The Storytelling Wisdom and Wit as well as Visual Imagination of a Trio of Artists

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Xerophyte landscape with alarmist magpies by Piet Grobler

When book illustrator Piet Grobler was planning his next exhibition, the issues dominating his head space turned into the title of the show, White lies and inconvenient truths. DIANE DE BEER takes a closer look:

First Piet Grobler invited two fellow artists, Marinda du Toit and Corné Joubert, with similar storytelling abilities, to join him at the Tina Skukan Gallery from Sunday November 17 at 11.30am until December 14.

“In times of immediate mass communication, the collective tools of white lies and unspeakable truths seem to protect existing establishments, ridiculous assumptions and ideas and positions of power,” he writes in the invitation to the exhibition, which consists of Joubert’s ceramic objects, Du Toit’s sculptured characters and his own two-dimensional illustrations, all with a playful yet ironic view on this inconvenient truth.

“An interest in language and text, a preference for spontaneous drawing, seemingly nonsensical marks, discarded found objects, chance and happy accidents become the shared characteristic of this collection of visual narratives,” he notes. All of the work is held together by humour even when the messages have serious impact.

He derives his inspiration from from folk art, humour, travel, nature, human nature and stories of all kinds. “I have tried, in honour of the truths and the untruths, to simply play when I made my illustrations for this exhibition.”

Talking about his processes, drawings and paintings were done without excessive planning, thought or contemplation and the leftovers and snippets from other more calculated projects supplied him with the materials to make his unique worlds and tell his stories.

“Chance and happy accidents were used and then, I have to confess, fine-tuned and manipulated in order to tell stories that I hope will be funny or moving or interesting takes on truths.”

“I have always loved using idioms and metaphors in my titles for my characters,” says Du Toit, emphasizing in the process a layered meaning in the material, posture and title thereof.  “The concept is timeless, lies and truths have been (unfortunately) forever part of breathing and being, since religion, politics, people grouping, intolerance within every individual , etc. I just went ahead and made them,” says the artist completely in sync with the concept.

She enjoys being pushed out of her comfort zone, which can happen with the suggestions of others. “It can make you explore things that are not necessarily or naturally part of your reference.

“My work is mostly intuitive. Once I have established the concept, lived with it in my mind for a while and did some research if needed, I start looking at objects connected to the idea and it flows from there,” she further explains.

“I like to comment on issues, and current issues, whether subtly, with humour or directly. I want the viewer to ask questions, shy away, be embarrassed, explore further interpretation.”

She agrees with Grobler that we need to laugh at ourselves. “What always amazes me, is when a joke is derived from a tragic or shocking incident, how we find healing in the macabre by joking about it. I do clowning where the innocence (uninformed/childlike behaviour) of the clown is also a wonderful tool to address and comment on sensitive issues and taboo topics.”

She works with found objects, discarded, or items that are not useful in their primary function any longer. “My characters comment on any pressing issue, or any (assumed) mundane issue, being part of our daily lives as human,” falling neatly into the title of the exhibition.

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Ceramic storytelling by Corné Joubert

Joubert, who worked for this one mainly in ceramics, found the theoretical disparity in the title pushed her to explore ideas on the lies we tell and on how lies and truth in general impact her life, environment and relationships. Who decides what is true and fair and how many people must agree on something to make it true?, she asks.

“By looking at history, we know millions of people can be wrong. Inconvenient truths are often tempered by white lies and so the boundaries between truth and lies dissolve, sometimes due to good intentions.”

She work in multiple media. “Images, characters, groups and surface treatments in my work all refer to reactions to my larger world of relationships, occurrences, stories and observations. There is usually a satirical suggestion to my responses. I am a writer and subsequently narrative, text and symbols form a part of my visual language.”

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Piet Grobler’s Still life with Zombie Cat, Killer Bird and potted garden

It makes sense to group these three artists together even if they work in different media and  different genres. Their visual language is a collective one with a playful yet sharply satirical edge that might appear quite harmless, sometimes even childlike.

Their work elicits a wry smile and while it appears not to take life too seriously, what they’re saying with their work, dispels that myth.

With this specific title, the subversive nature of their art is allowed to flourish in a very specific way. This is a world turned upside down both climatically and in the way some people have chosen to inhabit their space in a particular time of madness and mayhem.

This trio have found a gentler yet no less effective way of making their point in almost sly fashion.

Send in the clowns. It’s time to laugh.

The exhibition will be opened by Johan Myburg, poet and art critic, on Sunday at 11.30 am. There will be a preview of the exhibition on Saturday from 9.30 am to 4 pm and a WALKABOUT presented by Piet Grobler on Saturday November 23 at 10.30 am. The exhibition closes on December 14.

