kentridge is the financier of this beautiful place. In a country with few public funds for the arts and private financiers that seem to be more likely to go for ‘ power’ institutions that generate international visibility, Kentridge supports the experiment and the artists. The Center for the Less Good Idea is therefore unique and exemplary. How beautiful would it be if there were such playgrounds in other places in the world?

Annet Zondervan

On the way to Harare
After this amazing visit to the Center for the Less Good Idea the bus takes to the airport and we are on our way to Harare (Zimbabwe).


Day 5. Johannesburg

The sound of Johannesburg is different from that of Capetown.

Joburg generates the sound of a metropolis, grand and dynamic. There are also no fewer than 4.5 million people living here. That sound is not the only difference. The architecture is higher and people in the street walk differently; more self-aware. If Capetown is Europe, then Joburg is Africa. However different, both cities are marked by the history of Apartheid and the way in which history now influences the present. Also the cultural infrastructure of Joburg is different than in Capetown. It feels like the system of galleries, workshops and artists groups has become more detached from the stifling structure of Apartheid.

One of the places that undoubtedly contributed to this is the Market Photo Workshop. Founded when the Apartheid system was still very powerful: in the year 1989. The recently deceased, committed photographer and activist David Goldblatt is the founding father. Back then, MPW was an illegal organization and one of the few non-racial spaces where people could meet.

This morning Lekgetho Makola, recently the new director, receives us with his team in the gallery space of the complex. Makola says that the white Goldblatt did not just want to photograph the black youth he met in the townships. Goldblatt created for them a training facility with help of some friends. By training the youth and learning them to tell their own story with the camera, the Market Photo Workshop grew into a haven for talent development. A place where young people from the townships with their own photographs made the experiences of so-called marginalized groups imagined. An empowering force.

From the start in 1989, students themselves have found their way to the institution. Without specific PR but just because of word-of-mouth advertising. The most famous alumni of the MWP is probably Zanele Muholi who in November 2017 presented the eleventh edition of ‘Faces and Phases’ in the gallery of MPW; a series that has been running since 2006 with : “documenting black lesbian and transgender individuals from South Africa and beyond”.

Almost thirty years later, the ethos of the place remained the same: socially committed and critical. The organization has grown despite the fact that financial resources are not always easy to find. Fortunately, the institution is now partly financed with public money. Nevertheless, private funding remains crucial. There is now a phased curriculum with different programs for beginners and advanced students. Short term and long term. Attention is paid to the ethics of photography. There is a gallery and an extensive image archive. Moreover, there are international collaborations.

Makola is proud and excited. Justly. Because this morning it became known that the MPW is the winner of the annual Prince Claus Award. This means that new dreams can become reality, such as the desired international scholarship program.

As a cultural meeting place, the Market Photo Workshop has always been a non-racial space. You can still see and feel that now. Take, for example, the composition of the staff and board members present. A delicious mix of diversity when it comes to gender, age and color. The other institutes that received us were more of ‘kind of looking kind’. MPW is really different from, for example, Zeitz Mocaa with a completely black staff or the Noval Foundation with a white director and white curator. Also look at the way in which Makola replaced the chairs prior to our meeting. We are not facing each other. No, we are in a circle; staff members and we – the visitors – alternate. In this democratic setting that facilitates the conversation, stories are easily shared, questions quickly asked and answered.

The last part of this morning is filled by a meeting with photographer Dahlia Maubane who talks about her exhibition ‘Woza Sisi’; a visual study of informal economics, urban planning and employment for women – in particular women hairstylists – in Johannesburg and Maputo (Mozambique).


The title of the exhibition refers to what is called by the hairdresser to her potential client. We see how women literally claim their place in the public domain so that they can earn a little money. This exhibition also fits in with the profile of Market Photo Workshop. The gallery affiliated with the training institute shows engaged photo documentaries with social information relevant to the viewer.

Some of us want to walk on foot to next the location. But moving this way in Joburg is not recommended, again and again. As an outsider it is difficult to interpret the context properly. Are our hosts perhaps not overly worried? Yesterday I was even advised not to take 50 steps from the theater to the opposite café in a car-free street – with cheerful drinking and gender mixed people. At the same time everyone has read about the high crime rates especially the virulant violence against women. So in the end we are happy with our own mini-van with the doors neatly sealed off on the way.

Annet Zondervan

Bag Factory
The Bag Factory, located in an old bag manufacturing warehouse in Fordsburg, is the mother organisation of Greatmore Studios which we visited earlier in the week in Cape Town.

The Bag Factory is primarily a studio and residency space for artists from South Africa and broad. The building contains seventeen artists’ studios, a gallery, a lithography printing studio and project space. It was founded in 1991 by David Nthubu Koloane (°1938) and Kagiso Patrick Mautloa (°1952) as one of the first studio spaces which made it possible for black and white artists to work together on a professional level, despite the Apartheid legislation of that time. Up until today, David Koloane and Pat Mautloa continue to have their studio at the Bag Factory.

Next to studios spaces for local artists, the organisation also runs an international visiting artist programme, a curatorial training programme, as well as outreach programmes and specialized skills workshops. The international programme enables artists from Africa and other continents to spend time working in Johannesburg, creating networks, and learning about the South African culture.

