Day 6. Johannesburg

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

Today we start by joining a public conversation in Stevenson gallery celebrating the launch of Sinazo Chiya’s 9 More Weeks. A publication containing a series of artists interviews done by Sinazo. Joost Bosland, director of Stevenson Cape Town, leads the conversation in which he will try to give some insights in the interviewing process and the choices that have been made.
IMG_1044.jpg

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

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

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

BKhz

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

bhz

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

bhza1

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

Florian Weigl

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

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-11 at 20.32.21

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

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

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

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

bbgg

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

Florian Weigl

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

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

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

aafd943f-3254-4629-9f9d-1a8c3d22b853

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

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

0e2da7b3-3238-40f9-b589-589ff6fa6a5b

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

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

A short History of the South-African Photobook

Patricia Kaersenhout

Art21

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

IMG_1086

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

IMG_1105

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

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

IMG_1104.jpg

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

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

For more information, visit www.art21.org
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 Anders Gaardboe Jensen

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 4: Johannesburg

The opening of the 11th FNB JoburgArtFair 2018
– some, more or less, random picks and an unexpected nice surprise

This year the Fair will feature over sixty exhibitors withing the cathegories in the catagories Contemporary, solo presentation, Limited edition and Art platforms.

The art fair landscape in the South Africa consists of two art fairs. Cape Town Art Fair and the more established Johannesburg Art Fair, which was the first international art fair on the continent. According to Elana Brundyn, the Director of Noval Foundation, the two Art Fairs have quite different profiles. While Cape Town Art Fair should be more internationally founded, Joburg ArtFair has the African continent as the overall focus, a view that fits well with the Fairs own sense of self. In the preface of the catalogue the very visionary director of FNB JoburgArtFair, Mandla Sibeko writes something like“(…) Creating a mirror for African contemporary art to the world(….)”

1. pic. .jpg

The high-profile Fair has all the ingredients you would expect from an Art Fair. Around 45 galleries, including large-scale Installations, special projects (with e.g. Billie Zangewa and this years FNB Art Prize winner the Cape Town-born artist and activist Harron Gunn-Salie), talks, Art platforms, solo exhibitions (Zander Blom at Stevensons is one), 8 limited Edition prints, and of course the hungry art buyers and the loyal, local art crowd. It seems like everyone we have met so far was there: The Goodman Gallery, The blank project, Stevenson (with, among others, a work by Mawande Ka Zenzile, one of his typical cow dung paintings titled “iatrogenic”, a term which refers to diseases or damage caused by doctors), Josh Ginsberg from A4 Art Foundation,

The people behind Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation. So – the place to be if you are in the art world. Well apparently Loyiso Qanya and Jill Trapper from Greatmore Studios, weren’t there, probably because they represent the non-profit part of the art world.

The staffs from the National gallery in Zimbabwe, that we’ll visit next week, was there (they are also the ones being responsible for the pavilion at the Venice Biennale) And the Villages Unhu which we also have the pleasure of meeting next week in Harare, had a booth. Overalll a nice round-off of our program so far.

2. pic. Mawande Ka Zenzile

At one point this fair could be anywhere, and has the look of any other fairs, in terms of the framing and the set-up. It pulls in all directions with all kinds of very different works, of course an excess of saleable works. You can easily decipher and recognize it as a typical art fair, but at the same time something is definitely different, at least from art fairs in Scandinavia. What pop into my mind, if I should point out some tendencies
is the overall colourism and a tactility that is very much present. What also seems very popular right now is the staged photography, either as straight staged photography, or as documentation of performances, all featuring issues of the black body.

There were unexpected and surprisingly some very interesting works between the usual. What was very unexpected for me, was to find an hommage to the Fluxus movement. I found it in the muliti-diciplinary edition and publication company Bad Paper. They work with multiples and editions and aim to make art more accessible and to offer an alternative to the current gallery system. Refreshing with some Fluxus influence in a fair like this!!

The fair might give you a good overview and a sense of what is going on at the African art scene. But since I don’t have the prerequisites – my knowledge about the African art scene is quite limited – I can’t know with certainty whether the representation is comprehensive for the whole continent.

Kit Leunbach

4. pic. Homage Fluxus


FNB Art Price winner Haroon Gunn-Salie – For Senzenina

Immediately after entering the art fair I get pleasantly surprised by the visibility, scale and presentation of the contemporary section. Next to the entrance I find the large dark space in which the work of 2018’s FNB Art Price winner is presented. The Cape Town- born artists Haroon Gunn-Salie.

His work For Senzenina (2018) addresses the Marikana massacre, the most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since the ’60’s. A mass catastrophe that took place on August 16, 2012 when the South African Police Service opened fire on a crowd of striking mineworkers in the Wonderkop’s subdistrict of Marikana that were demanding an wage increase. In total the police shot and killed thirty-four, left seventy-eight seriously injured and arrested two-hundered-and-fifty mineworkers. They absolved some key political figures but families of the slain minders are still waiting reparations.