Tina Skukan Gallery
Gallery hours: Tuesday – Friday, 9am to 5pm
Saturday, 9am to 4pm
Closed on Sundays and Mondays
6 Koedoeberg Road, Faerie Glen, Pretoria
Tel: 012 991 1733 or 083 235 3899
rex@tinaskukangallery.co.za
www.tinaskukangallery.co.za

Artists Kutlwano Monyai and Mbhoni Khosa in Tandem at Pretoria Art Museum

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Mbhoni Khosa (left, artwork right) and co-art-conspirator Kutlwano Monyai (right, artwork left)

From April this year, TUT art graduates, Kutlwano Monyai and Mbhoni Khosa, have been working on a body of work that takes the ideas encountered in The Genesis II’ Xhibition, further. DIANE DE BEER catches them at their latest exhibition, Kopanong Art Studio Residency Programme 2019:

 

 

Both, Kutlwano Monyai and Mbhoni Khosa, went through the Pretoria Art Museum education and development programme having been involved with guided tours at the Museum and the facilitation of art-making workshops for visiting groups as education assistants. This qualified them for the Genesis exhibition which was held at the Museum in June last year.

Following this, they were given yet another opportunity to further develop as artists. As part of a group of six artists, they competed for an art residency and were nominated as winners by an independent selection panel to work for four months in the Kopanong Art Studio (from April until July this year) in the Pretoria Art Museum.

They were selected because their work impressed the panel as it showed “a wide breadth of content and an adeptness with the art media in which they specialise”.

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A collaborative work: Ghost in the hut.

Because part of the exhibition was going to be collaborative, Monyai and Khosa had an advantage because they had studied together (earning their degrees at TUT last year) and had through their work as educational assistants also become close friends. There would be no barriers even if the process would be a new one.

The envisaged body of work consists of 26 artworks with the two artists contributing ten art works each and six collaborative works. While Khosa’s graphics expand the narrative of Xitsonga traditional beliefs and practices, Monyai plays with the interpretation of dreams through her mixed media artwork with interconnected mapmaking. They were mentored by Thabang Monoa, Connie Leteane and the Culture Officer at the Museum, Mmutle Kgokong.

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Releasing bitterness by Kutlwano Monyai.

Already as a young child, Monyai became interested in dreams sparked by her own vivid night-time experiences. Because her mother had similar tendencies, they often talked about their interpretations and growing up, it became part of the artist’s life.

It was natural that her art would be influenced by this way of understanding her world. “I interpret my dreams influenced by tradition and cultural background,” she notes. She remembers nightmares as a child, which her mother would translate as myths and stories, in comforting fashion.

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Excessive anxiety by Kutlwano Monyai.

And that became her way of telling her own stories on canvas – interpreting her dreams through mapping and meditation. Her method of making art also plays into the final result because she allows the mapping and her way of throwing paint to determine where and how she meanders her art route.

And apart from layering ideas, she is doing similar things with her different techniques. “I am mapping my own work with spirituality,” she says and with titles like Releasing Bitterness and Excessive Anxiety, it is clear that these are very personal works and that Monyai is working through her own history in quite extraordinary fashion as she holds onto dreams, listens to the stories they tell and then has her own interpretation – and healing process. And she’s happy with every piece, taking a leap into the unknown.

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A dance brings happiness to one’s heart by Mbhoni Khosa.

Khosa works quite differently, but he also reaches into his cultural heritage to find inspiration. As a Tsonga his life has been influenced by the neglect of his home city Giyani, former capital of the Gazankulu homeland, but now part of Limpopo. He believes that because they are in  the minority as a group, much of the infrastructure was moved post-apartheid.

From having very rich lives, his people, he feels, have been left with nothing and daily life has become a struggle. Yet, he is consoled by who they are as a people and wants to celebrate their happiness in spite of hardships.

“I needed to release my anger,” is how he expresses his starting point when making art. His methods are varied as he uses printmaking, scratching, drawing in stark colours to “define what is left” of their world.

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A friend is someone you share a path with by Mbhoni Khosa.

What emerges and what he captures are his people’s joy in life, the way they celebrate and come together, their traditions and culture, all of which he loves. “For me it is a healing process,” he says in gentle tones.

In similar fashion, his titles, including A dance brings happiness to one’s heart and A friend is someone you share a path with express what he is dealing with and where his focus lies.

Collaborating opened a new world for both artists. While they might be dealing with similar topics, they do this very differently yet found a way to blend their art with both finding their signature expressed in the final product.

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A collaborative work titled Reaching Out

“Our methods are very different,” says Monyai. “My process is very slow while Khosa is fast.” She was also slightly anxious about working together as she has always made art in isolation. But the two know one another well, fed off each other rather than feel alienated and the collaborative works tell their individual stories – in tandem.

Another learning curve was a lack of funding and how to resolve that. While the space was provided and mentorship included, they had to bring their own materials and look after themselves during the residency. In in the process, explains Khosa, he also learnt to budget for art materials which are hugely expensive. They though the full experience was something that offered huge experience for their future art journey.

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Artist in cahoots Mbhoni Khosa and Kutlwano Monyai.

While Monyai is dreaming about future solo exhibitions, she plans to tackle the competitive art world next, while Khosa wants to study further and earn his stripes as an art teacher. “I want to give back,” he says. But he will keep making art.

From November 16, more of their art will form part of the group exhibition at Banele Khoza’s Braamfontein studio and gallery BKhz. To feature in two exhibitions simultaneously, for two so young, is extraordinary.

Listening to these two inspirational artists, their very exciting yet brief career path, it’s clear that they grab every opportunity, do the hard work, and sweep splendidly through doors flung open.

And then they tell visual stories that make your heart sing.