The bag Factory plays an important role in Johannesburg’s artistic scene as it allows for artists, young and old, to have affordable space where they can work and meet with peers. As director Candice Allison puts it, ‘looking for space in South Africa is like looking for gold‘.

Richard ‘Specs’ Ndimande (°1994) is the youngest artist at the Bag Factory. He studied Fine Arts at the University of Johannesburg where he graduated in 2017. Richard tells us that he works in the evenings because he has a day-job as assistant in an auction house in Johannesburg. He likes spending time working in his studio at the Bag Factory because it enables him to focus on his work but also to talk to other artists and get feedback from them. For the moment he is not interested to work with a gallery. He enjoys the fact that there’s no commercial pressure at the Bag Factory even though the place is reputed to be a breeding house for artists.

Richard’s practice looks at themes of oppression. servitude and exploitation and he’s fascinated by the human-animal hybrid. Most of his works are self-portraits depicting the oppressed as prey and the oppressor as predatory beast.

Pat Mautloa is one of the founding members and oldest artists at the Bag Facorty. After working in a bank, he decided to devote all his time to his artistic work. In his work Pat uses found objects from the street in downtown Johannesburg. Gleaned objects from everyday life like wooden leftovers, worn out cotton rags or plastic jerry cans are combined with newsprints, stencils, color painting and drawing, creating abstract textures and figurative elements. As you can see here in his ‘Trump’ painting!

Finally, it’s important to mention that the Bag Factory is also very much engaged in local community life through daily care and specific outreach programmes. Candice told us that every morning they start with sweeping the whole street! By doing so they get in contact with the local people, talk about their activities and invite them to join their educational workshops, art classes and tours together with other schools and youth groups. Resident artists are also invited to participate actively in community activities and outreach programmes in the Gauteng-area as part of their residency. Thumbs up!

Lissa Kinnaer

Danger Gevaar Ingozi at Victoria Yard

Friday’s afternoon trip takes us to Victoria Yard, a newly emerging creative hub that appears hip and gentrified, yet whose social reality in the city of Johannesburg is of course only one part of a much larger, complex urban and social history and struggle for post-apartheid identity. Victoria Yard is located in Lorentzville in the east of the city center, and the creative and economic hub being put into place hosts artists, galleries, artisan and crafts makers, a brewery as well as urban agriculture and social community projects. Blessing Ngobeni, James Delanay and world-renowned photographer Roger Ballen have their studios here, and it’s scenery presents itself as a comfort zone remote to the social realities of the city.

Here we visit Danger Grevaar Ingozi (DGI), a printmaking and artist collective that moved their studio to Victoria Yards in February this year. Even though the place is “excessively romantic”, as Nathaniel Sheppard and Chad Cordeiro, the co-founders of DGI, tell us, it is attractive because of the low rents, the exposure and the overall vibrancy of the environment which aims to foster collaborative and collective practices, knowledge transfer and empowerment through an active engagement with the community. Chad and Nathaniel, who share the same passion for hip hop culture and critical discourse, took up their joint practice during their studies at the University of Witwatersrand. After leaving the safe spaces provided by the University, they decided to establish their own safe space, a printmaking studio that aspires to foster a non-elitist, collaborative approach and that provides the technical means for printmaking and its dissemination. DGI actively engages with the practices of print culture in South Africa and the socio-historical and political narratives they foster and are embedded in. The shared interest of  DGI and its collaborators is the dedication to push forward print as an artistic and critical medium, as a means of knowledge production and a set of collectives practices of production, publishing and dissemination.

Nathaniel and Chad play for us a vinyl record that they produced within the framework of State Proof, an ongoing sonic research (and DJ) collective they form together with Johannesburg-based artist Simnikiwe Buhlungu. The project explores, through the practice of sharing, listening, conversation and exchange, private music collections and unravels the connections between the practices of music and print as sites of protest and resistance as well as the role they play as media for the production and dissemination of ideologies that can serve as counter-narratives to dominant regimes. As printing is always about questions of access and dissemination, printmaking has always played a vital role in the practice of protest. Chad tells us how in times of political upheaval and state censorship during the South African apartheid regime, printmakers would carry their silkscreens in a suitcase and disseminate among their communities important information withheld from the government. Printmaking became a powerful tool to disseminate ideologies that played a vital role in opposing the apartheid regime. The stories that DGI are invested in form part of a marginalized oral culture that still remains to find its place in the histories and heritage of South Africa.

Doris Gassert

Day 3. Cape Town

For our first visit of the day, we headed out to Tokai, located about 25 km outside of Cape Town. Nestled right next to Groot Constantia, the oldest wine estate on the continent, we find the non-profit Norval Foundation. It’s the second privately funded foundation established in Cape Town in the past year (Norval opened in April of 2018, only seven months after Zeitz MOCAA), and a significant driving force in diversifying the local art scene.

In the entry hall we were greeted by chief executive Elana Brundyn and chief curator Owen Martin. Both Brundyn and Martin were actually working at the Zeitz MOCAA when they were approached to lead the Norval Foundation, an ambitious institution focusing on contemporary and 20th century South African and international artists.