The work, an slightly lit black cube with roaring sound that’s already noticeable from far away, invites you to sit on the floor to experience a soundscape containing recent site recordings from Marikana, calls from the mineworkers to disamble peacefully, the entrapment of the workers by the police and chorus of anti-apartheid freedom songs lamented by the mineworkers moments before live ammunition was discharged. The audio-loop of 15-mintes and ends with a striking moment of silence. Intense. Touching. A stirring experience. Something I’d never expected to experience at the Joburg Artfair.

Florian Weigl

BAD PAPER – Creating Editions
In one of the corners of the fair, dedicated to limited edition prints, I found an exiting booth hosted by artists Rodan Kane Hart and graphic designer Ben Johnson.

Under the name BAD PAPER they’re running a fresh alternative (or addition) to the South African gallery system. Trying to introduce Johannesburg to the idea of ‘editions’. Something that already has quite a successful place in the European art market and is already on many mayor art fairs the hip, fresh corner to socialize, hang out and take your first step towards starting your first art collection.

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 00.37.05.png

An idea that started while creating a personal artist publication for Rodan Kan Hart, the now first project of BAD PAPER. A limited edition book they’re very proud of. This result, made with care and quality, became the ambition to -at one point- offer every artists that they approach.

Conceptually, we’re interested in the idea of the multiple and all that it entails, including the lives of a single artwork in multiple locations, the preciousness (or lack thereof) in a copy, and the human elements of imperfection intrinsic to the process of repetition. (…) BAD PAPER collaborates with artists to concretize their existing ideas or to translate their prior experience into different modes of thinking. Ultimately, this results in tangible pieces ranging in medium from sculptures and designed objects to prints and artist books.

 

By creating affordable series of limited publications or object it becomes possible for young artists to sell, get noticed and make a step in their practice. Something that, specially since the lack of project spaces in South Africa, is essential. A very sympathetic approach that by previously working with Zander Blom, Cameron Platter, Jarend Ginsburg, Daniella Mooney and Bronwyn Katz will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

Florian Weigl

Sabelo Mlangeni at the Witz Art Museum and a work at the fair

 

‘The morning after 20 hours of praying’ by Sabelo Mlangeni

Sabelo Mlangeni has been photographing the Zinest Church which he has been a member of for many years. Having beautiful intimate images of this community that he chose himself to be a part of.
Being able to freely move around this community and tell his side of the story.
His work has as timeless feeling, whereas this photograph was taken in 2016. If you look closer at the image, you see the cell phones in the hands of the unknown church members. Cell phones have been a symbol of the modern world, whereas the image has a classical old feeling to it.
This work relates to how long this church and its community has been existing. Sabelo shows that he has an open approach to the unexpected little flaws that can happen when using an analogue camera.  Being open to the story that they still can tell and how it relates to the whole body of work.

Some other works

Sue Williamson

 

Billie Zangewa

Cinga Samson

 

Marion Boehm

Farren van Wijk

Galleries (click on institution name for link)
99 loop – Cape Town / Addis Fine Art – Addis Ababa / Afriart Gallery – Kampala / Art First – London / ARTCO Art Gallery – Aachen / Arte de Gema – Maputo / Barnard Gallery – Cape Town blank projects – Cape Town / Christopher Moller Gallery – Cape Town / Eclectica Contemporary – Cape Town / ELA – Espaço Luanda Arte / Everard Read and CIRCA Galleries – Joburg, Cape Town, London / First Floor Gallery Harare – Harare / Gallery 1957 – Accra / Gallery MOMO – Joburg, Cape Town / Goodman Gallery – Joburg, Cape Town / Guns & Rain – Joburg Kalashnikovv Gallery – Joburg, Berlin / Lizamore & Associates / MOV’ART – Luanda / Red Door Gallery – Lagos / ROOM Gallery & Projects – Joburg / Salon 91 – Cape Town / SMAC Gallery – Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Joburg / SMITH – Cape Town / Stevenson – Cape Town, Joburg / This is Not A Whitecube / WHATIFTHEWORLD – Cape Town, Joburg / Worldart – Cape Town

Gallery Solo Projects (click on institution name for link)
Amy Lin presented by Alida Anderson Projects / Roger Ballen with Hans Lemmen presented by ARTCO / Aida Muluneh presented by David Krut Projects / Mark Rautenbach presented by Eclectica Contemporary / Mamady Seydi presented by Galerie GALEA / Dale Lawrence presented by SMITH / Zander Blom presented by Stevenson

Limited Editions (click on institution name for link)
ARTCO – Aachen / Bad Paper – Cape Town / DALE SARGENT FINE ART – Cape Town LL Editions – Joburg / The Artist’ Press / SA Print Gallery – Cape Town / The White House Gallery – Joburg

Art Platforms (click on institution name for link)
Artist Proof Studio – Joburg / Another Antipodes – Perth / Bag Factory – Joburg / Department of Small Business Development – South Africa / Johannesburg Art Gallery – Joburg / Javett Art Centre – Pretoria / Kuenyehia Prize – Accra / Lalela – Joburg, Cape Town / Legalamitlwa Arts – Mmabatho / National Gallery of Zimbabwe / NJE Collective – Windhoek / SAFFCA – Joburg, Saint Emilion / The Project Space – Joburg / Village Uhnu – Harare

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

BLANK PROJECTS

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

Zeitz MOCAA

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