 

 

 

Kopanong Art Studio Residency Programme 2019 is on show in the Henry Preiss Hall of the Pretoria Art Museum on Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 4pm, with guided tours arranged by appointment. The exhibition will be on show until Sunday, February 2 2020.

 

Artist Banele Khoza Pushes Boundaries in Makeshift Pretoria Art Museum Studio

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Banele Khoza busy with model Lehlonolo Kwape.

Depending on the timing of your visit to the latest Banele Khoza exhibition, 9 – 5. Do artists need structure?, you will be having a unique perspective. DIANE DE BEER speaks to the multi-faceted artist:

“It’s about the process and that’s messy,” says the 25-year-old Banele Khoza whose exhibition is being hosted by the Pretoria Art Museum and the Alliance Française of Pretoria. It also serves as part of Khoza’s prize for winning the 2017 Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award which included a three-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris (partly sponsored by the Alliance Française and the French Institute in South Africa).

It’s an annual art competition presented by Absa and the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA), focused on artists aged between 21 and 35.

Structure is a word that features strongly in Khoza’s mind at the moment (also pointing to the title of the exhibition) and he is hoping to discover with this present process how it fits into his creative process. At the same time, he is encouraging everyone to share in the journey as he works on many different pieces that have to be completed.

To create 9 – 5, Khoza is hoping to find out what will happen when he structures his creative endeavours to the normalised nine to five schedule for the six weeks of the exhibition which runs until December 7.

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A studio in a museum.

The plan is to avoid taking anything home by working in the studio he has re-created on site in the North Gallery of the Pretoria Art Museum. “I want to find out if I would hate it (working this publicly), I want to see if the frustration will translate into my body of work,” explains Khoza.

Even before the official opening when he was setting up the studio which is part of the process and which will be on-going throughout probably changing and growing daily, he was finding it difficult not to keep working beyond the scheduled time. But all of this is an experiment and for this entrepreneurial youngster, it’s excitement on the eve of the exhibition about to unfold.

He is thrilled that the Museum went along with this wild idea of his and that they’re really allowing him to unravel the process, one he isn’t entirely sure of, in his own way. “I know they would have liked more of a studio by the opening, but for me, that’s all part of how this should go,” he says. He is also pleased that his music can be played as part of the show. “It’s about what we listen to and what we get up to,” while creating art.

For Banele, the structure isn’t about doing the work, it’s about taking time-out. “I’ve always been afraid of rest,” he says. “It’s always seemed counterproductive in a world that encourages and praises constant output.” He also knows that while his working hours might pile up, the work isn’t always effective.

That has always been part of his being – output. As someone who describes himself as an entrepreneur, curator, former lecturer and the gallery director of the open studio and gallery space, BKhz in Braamfontein, he dabbles with dexterity in many different mediums. His phone is part of his drawing pad and he always carries a number of notebooks in which he constantly jots down memories, thoughts and most recently, also poetry.

Words have always been part of his process but even more so now. “I am reading a lot of poetry,” he explains. While in residency in Paris he realised that the true benefit was everything he was exposed to – people and different spaces. In that way his art is in constant flux – something that is part of his being.

In the corner of the gallery, he has his desk scattered with notebooks but also reading material. The bookcase that frames the picture also reveals his reading interests.

And now, being this public, is about interrupting his usual process – both for himself and the viewer. Everything he does is being done with intent. The process might be new for the artist but he is attacking it with vigour and expectation. It’s about sharing something that’s private. “Usually people only engage with the finished product as if the process is seamless.”

He hopes to reveal the imperfections, the struggle of making art while reflecting on his life and where he plans to go next. Not that this prolific artist needs any more avenues. In his young career, he has done more than many attempt in a lifetime – much of it publicly. What is extraordinary about this public approach to his work, is Khosa’s shy demeanour while all the time pushing himself to engage. He does this not only in real life but also on social media. He is a millennial who plays the game to perfection.

His art is difficult to describe because he is constantly changing from fine multiplied line drawings to dreamlike figures, usually solo, he says, but these also change in character and intent as he finds new places to explore and new techniques to decipher and develop.

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Clearing his head and his desktop.

That has always been the excitement about his work. While there is a signature style easily recognised, if you are a collector of his work, the versatility is extraordinary – and he is only 25. That’s also why the present process is such a brave one. Not even the artist knows where this will take him.

In the meantime, the two artists in the gallery next to his makeshift studio have been invited to exhibit their work together with a whole group of trained Educational Assistants from the Pretoria Art Museum in his Braamfontein gallery BKhz. “One of my goals is to encourage and promote emerging artists,” he says fully aware of how helping hands were part of his personal journey. That exhibition will be opened on Saturday morning, November 16.

Speaking to him three days into the exhibition, he is having fun. “When it is quiet, it is a time to be still, something I need,” he says as I catch him on his computer. It’s about dreaming and dabbling in a space that allows him to do just that. “People are still a bit hesitant but as I start working more intently, I think they will engage,” he says.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what is going to emerge at the conclusion. Watch this space…

 

In the meantime…

website:    bkhz   banelekhoza 

instagram: bkhz   banelekhoza

The Arts Not Always Recognised In The Way It Should Be Counts at Aardklop 2019

Aardklop 2019 made great inroads under difficult economic and social circumstances with women stealing the show on many of the stages writes DIANE DE BEER;

 

One of the problems that Afrikaans festivals battle with is inclusivity. It is less problematic in the Cape (Woordfees and Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees) because Afrikaans is a language spoken by different groups.