The newly opened building also houses founder and property mogul Louis Norval’s private collection (better known as the Homestead Collection, comprised of about 1505 pieces, mainly paintings, drawings and scuptures by 20th century African artists) although it’s important to stress that the Foundation exists entirely separate from the collection and has no real obligation to showcase it. At this point, the Norval Foundation has no acquisition budget and is mainly concerned with making the work of important or largely overlooked South African artists widely accessible to local and international visitors, and providing the necessary art historical context for these art practices.

The solo presentation of Mmapula Mmakgoba “Helen” Sebidi (SA, 1943) is a good example of someone who has been exhibiting for a long time and has been reluctantly part of the commercial world (she is represented by Everard Read Gallery), but only now, after more than forty years, was invited by the Norval Foundation to exhibit her work in an institutional context. At 27, Sebidi, a domestic worker with a raw talent for painting but coming from a humble family, enrolled at the White Studio established by pioneering black painter John Keonakeefe Mohl after encouragement from her employer. She got her first commercial break in the eighties and has been painting ever since. Sebidi draws inspiration from her experiences of  the suffering inflicted by years of apartheid and township life, and depicts these in harrowing but colourful tableaus showing abstracted human and animal figures. In this exhibition titled “Balthaping Ba Re!” she dedicates herself to mythologies and ancestry and invites us to think through the spiritual meaning of animals.

Other noteworthy exhibitions on at the moment are clustered under the umbrella “Re/discovery and Memory”, a ‘series of interrelated solo exhibitions which focus on the productive dialogue between Sydney Kumalo, Ezrom Legae and Eduardo Villa, at a time when South Africa was deeply divided by its politics and social structures.’

Upon entering these exhibitions one has to pass through “The Atrium”, an open space connecting the sculpture garden with the exhibitions. Every year an artist is commissioned to create a piece for this space, Serge Alain Nitegeka (who we’ve encountered at Stevenson yesterday) being the first one to create an immersive installation resembling a dense cripple wood forest.

One of the biggest assets of the foundation are the beautiful gardens and the sculpture park surrounding the institution. Located on protected wetlands and home to exclusively indiginous plantlife it’s a much more lush iteration of the kind of sculpture parks we are used to in the lowlands.

Driving up from Capetown, it was quite unsettling to notice all of the heavily guarded houses, sporting spiked gates and rolls of barbed wire on top. The Norval foundation is no different with its heavy entrance gate and security guard checking everyone who enters the property. It’s not necessarily the most inviting atmosphere with the posh restaurant adding another intimidating barrier for the underprivilegd communities. The question on everyone’s lips and which also concerns Zeitz MOCAA is how both institutions will be able to share the exhibitions and wonderful garden with a diverse audience.

Helena Kritis

Studio Visit Mawande Ka Zenzile – The problem we didn’t create
location: Nyuanga east

Nyanga is one of the oldest and Black townships in Cape Town. It was established in 1946 and proclaimed a township during the same year. It lies about 26 kilometres from the City centre. Nyanga, meaning ‘moon’ is still poor and is made up mostly of informal settlements where people live close together in shacks made of zinc, cardboard and wood – this despite recent governmental development initiatives to provide more brick houses. Families here live below the breadline. Despite this, Nyanga is where things are happening. Organisations like: ‘Abalimi Bezekhaya’ are promoting a culture of self-help by facilitating food growing and environmental action, and role models like ‘Mama Maphosela’, who takes in TB and Aids orphans, are working to deal with the stigma attached to HIV. Vibrant entrepreneurs have opened barber shops, hairdressing salons, tuck shops and informal traders and fruit sellers, line the main streets.

Essentially Nyanga was created as a result of the migrant labour system.

Initially migrant workers were virtually all men, who needed to earn a wage to pay hut taxes introduced by the government. There were few job opportunities in the rural areas, so they had to come to the cities to work for cash to pay the government taxes.  People moved across the country, often far from home, to work for a short while and then return to their families.  Later, women, too, became migrant workers, mostly doing domestic work for White families. The migrant labour system provided cheap labour for White-owned mines and farms (and later factories). The system also brought about the racial segregation of land. Between 1950 and 1960 the government started the policy of forced removals. In 3 years time 16.000 Africans were evicted from Divco areas( The Cape Divisional Council)The evictees were moved from shantytowns in these areas to small houses and self-built shacks in Nyanga. for more info read here.

We arrive with the group in a bus in the township and the contrast feels awkward being surrounded by poverty. Shacks made of zinc and cardboard form a mosaïc patchwork of grey and brown colors highlighted by brick houses painted in orange, yellow or blue. The patchwork looks as if it’s intuitively painted by an artist who has no concept or plan.

As we enter a Maroon container, the studio of Mawande Ka Zenzile ,we are welcomed  by   loud music and it felt like a wall of sound we had to cross in order to enter his sanctuary. Being an artist myself I know how sacred a studio can be. The space is small and filled with books, tools, a couch and an electric heater. On the wall a photo of his son and we see part of a painting with a naked black man. The containers is placed in front of the house where the mother of the artist lives. An orange two store brick house. Around the corner there is a primary school and children look at us with curiosity.

Mawande immediately starts to talk and his words cover us like a waterfall of drops. He is an intellectual but what bothered him at the university  is  how knowledge was created and  how the systems of knowledge production are constructed by the same systems of power which oppressed blacks. Art saved him because it gave him a different perception on the world. His life completely changed when he decided to become an artist. He started to realize that there are other methodologies of knowledge production. The knowledge he  got at university was second hand knowledge. So he decided to trust his own intuition and step away from these knowledge prodcutions. His intuition was always there but he was taught not to trust it. “Intuition is a European vocabulary. We do believe in ancestry as guidance in this realm. Ideas and answers only come when I am in a certain state of mind.” he says “When I am in my studio I don’t think” Which I can understand. He has read so many books that there must be  thousands of words dancing in his head. Creating brings you in a different sate of mind. It’s a way of escaping your thoughts. Everything  he creates is part of what is surrounding him. He makes sculptures, installations and does performance. Painting was always important to him. He uses cow dung and mixes it with pigment to paint with. It is a way to lift the materiality of the dung to another level. Cow dung brings back childhood memories because it was used to cover the floor of his elderly home. When they wanted the house to smell fresh, they used cow dung. It stands symbol for nothing more and nothing less. It is what it is. He let ’s the viewer struggle with content and meaning.

My mind wanders off to an interview I saw with Chris Ofili. A lady in the audience asked him where the elephant dung came from. Chris’ answer: “The elephant dung comes from the elephant.”

“There is something magical about art when you look at it “ he says . What a capitalistic system does is forgetting that there is a world beyond reality and consumerism. Art helps us to re-imagine a different future. Sticking to the same system makes that the ones who were lefties and  activists and protesting for a better world now have become the new rich of the future. It is a repetitive system.

Decolonization was a way to dig deeper into knowledge production and it helped him to create a different paradigm. It helped him to find a alternative approach. Decoloniality on the  other hand imposes another positionally. The majority of theorists are from South America and they didn’t have the experience he had. There is no Africanism in there theory. Post -Colonialitity  was also trapped in a modernist approach. It takes  away the agency from you and it makes you depending on other people to create knowledge for you. An art object is free from all that.

Using images from Lumumba and Kadaffi and flags is not related to Iconoclasm. He doesn’t want to be defined as an iconoclast. They are just symbols. Symbols and worlds are already existing. Everything is already there. The question is how do you bring them together to create a sentence. The object is nothing it is what we project on the thing that gives the thing it’s meaning. We don’t think about logic and what it is. Who defined those terms? One doesn’t look on how they influence each other. When you go back to first hand knowledge you will find a different truth.

What is meant by ‘The problem we didn’t create’. The title of his catalogue.

Racism, sexism, poverty, inequality, environmental problems were not created by the ones who are marginalized in this world. At the same time the problem in itself also carries a solution. Hegel says that Africans don’t have a history. The ones who have  controle on how you think and what to believe that’s also a problem we didn’t create.
Currently he his working on new paintings for upcoming shows and art fairs. There is a tension between wanting to be completely autonomous as an artist on the one hand. On the other hand depending on the economy of that same art world which distracts him from being autonomous. Luckily he is filled with so many new ideas that he doesn’t know where to start. And that’s a problem he has to solve by him self.

Patricia Kaersenhout

Day 2. Cape Town


Our first stop of the day is blank projects

The gallery was founded in 2005 by Jonathan Garnham after his return from Berlin where he had resided for ten years as a practicing sculptor. A few years later in 2008 the gallery moved to its current location in Woodstock near Cape Town’s harbor district. The area has been experiencing progress in recent years and is also home to the cluster of art galleries formed around Stevenson (referred to in an accommodating way as “Big Brother”), including Goodman Gallery and SMAC Gallery all of which we had a chance to visit later during the day. The Woodstock galleries are maintaining good relations and a sense of synergy. In terms of partnerships blank projects also enjoys the loyal patronage and professional exchange with e.g. A4 Arts Foundation, whom we visited yesterday.

The group met up with Catherine Humphries, who gave a tour around the current solo exhibition by the Capetonian multidisciplinary artist Kyle Morland, his fifth with the gallery but first in the new space. Morland has responded to its greater dimensions with three large sculptural works of segmented rhomboid elements. Meticulously designed, the works demonstrate the artist’s preoccupation with industrial aesthetics and modes of production. However, the smooth, white enamel surfaces as well as their curvature and suggestion of movement at the same time assigns them with a sense of playfulness and lightness.

In the adjacent room, Morland has exhibited diptychs consisting of flat templates of mild steel and powdered matte and a series of wall-based sculptures that also hint at the laborious processes and investigations – both material and conceptual – that gave rise to the larger works.

After the tour we had a pleasant conversation with Catherine and other members of the gallery’s staff, who gave us an update on its profile.