Less so in a place like Potchefstroom where English would be the spoken language common to most of the people. But that doesn’t mean trying to embrace the different communities should not be attempted.

You want a whole town to celebrate and share in the advantages of any arts festival. The arts have often been used as inspiration in this country – good times and bad – and can be used as a common language.

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Organsier and jewellery maker Seitebaleng Legoale with poet Tlholeho Lekena celebrating their award

This year inroads were made with an art tour (for the second year in succession) to the local township Ikageng. Catching a specially designated shuttle, the Maboneng Township Experience, is the start of an inspired journey.

Founding director Siphiwe Ngwenya who instigated these art tours in Alex, Langa and Joburg previously, was also instrumental in the Ikageng initiative now being run by Seitebaleng Constance Legoale who has started specifically in one designated street where sometimes it is the house of the artist, other times, art is exhibited in specific homes. She believes this is just the beginning.

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Poet Tlholeho Lekena in action.

With Carien Brits from the ATKV’s language department as part of the experience, she kickstarts the tour on the shuttle with a talk on language, that spoken most widely in Ikageng (Sesotho) and the culture those making the journey will experience in the township where we are greeted by a local poet Tlholeho Lekena. He does a great introductory poem titled Grey, promoting the absence of white and black while rather focussing on a combination of the two – in essence an absence of colour.

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An anguished rape lament

From the different kinds of art, photographs, live poetry and writing put up on the wall raging about rape to the colourful grandmothers who are often the backbone of their self-made families, it is yet another small step to change township into town with none of the often-self-imposed barriers.

They were rewarded with an Aardklop award for ground-breaking work and hopefully the venture will go from strength to strength.

On the stages, it was the time of especially three women: Sandra Prinsloo, Antoinette Kellermann and Cintaine Schutte. Naturally there was more, but festivals always produce something extraordinary that stands out for different reasons.

Here it was about performance in three very different productions, yet each one with its own challenges and each one very specific to the production.

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Sandra Prinsloo Picture: Eye Poetry Photography

Prinsloo stars as Susan Nell in Kamphoer (on at The Baxter in Cape Town until October 26) , a piece that on paper looks tough to transpose to stage. But with the phenomenal Prinsloo working for the first time with insightful director Lara Foot (the production is currently playing at The Baxter in Cape Town), they workshopped the text with scriptwriter Cecilia du Toit, and produced something powerful for especially this time.

It’s a story of violent abuse during a time of war, someone whose rape earned her the damning title of camp whore, a woman left for dead at the side of the road, and finally, after many detours and gentle helping hands from concerned strangers, a chance at retribution.

For Prinsloo and Foot, the X factor was bringing this extraordinary woman to life. It’s not just about what happened to her, but how she experienced her life, something she had no control over. It is the way Nell (Prinsloo) takes you through her life, removes her skin layer for layer as she is violated and tries to rebuild and find a way to regain a measure of what could become a life once again.

It is the way she shares her story, the fragility of what becomes her existence, reaching a hand to help others but never escaping the trauma of her past that has such emotional impact even when she has lost that part of herself – she believes, forever.

If anyone wonders about rape, the lasting effects and the different ways it impacts individual victims, Nell’s story unleashes the horror in a way that removes any questions as it takes you to the core of what this defenceless woman had to endure.

None of this would have come across without the unique text, the choice staging and direction and Prinsloo’s towering presence as Nell.

She gives a performance of such devastating delicacy that the aftershock is shattering.

Cintaine Schutte
Cintaine Schutte

In the translated Tien Duisend Ton (which I originally saw in English), and here directed by Nico Scheepers with Cintaine Schutte and Albert Pretorius, the two lovers trying to make sense of their lives, Schutte’s desire for a child with Pretorius slightly dubious, what really matters is the performances.

And while Pretorius does what needs to be done, it is a blossoming Schutte’s performance that has you holding your breath throughout.

It happens at breakneck speed, almost in manic monologue fashion with Schutte’s inflection, her body language, the speed with which she reacts and charges her performance with emotional heft, that has you gasping.

Keep up and don’t lose her as she races off at a speed that’s sometimes exhausting yet always exhilarating. It’s contemporary, young and dealing with issues that many – young and older – struggle with on a daily basis, if they’re blessed to have that kind of luxury which this couple obviously have.

Schutte has been someone to watch from the start but this past year has obviously been her time and perhaps a new confidence is starting to emerge and colour her performances. No longer the new kid on the block and with a series of roles in her repertoire, the range, which is expansive for someone so young, she seems to have a newfound fire which is mesmerising.

And there’s so much more to come.

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Antoinette Kellermann     Picture: Hans van der Veen

 

Then there’s also the grand dame of classical theatre Antoinette Kellermann as Elizabeth Lear in charge and in command of the luminous translation of Tom Lanoye’s Koningin Lear by Antjie Krog (on at The Baxter in Cape Town from November 7 to 16) . With the support of a tremendous, choice cast, she inhabits a woman whose power is waning on a business and personal level.