Initially, blank was thought of as a non-profit project space, which aimed at offering a platform for emerging artists to develop their work and exhibit; something which was uncommon in Cape Town at the time. Today, the gallery is dealing in African and international contemporary art and while still operating on a relatively small level with a limited number of employees, blank is currently representing 14 artists. It remains their ambition to collaborate closely with a young and energetic group of artists in the effort to build and nurture their careers. A few of these artists were presented in the gallery’s backroom including Turiya Magadlela and Jared Ginsburg.

Rather than considering itself an African gallery as such, blank projects has been expanding its international network of artists, collectors and institutions and is also participating in a greater number of international fairs (Liste, The Armory Show, Frieze London, Art Basel Miami Beach etc.). Nevertheless, they do consider it part of their mission to work for the greater good of art from the African continent.

Since the time of blank´s opening, Cape Town has seen significant changes not only in the gallery scene, where the numbers have increased, but in the entire infrastructure of artists and institutions. The issue of working in the intersections between local and global art worlds seems to be presenting enormous challenges as well as opportunities. And the same could be said about the pressure of presenting artists who make work that is critical of the political situation in South Africa and land appropriation.

Anders Gaardboe Jensen

STEVENSON Gallery in Woodstock
It begins with a mark, the first line, and the immediate. The twisted shape of bacon on the breakfast plate, the smoky acrid Jo’burg morning air, the rushed and chaotic commute from home to studio – everything and nothing goes into that line.


These are the words of Burundi-born artist Serge Alain Nitegeka (*1983), who is currently presenting his solo show Innate Black at the STEVENSON gallery in Cape Town. Next to his paintings – abstract works, reduced to color and geometry – his site-specific installation has transformed the gallery spaces into an architectural structure that contains narrow passages one has to step through sideways or duck under. Based on his own migrant experience, the artist questions in his work the effects of spatial structures on our physical behavior and mental frameworks. A reoccurring theme that, as early as day two of our trip, has been brought up by various art protagonists of Cape Town – a city whose segregating infrastructure remains deeply woven into the social fabric of post-Apartheid society. Also on display at Stevenson Gallery: photographs by Zanele Muholi, hung densely to create a small but powerful visual archive of the LGBTQI community; photographic self-representation as an activist counternarrative.

STEVENSON gallery has been around in Cape Town for 15 years, playing a pivotal role in the South African arts scene. As one of the directors Joost Bosland tells us, due to the long lack of art institutions in Cape Town, commercial spaces took over the role of the institution, often providing the only space where art could be exhibited (also during the Apartheid era, where i.e. the Goodman Gallery just next to STEVENSON supported and exhibited resistance art). STEVENSON gallery, who call themselves a “nerdy gallery”, has been dedicated to promoting South African artists and artists from Africa and its diaspora within the field of contemporary art, further providing contextualization through publishing and granting access to research material on the artists they promote. For a long time, their appearance at international art fairs presented the only place where the works of African artists could be accessed by – and have access to – the rest of the world.

With the major institutions such as Zeitz MOCAA currently transforming the art scene of Cape Town, the mark that stands at the beginning of Serge Alain Nitegeka’s quote turns into a powerful metaphor for the legacy of the country (or continent, even): what first marks have these institutions made in the landscape of (South) Africa; how do they envision their cultural and social responsibilities – and what mark will they leave for the future?

Doris Gassert

“To curate our own experiences and write our own narratives”
Cape Town is right now facing the context of a brand new art scene to consider. Two major institutions just opened in less than a year: Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation. Whereas the first focuses on African contemporary art, the second is situated in between modern and contemporary. Beside this, the Iziko National Gallery (covering the wide history of the country) is also providing a necessary documentation and valorization of South African artworks and is the public institution of the town.

We had the chance to join the directors and founders of several of these institutions in the city to present some of our institutions as well (including Fotomuseum Winterthur, Tent Rotterdam, Mondriaan Fonds, Holstebro Art Museum, Beursschouwburg). Iziko, Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation were also present, plus the AVA (Association for Visual Arts) and its director Mirjam Asmal; as well as Robyn-Leigh Cedras, director of the Rupert Art Museum. Ashraf Jamal, author of the edition “In the World. Essays on Contemporary South African Art” (Skira) was moderating the panel at the end of the presentations. Giving the general tone of the afternoon, Rooksana Omar, CEO of the Iziko Museums of South Africa declared that the discussion would be orientated on the way South Africa is now thinking and proceeding “to curate [their] own experiences and write [their] own narratives”.

For three days, we have been visiting many of the art spaces (museums, galleries, non-profit organizations or collections both private and public) in Cape Town. Since “Iziko” is an isiXhosa word which is translated by “hearth”, the name of the museum both symbolizes “a hub cultural activity, and a central place for gathering South Africa’s diverse heritage”. In this specific frame, the way one can understand this will to organize Africa’s or at least South Africa’s own experiences of curating and narratives, can refer to the complex context the country is facing. Whilst there is a huge interest in African art from the market and the institutions simultaneously, and many African artists living abroad and building their international careers, this really diverse heritage of the country can be seen in different ways. But probably the most appropriate line coming to our mind would be “context is everything”. No matter what are the narratives we will read around African art, or the displays used in those brand new as well as very historical exhibitions spaces we will see, we should pay a really strong attention to the context, rather than trying to refer – even if just in our minds – to the socio-historical and pretty much hierarchical way history of art has been built as a field in the Western countries. “The future is present”, claimed the magazine Art Africa of March 2018, and definitely, South Africa is now building the future of the visual context in the country, if not on the continent.

Olivia Fahmy

Day 1. Cape Town

Institute for Creative Arts
We start our first day in Cape Town with a visit to the ICA, the Institute for Creative Arts, located at the campus of the University of Cape Town. We are welcomed by its director, and curator of the Live Art Festival, Jay Pather, and introduced to Nomusa Makhube, teaching at the Fine Art department, and Nkule Mabasso, director of the Michaelis Galleries. For this report I focus on the first presentation.
The ICA, comprising different academies for the arts, is organized according the conservative UK university system. The challenge Pather identifies is how to get these different academies to speak with each other, use the political potential of multidisciplinarity.
The ICA aims for a shift from having discourse within the frame of decolonial projects, towards a growing understanding of the need and urgency to disseminate these projects so they can be seen. Whilst in the reconciliation project there has been “a lot of hugging, but not much exchange of wealth”, the process of appropriation and re-appropriation is still going on in the context of a topographically severely divided city. In Pathers view this calls for a repositioning of ideas about identity and urges contemporary art to propose ideas and methods for relocating (the) work, in order to create dialogue with the community.
For the ICA this means trying to go outside of/beyond both, the campus and university, and instead of window dressing, aim for more fundamental changes. Like multidisciplinarity in the arts questions conventions of form, the ICA wants to break with the compartmentalized university structure and resist its deeply embedded tenets, to present projects that are developed from artistic and art theoretical, as well as for instance anthropological and economical perspective. It also means, going into the city, and foremost, moving within the city, experimenting with how performance can relate to the different strata of a city and its communities, and being attentive to how audiences engage with the work and with each other. This “curating the city” is based on an itinerant way of being present, that hopefully will be “infective”.

The Live Art Festival has a biennial structure and had its first iteration in 2012. In resonance with the student protests Rhodes must Fall and the Fees must Fall, the festival is placing the body in the front. Currently the fourth edition is taking place. Curious to see some performances in the festival and witness the way they unfold in the city, Patricia Kaersenhout and I decided to attend two performances. We went to see the lecture performance Engaging the Archive: Creative Resistance Through Publication on the aesthetics and performativity of protest publishing by Leila Khan and Nombuso Mathibela.

The presentation took place in a vestibule like space in the Cape Town Central Library. The set up was simple (chairs for the audience, screen, sound system) and the lecture respectfully immersed in the library setting. It was a rich and intelligent report of a group of students that have joined forces to maintain the archive of Dr. Neville Alexander (Wikipedia: “a proponent of a multilingual South Africa and a former revolutionary who spent ten years on Robben Island as a fellow-prisoner of Nelson Mandela”) at The Interim, a space for live music, art and education, as well as to learn from the design and publishing forms and techniques from the past, for their publication series Pathways to Free Education.

Performance Zabebaleka Limbhumbhulu (They Were Running from Bullets) by Qondiswa James

After, we went to the square in front of Cape Town Station where the performance Zabebaleka Limbhumbhulu (They Were Running from Bullets) by Qondiswa James was taking place. On a triangularly formed plan covered with salt, demarcated with cordon tape that was held in place at two corners by bricks, and at the third corner by a drum kit, three performers were kneeling, heads and body covered by undyed cloth. The live drum score had a continuum rhythm, calm but persistent, with the performers initially static, though kneeling is an act (!), making gradually more crawling, shaking movements. At an unannounced moment a fourth male performer entered ‘the arena’, bare feet, proclaiming texts in a language I couldn’t identify. Casually dressed he didn’t overtly distinguish himself from the audience, which made me puzzled for a moment about his ‘status’.

The performance lasted for about an hour, with the audience slowly accumulating and grouping together around the performance in a circle. The general sphere was attentive, in most cases serious and curious, sometimes more ridiculing the performance. At one point a man from the public made his rather provocative entrance, and was gently ushered back by another audience member, the situation was taken care of from within. The rhythm and cadence of the drum score, the movements of the performers slowly evolving and becoming more frenetic, the audience members gradually sitting in their place – at some point there was this magic moment of the performance becoming an organism where performers, onlookers and setting become one breathing body. In front of the triangle three cardboards signs lay on the floor with the respective texts written on them, shouting, begging: “you are building the city” / “why are you not living in the city” / “take back the city”.

Frederique Bergholtz

A4 Arts Foundation, Cape Town
The A4 Arts Foundation
is one of the newly opened institutions in the Cape Town art scene, located in a three-storey warehouse in District Six. Director Josh Ginsberg explains how he endeavors to make a new contribution to the city’s cultural life. He describes how Cape Town’s arts ecology largely revolves around Universities on the one hand and commercial galleries that shape and sell the international narrative of South-African art on the other. The risk within this context (something which will also be voiced by others we meet later) is that artists have to make a leap from student work to the scale and expectations of gallery shows immediately. A4 wants to play a bridging role and help build better support structures for artists. Part of A4s support structure are an openly accessible art library and meeting space downstairs, exhibition spaces upstairs, and a collection as a shared resource.