As the story goes, she decides to pass her wealth on to her heirs, but they have to declare undying love before the inheritance can be owned. And that’s when the fun begins.

It’s also the arc she is expected to play, the transformation from start to finish as she first emerges as the powerful matriarch at the top of her game. And yet, from the beginning, there are some unnerving hitches which Kellermann exposes with subtlety because of the crescendo she is aiming for at the end.

With this performance of extremes, she has the mammoth task of getting to grips with a text which drives all of her actions. But Kellerman, being the artist she is, takes on the challenge and triumphs magnificently.

Because of the ambition of the playwright, all the elements had to work together sweetly – and they do. That’s what makes this such a majestic experience.

And these are but a few of the elements and people that made the 2019 Aardklop swing – under difficult economic circumstances – proving once again that the arts do so much more than simply entertain – even as it pulls that off too.

Nataniël Makes the Earth Move in When Giants Waltz – 12 Monumental Concerts

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The stars from When Giants Waltz

DIANE DE BEER

WHEN GIANTS WALTZ – 12 MONUMENTAL CONCERTS  

Artist/writer/composer: Nataniël 

Musicians: Charl du Plessis (keyboards), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Brendan Ross (keyboards, saxophone and vocals), Werner Spies (bass), Peter Auret (drums)

Vocals: Dihan Slabbert and Nicolaas Swart

Costumes: Floris Louw

Venue: Theatre of Marcellus, Emperors Palace

Dates: Until October 27; Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm12 concerts only; 90 minutes long; no interval; no cellphones, sandals or shorts; no children under 15

 

No matter how little or how well you know this artist’s work, he surprises you.

How does he do it? I watched in wonderment and awe while experiencing the thrill of a performance that epitomises the excitement of live theatre – and it happens year after year.

It’s like a surprise party. Before the time he has much to say about what won’t be part of the concert, for example, the absence of a set, no more choreography, music that’s not accessible, no overarching story – he doesn’t speak much about what will be part of the show.

That’s Nataniël, someone who works imaginatively and creatively to catch his audience off guard, to always bring something new, not only with message as he moves with the times, but also with his evocative stage craft.

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Creative costumes are part of the storytelling.

Following a hiatus last year after more than a decade of annual shows at this theatre, he’s back with a vengeance in a way specifically structured to catch you unawares. The costumes are bigger and even grander in conception than before with many gigantic garments filling the giant-themed landscape.

They are heart stopping, from a different era, in royal fabric and often bright colours, with the result that many are clamouring for an exhibition of his stage couture. The finer detail is difficult to catch from an auditorium.

There’s a costume in front of a backdrop which mirrors the fabric, lamps drop from the sky and moonscapes create a lunar atmosphere, a brilliant blast of red with a sign dropping from the heavens with the word blue – in fact colour plays a huge part as his storytelling both tickles and tortures as he is wont to do. There’s always a sting in many of his tales.

Then the performance and the show, the substance and the visuals, the stories and the songs with musicians of stature who all contribute to the overall artistry, take over.

From the entrance with Nataniël tripping onto stage draped in creature couture which immediately puts you in an imaginary place, this genius storyteller takes you a-wandering in his world of merriment intertwined with melancholy.

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Nataniël in full flow

The language, the images he conjures up with his characters and the lives they lead, the way everything unfolds and the music which drifts between blues, jazz and a few pop classics – some original, others re-arranged – all come together sweetly.

Backed by three sassy vocalists or sometimes performing with only the sounds of a lone guitar as accompaniment, Nataniël has through the years found the music that works best for his voice and which accommodate and remark and elaborate on his stories. Sometimes he might google the saddest jazz song in the world (for example), which he then sings and when he can’t find anything for a particular story, he simply writes one.

He has never had a hit, he says only half-forlornly, but he shines when performing live, relaxed in his own skin, crooning with musos who know his style and get into the swing and rhythm (as well as a constant change of costumes for the band too) of his particular vibe. Everyone shines.

The show is presented in a series of montages, almost like paging through an album. The costumes and props do the visual fantasy and the stories fill in the details. These leave you giggling and gasping in turn as as he dips into the often hysterical lives of a woman who has arranged her life to accommodate the elephant in the room, another with blue ribbons whose knitting finds no conclusion and yet another whose names are constantly switched until she owns her identity.

He bookends the show with the history of giants and their place in the world and in conclusion, confronts those who feel larger than life with unchecked power, who believe they are mightier than the law and trample those they regard as lesser human beings and easy to destroy.

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Nataniël in song

In each tale, once the laughter dies down, and just before the next song, the sadness of all the hilarity at what is sometimes the horrors we all encounter in normal living, hits you full on. But, with perfect timing, just before you succumb, a stunning new costume, or a song fills the empty space and we move on.

This is an artist who has perfected his craft. None of the normal rules applies. He has used a director on occasion but not for the last decade. He writes all his own scripts, guides his designer in the costumes he hopes to see, plans the lighting which sometimes only show the costumes in full light as the last note rises and designs the stage and anything he needs to accomplish a mood for a story and a song.

It’s transcendent what he achieves and in-between, he tours the platteland with shows and speaking dates, does cooking shows and TV series, and has just published his first book that didn’t first play on stage – in both Afrikaans and English.

It’s his imagination – unchecked – that never lets him down as he draws a world with his visually rich stories (in both English and Afrikaans) while entertaining in a manner few can achieve year in and year out.

When giants waltz, Nataniël says, the earth moves, which may be true. He doesn’t have to rely on size or stature, he gets everything moving with his gigantic creativity and imagination.

That’s the artist he is and it’s joyous to experience this kind of quality.

 

 

 

Mathews and Associates Activates Bridge Between Javett-UP’s Art and Architecture

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Different angles of the Javett-UP

Today, October 7, is World Architecture Day. Tshwane’s latest art centre opened on Heritage Day. Featuring a clutch of galleries as well as offering a brand-new architectural feature on the edges of the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield and South campuses, DIANE DE BEER gets the lowdown from architect Pieter Mathews whose firm Mathews and Associates designed the Javett Art Centre (Javett-UP):

 

It’s been a long haul for Mathews and Associates with the first concept design penned in 2012, but finally the time has come for the magnificent building and the art to be revealed and to determine that their initial goal to create a space that will activate the connection between art and architecture has been achieved. Time will tell but everything seems to point in that direction.

For lead architect Pieter Mathews (helped by project architect Liam Purnell and assisted by project dedicated architects Carla Spies and Jannes Hattingh) the specific site (one of three options) was selected because of its proximity to the Boukunde Building and the Visual Arts Building which flank the Art Centre. “They should all be in conversation,” he says, which is what influenced certain aspects of the design and the materials used.

Javett art
The building seen through the Eduardo Villa artwork.

It also contributes to the easy nestling of what is an enormous group of structures into the established landscape.

Mathews describes the style as Neo Brutalism. “Brutalism is part of the architecture history of South Africa (and worldwide) and was especially popular in the 60s and early 70s. What it means is to use the material in an honest way. Concrete which has a soul of its own is simply cast and left like that. Aesthetics are determined by the building method and the way the materials are used in its most brutal form.”

American architect Louis Isadore Kahn, known as the world leader in brutalism, most famously captured the concept with the following quote: “Even a brick wants to be something.”

javett-UP

In that spirit Mathews describes the abstract and brutal “mountain” of concrete (created by a local concrete shuttering firm) and representing the Mapungubwe Gallery – which is home to the world-famous Mapungubwe Gold Collection with the golden rhino – as honouring the honesty of the construction methods of brutalism with the natural elements of concrete coming alive as it will show signs of ageing throughout its life. Natural light casts patterns changing throughout the day. It’s the standout feature of the centre.

Perhaps one of brutalism’s strongest features is what captured his imagination specifically when designing the Javett-UP. “Buildings appear as if they have been there forever,” he explains, which is important in especially this university set-up.

Linked to the Mapungubwe Gallery by Museum Square (with a restaurant to the side and an outside exhibition space) are a selection of public galleries (nine in total, together with the two student galleries below Art Square). The public art galleries will display the best from the collections of the Javett Foundation (lead donor on the project) and the University of Pretoria, as well as various temporary exhibitions with arguably a more contemporary slant.

The Centre also includes a 117-seat auditorium, administrative offices, storage, art conservation and quarantine areas.

Javett full view
Another view of Javett-UP

 

The Javett-UP was designed to embrace both the space and the surrounding buildings, and while it might achieve iconic status, it shouldn’t stand in isolation. He was also intent on linking the Art Centre with the campus from every possible angle which makes access easy from different vantage points. This was a Centre that had to function for both public and educational purposes.

The gallery space extends across Lynnwood Road via a bridge (Bridge Gallery) which brings together the Hatfield and South Campus. As another outstanding feature, the most visually accessible, it has been turned into an eye-catching attribute wrapped in lightweight concrete panels that reaches across the exterior and interior based on the much-loved “shweshwe” fabric. It displays different patterns and designs depending on the time of day as shadow and light come into play, turning it into a spectacular showcase when it is lit at night.

For the architect it seems as if a bank of fairy lights is sparkling in the middle of the road through this dashing design which symbolises strong, embracing South African connections across a wide spectrum.

Javett art centre
An outside view of the bridge

If you haven’t noticed the new building yet, it’s fast becoming a landmark as you travel up and down Lynnwood Road. The bridge spills out onto University Square with the student galleries positioned below and then extends into the historic Tukkie Laan linking the Art Centre with the main campus. The squares are specifically placed to gather people. “People attract people,” says Mathews with the one easily accessible to the public and the other gathering the students from the campus.

Mathews wanted a building with no bling or shine, something he has achieved with his design and building materials.

They had to find a method of linking the various elements like the bridge patterned panels, the faceted concrete shell structure of the Mapungubwe “mountain”, galvanised steel pergolas which again repeats the “shweshwe” design and all the other building elements. Colour was the most obvious solution. As the structure is dominated by the hue of  concrete – a natural light grey emerged as the leitmotif. When they wanted to separate various elements, they used charcoal as the shadow colour.

Mathews is the instigator of Cool Capitol, the world’s first uncurated, DIY guerrilla biennale that is a place for citizens of the Capital City to collectively contemplate and express their love for their city – and how to improve it. He and his Cool Capital team also hosted and designed the 2017 South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

javett patterns again
An inside view.