For emerging artists, A4 aims to function as a lab, where new work can be tested and developed. This concept can be seen at work in the exhibition on view, entitled ‘Parallel Play’, which was inspired by the way children play side by side in the same room, and see each other play. Josh invited a group of artists to work side by side in the gallery space, using it as a shared open studio and testing ground. We see, amongst others, how established artist Jo Ratcliff has been sketching ideas for a retrospective exhibition, models for new work by Kyle Morland, and Bad Paper collective at work on their editions.
Josh sees the shared open studio concept not only as fruitful for artists, but also as a strategy to connect artists with collectors. In a context where there is very little state support for artists, Josh has innovative ideas about how collectors could not only be stimulated to buy artworks but be enticed to be part of the support structure for artists in a wider sense. The gallery as lab and studio could facilitate conversations about the relationships between the artworks and the processes and conditions of arts production. While many (potential) collectors sometimes find art somewhat inaccessible, Josh strongly believes they can easily relate to the business of being an artist. He would like to seize the opportunity to engage collectors from his network in conversations about the need for proper studio and storage space, financial planning, etc, and to develop ideas about patronage in terms of both money and expertise from this wider perspective. The gallery-as-studio is intended as the setting where such conversations can be held.

The A4 foundation was funded through artist, collector and philantropist Wendy Fisher and the Kirsh Family Foundation. A selection from Fisher’s private collection is an integral part of the A4 concept. Adjacent to the library of books on the ground floor, A4 houses a modest storage space with an impressive and inspiring stock of works by South African artists. Josh calls it an ‘art library’, which is accessible by appointment and available as a working collection to the artists and guest curators involved with A4. A brief peek reveals gems by Wim Botha, Moshekwa Langa and many others, David Goldblatt’s iconic image of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement and a deeply moving photographs by Santu Mofokeng of an improvised church ceremony on a commuter train, made in the apartheid period, when black citizens were forced to spend so much time traveling from their segregated townships to their work location that they had to carve out the spaces for the important rituals of life in these ways.
A4 Arts Foundation has been welcomed as an alternative in the Cape Town arts scene. Yet the connection with the Kirsh family’s capital has also led to a controversy, because of its apparent historical entwinement with the apartheid economy and current connection with Israeli politics against the Palestinians. This controversy seems to point to a question that became acute for A4, but in some way pertains to many of the endeavors in the Cape Town artworld (and elsewhere, for that matter) enabled by private benefactors and tainted capital: can money rooted in questionable politics and economies be rerouted to make a difference?While some artists have decided to keep their distance from A4, some of the institutions we meet during the week do confirm the important role A4 is playing. At Blank gallery, we recognize the huge sculptures by Kyle Morland, which we had seen as sketches and models in A4’s ‘Parallel Play’. Blank’s team confirms how A4 is functioning as an important and new kind of patron for the gallery’s artists, not only by buying risky genres of art for its collection, but also by fronting money for artistic production and experimentation.

District Six Museum
District Six Museum
next to A4 is an institution that plays a bridging role in a very different way. It is a pity that both neighbours do not seem to be affiliated. In comparison to the contemporary arts scene that is currently taking shape, the District Six Museum seems rather under-resourced, yet it is deeply significant in the way it tells the gripping, moving and thought-provoking story of District Six. This area has become a symbol of the racial spatial politics of apartheid, formalized in the 1960s in the Group Areas Act, which banned ‘black’ and ‘coloured’ groups from living in ‘white’ areas, forcing them (amongst others) to commute long distances to work, providing they had the proper ‘Pass’ that allowed them to enter their white-owned workplace in the first place. Cape Town was the model city of apartheid’s spatial politics. When District Six was declared a white area in 1966, more than 60.000 citizens were forcefully removed and relocated. Their homes were bulldozered.

The museum sketches this violent politics and its impact on the district’s geography in its entrance area, but its strength is that its real focus is not the white apartheid regime and the ways the regime victimized (and continues to affect) unimaginable masses of black and coloured citizens. Instead of affording the apartheid regime the status of the main subject, the museum gives central stage to the cultural life that existed in District Six before its erasure. Shops, restaurants, dubbeldecker busses and tramlines, hairdressers that would whip up the latest hairdos so local clubbers could go out in style, lots of live music and a beautiful cinema form but a glimpse of this. It is the focus on this vibrant culture that, at least in my limited perspective, hits home hard. I am amazed about the existence of this rich cultural life. And I am confronted with my own lack of knowledge and inability to imagine it before I saw the evidence. This too is the lasting impact of racist logic and its nasty power to make negative affects ‘stick’ (in Sara Ahmed’s words) for so long: the deeply ingrained racist preconception that a black modern culture could not have existed in such a place and time – a preconception that exactly buys into everything the white suprematist argumentation of apartheid would have the world believe. This important museum does not have the internationally renowned art that the new Zeitz MOCAA and other arts institutions are showcasing, nor anything near their budgets and prestige, but it tells its story with (often anonymous) community art, guided tours and conversations, and especially with photographs, drawn from the private albums of District Six inhabitants. It is important to know (as professor Premesh Lalu later tells us) that these pictures were not assembled as a mere museological project: they were the evidence the evicted inhabitants brought to the table when after 2003 they were allowed to reclaim their land.