 

He has declared himself an ambassador for the visual environment and it is this blend of art and architecture, part of his DNA, which made him and his team, the perfect match for the Javett Art Centre – UP.

Even though they had to survive many hills and valleys with the building of this monumental project, he declared from the start: “I am very confident in the collective brain at work here.”

Now we’re simply waiting for the art to come alive on this spectacular stage.

 

 

 

  • Go to https://javettup.art for more information. Open times are daily from 10am to 5pm and apart from the exquisite building also shows collections of  spectacular African art.

Two Young Artists Grab Top Prizes in 2019 Sasol New Signatures Competition Using Traditional Media in Classic Style

Pictures: Petrus Saayman

Sasol New Signatures winner Patric Rulore
Sasol New Signatures 2019 winner Patric Rulore

DIANE DE BEER

 

Hoping to shine a magnificent light on load shedding – both literally and figuratively – was the inspiration for Pretoria student Patrick Rulore’s winning canvas titled Stage 4 moments.

Rising to the occasion, the young artist was announced the winner of the 2019 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition at the Pretoria Art Museum last night, (Wednesday) winning a cash prize of R100 000 and the opportunity to hold a solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum with the 2020 winners.

 “It was part of my family’s experience which gave me more insight into how to execute it the way I did,” explained the 24-year-old student currently completing a National Diploma in Fine Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology.

“In the beginning of this year, South Africa had to endure extreme shortages in electricity supply with electricity scheduled in stages. The most important part of the work was to teach people to turn unfavourable circumstances into a positive experience,” he said.

In his painting, Rulore depicts the typical behaviour of his family during load shedding, celebrating the absence of all activities involving electrical device during these blackouts which encouraged them to interact with each other – to talk, to laugh and to play games.

His primary medium is paint, using both oils and acrylics. “I am fascinated by the complexity of the human body (male and female) and attempt to discover its magic on the canvas. I endeavour to capture the emotions and spirit of everyone I paint. To achieve this, I manipulate and play with colours, textures, paint and brush marks,” he earnestly explains his process.

Paying tribute to his mom who has been a strong influence and supporter of his art, he believes it was her work as a fashion designer that encouraged him to pursue art.

Sasol New Signatures runner up Luyanda Zindela
Sasol New Signatures runner up Luyanda Zindela

The runner-up in the 2019 competition is Durban University of Technology M student Luyanda Zindela, also using traditional media –  pen, ink and graphite – on pine-board, titled Phowthah sis’ Mgabadeli.

 The title which means Pout Miss Mgabadeli is a reference to his friend’s irreverence, says the artist. “When I was taking the pictures, she asked me whether she could pout.” With the title, he also points to the way women are assigned specific roles in society.

 The drawing is a breakaway for him in terms of scale as well as overall. “I wanted to gauge how it would be received by an art audience and to produce a body of work based on the submitted drawing.” He certainly got a generous response.

 With his chosen tools, apart from the work, he also explores the limitless possibilities of a medium so readily available that it is often taken for granted. “I have tried to capture the boundless intricacies of black skin using traditional pen and ink drawing techniques like cross-hatching and stippling.”
He tried to push his boundaries and believes if you really look, the improving technique is visible. As runner-up, he was awarded R25 000 and the knowledge that his future project has been given the go-ahead.

For most of these rewarded artists, the competition means validation and a launch into the professional world.

These Five Merit Award Winners were also announced with most of them working with the personal:

S Nico Athene (Johannesburg) After After Party (Resurrection) DiaMount

Nico Athene  (Johannesburg) After After Party (Resurrection) DiaMount

S Kgodisho Moloto (Polokwane) Disguise mask Pot scrubs and wire

Kgodisho Moloto (Polokwane) Disguise mask Pot scrubs and wire

S Angelique Patricia Mary Bougaard (University of Johannesburg) Crucified Mixed media drawing on handmade paper

 

Angelique Patricia Mary Bougaard (University of Johannesburg) Crucified Mixed media drawing on handmade paper

S Cecilia Maartens-Van Vuuren (Bloemfontein) A presentiment Dried roots.jpgCecilia Maartens-Van Vuuren (Bloemfontein) A presentiment Dried roots

S Mlamuli Eric Zulu (Durban) Enlightened Art gathering Mixed mediaMlamuli Eric Zulu (Durban) Enlightened Art gathering Mixed media

Each of them received a R10 000 cash prize.

Acclaimed artist, judge and Sasol New Signatures Chairperson Professor Pieter Binsbergen noted that in this 30th year of Sasol sponsoring the longest-running art competition started by the Association of Arts Pretoria to encourage emerging artists, the winner and runner-up have both been recognised for works created in traditional media – ink and paint. He praised both works that have been painstakingly laboured and felt that the artists through their work showed immense drive and passion.

“Identity is still the driver, but the lens has narrowed,” he says about the work generally. “The journey has become more personal which they hope will echo widely.”

He also acknowledges that there’s a return to classicism, dealing with a more laboured surface with traditional media where technique rather than Instagram moments is at stake.

“On behalf of Sasol, we congratulate all the 2019 Sasol New Signatures winners,” said Nozipho Mbatha, Sasol Senior Manager: Group Brand Management. She also tipped her hat to all the emerging artists who have participated in the competition over the past 30 years.