Greatmore Street Studios

Greatmore Street Studios is located in two former homes in Woodstock, on a road that once formed the border between the segregates ‘white’ and ‘coloured’ zones. It was founded in 1998 as a studio facility and workshop programme for artists across the divisions of background, training and generation. In a context where government funding for individual artists is very limited, Greatmore Street Studios has managed to raise funding to offer twelve sponsored studios. South-African artists can apply for 3-year residencies; artists from elsewhere can apply for a 3-month stay. Artists are selected on the basis of their portfolio and motivation. Not making academic training or familiarity with a certain discourse a criterion, has been a deliberate strategy to welcome artists from a range of backgrounds and to include self-taught artists, who did not have the privilege of formal training or have found their artistic voice through other routes. This inclusive approach was crucial at the studios’ inception and remains crucial today.

Maurice Mbikayi’s studio

One of the 3-year residents we meet is Maurice Mbikayi (born in Kinshasa, now based in Cape Town), whose amazing installations and performance photographs involving costumes sculpted out of keyboard keys, reflect on technological advancement, exploitative labour and digital aliens.

Greatmore Street Studios not only offers studio facilities but also a programme of two-week workshops to residents and others, allowing artists to meet and learn from each other, and to develop a range of tools, from technical skills to how to document or theorize work. The two-week model had a strategic function during the international boycott of South Africa, when it was difficult for South-African artists to engage in international exchange. Two weeks were long enough for a productive workshop, and short enough to avoid attention: by the time authorities would realise what was going on, the foreign artists would already have returned home.

Founding member Jill Trappler and current managing director Loyiso Qanya explain how, like it’s sister organisation Bag Factory in Joburg, the studios find their origins in the activities of British businessman Robert Loder. He supported black artists and mixed-race venues since the late 1950s, at a time when black artists were prohibited access to education and exhibitions. With Anthony Caro, he also founded Triangle Arts Trust, an international network of artist-led workshops and residencies, which started in the 1980s New York and found its first spin-off in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Jill tells us that Loder’s engagement with South African art was strongly influenced by his encounter with anti-apartheid activist, priest Trevor Huddleston, and that his philosophy was to redirect the money he earned in the oil and mining economy to foster African arts. As part of this endeavor, he bought properties in Cape Town and Joburg and made them available to Greatmore Street Studios and Bag Factory for a symbolic rent. The Triangle Network, in which both organisations take part, has now become a global network, including artist-led organisations across Africa, South Asia, Australia and the UK, with Gasworks in London as the network’s main hub. Greatmore Street Studios also connects with its immediate surroundings through engagement with local schools and a ‘Great Walk and More’ festival.

Centre for the Periphery
Across the road an important new organisation is building its home: the Centre for the Periphery, an initiative of the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of Western Cape. It will house a Laboratory of Kinetic Objects, The Handspring Puppet Company and a residency programme for artists and academics. And it will also provide a home to the archival collections of the University, which include the most important documents, campaign materials, artworks and films relating to the Contra Apartheid struggle – crucial collections, director and UWC professor Premesh Lalu tells us, to revisit, study and make available for the public in the current struggle to build a democratic public sphere in South Africa.

Anke Bangma


Our first day in Cape Town ended with a stunning tour of Zeitz MOCAA – the record setting and truly jaw dropping museum, showcasing exclusively 21st century African art. The museum opened at Cape Town’s Waterfront area only one year ago, as the continent’s largest art institution and world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its Diaspora. All set in British architect Thomas Heatherwick’s impressive industrial blade runner take on a marked but disused 1921 grain silo. Once used to redistribute south africa’s grain; today divided into nine floors (!), hosting 100 galleries (!). Wau, indeed!

The museum’s collection is centred around the private collection of German business tycoon and avid art collector Jochen Zeitz (known for instance as the former CEO of Puma sportswear).
He allegedly purchased more than 80 artworks at the 2013 Venice biennale, counting the entire Angolese pavilion, which won that year’s golden lion for best pavilion.
Many of these works incl. the pavilion are now part of the Zeitz MOCAA, matching the museum’s district profile: all collection works are from 2000-2018 and all works are by African and African diaspora artists.

(No smartphone photos do the building justice, so while I add some here for authenticity (I was there!), I recommend you all to find professional photos online as well as video talks and walk throughs online.)

We were met by Director and Chief Curator Azu Nwagbogu and Curator Tandazani Dhlakamat who gave us a nuanced introduction to the institution’s many current programmes and its ambitious plans for the future.

One such future plan is a bus transporting youth and children from and to the townships as well as an entire exhibition directed at children as the primary audience group.


Image text: Zeitz MOCAA also hosts a curatorial “laboratory” currently focussing on LGBTQIS, aiming to provide both a safe space and a reference library. Here Curator Tandazani Dhlakamat is introducing the project and Swazi artist Banele Khoza’s work.

To be continued…

List of artists in the Zeitz collection

Ane Bulow