“The majority of winners and merit award winners have carved out illustrious careers in the visual arts and have made significant contributions to our country’s artistic heritage. Here’s to the next 30 years of developing our cultural economy,” she concluded.

Jessica Storm Kapp, the 2018 winner, will present her solo exhibition entitled Artefacts of Belonging at the Pretoria Art Museum, alongside the 2019 finalists as part of her prize. The exhibition will feature the 2019 winner, runner-up and five merit award winners as well the 80 finalists, all of whom are included in the highly respected competition catalogue. The exhibition runs until September 29, 2019.

The final judging panel consisted of: Professor Pieter Binsbergen  (Convener), Cate Terblanche (Sasol Curator), Mary Sibande (artist), Wilhelm van Rensburg (Senior Art Specialist, Strauss & Co), Lebohang Kganye (Sasol New Signatures Winner 2017) and Pfunzo Sidogi (Lecturer, Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Tshwane University of Technology).

* Pretoria Art Museum:

Tuesday to Sunday:  10am to 5pm (Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays)

Corner Francis Baard and Wessels St, Arcadia Park.

https://select.timeslive.co.za/news/2019-08-22-power-of-art-load-shedding-inspires-artists-big-win/

 

Art on the Move at This Year’s RMB Turbine Art Fair from July 12 to 14

RMB Turbine Art Fair (RMB TAF) is on the move to a new and bigger venue for the 7th edition of the Fair. Since its inception in 2013, RMB TAF has grown extensively year on year and 2019 will see the most substantial Fair yet in a new location – 10 Fricker Rd, Illovo from July 12 – 14 with a preview evening on July 11.

DIANE DE BEER looks more closely:

Hannalie Taute with her work
Hannalie Taute with her work

One of the exciting art prospects is an artist who has developed her art with a view of speaking her mind – loudly – and she does that with valour.

Hannalie Taute describes her work as in a constant state of evolution, which in itself mirrors many of the ideas behind her art.  One central theme or unifying characteristic, she says, is the repeated exploration of identity and/or relationships within what she calls her paracosmic fantasy.

If all of this sounds a little out there, it is, and it isn’t. This is an artist who doesn’t shy away from putting her heart and mind out there. She often addresses gender issues – but uses both her harsher instincts as well as a sense of humour to speak her mind visually. Shock and laughter often come together when exploring her work.

Ronel Taute
Hannalie Taute’s She Never Promised You A Rose Garden

She examines identity and relationships in a way that probes the duality and conflict people often have with many or even conflicting identities to which they answer to.

This kind of thinking is most striking in the work that Taute will be bringing to the Turbine Art Fair, ranging from figurative toy-like creatures to altered portraits as well as large embroideries.

Characteristic of the work of this Still Bay-based artist is the use of the traditionally black recycled rubber inner tractor tubes with embroidered thread with which she is continuing to create her paracosmos as a way of orienting herself in reality.

The coarseness of the rubber is counteracted by the delicacy of the thread, but this is subverted, as often the stitching and composition of the rubber inner tubes are delicate and the thread seems almost rough in its arrangement. Taute wants the medium of the piece to interact with the subject matter in a way that forces the viewer to engage and question her art. This is an artist in conversation with her prospective viewers.

She is perhaps best known for her strong showings at local art festivals where she received the Kanna award for best visual presentation at the 2014 Klein Karoo Art Festival (KKNK) as well as several nominations throughout the years. In 2017 she also gloriously represented South Africa at the Museum Rijswijk Yextile Biennale in the Netherlands.

Her work will be presented by Tshwane’s Millenium Gallery and the artist will also be present at the Fair.  Just remember before you start talking, she never promised you a rose garden, or that is what her art says.

Ronel Wilsenach Star Box
Berco Wilsenach’s Star Box

Other artists shown by Ronel van der Vyver’s Groenkloof gallery include Berco Wilsenach, currently part time lecturer at the University of Pretoria as well as presenting workshops on a regular basis at the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf while also completing a PhD in Visual Studies. He won the PPC Young Sculpture’s Award (1997) and the ABSA L’Atelier (2005).

Ronel Colin Mashile
Cobert Mashile

 

Classics like Norman Catherine, Colbert Mashile and Anton Karstel will also feature.

Think Art on the Move, says TAF:  “Our vision has always been to develop young artists and grow the market for African art and elevate art collecting across a wider market. Visitors will be able to view exciting installations, larger gallery spaces and a more conceptually curated Fair but in the relaxed environment that has always been the signature of Turbine Art Fair ” says Fair Founder, Glynis Hyslop.

Proudly partnered for a second year by RMB, TAF is a unique South African art collaboration that brings together galleries and artists from around the country to present and sell works.

RMB TAF, they promise, is not just an art fair but an all-encompassing cultural experience for visitors, with artisanal food and beverages and vibrant entertainment programme. It also differentiates itself from other South African art fairs through its accessible pricing strategy. The selling price of artworks generally falls between R1 000 and R50 000, which presents opportunities to savvy investors and new buyers.

They present a series of special projects for visitors to view during the Fair as well as a multidisciplinary public programme curated by Kefiloe Siwisa and Nomvuyo Horwitz – titled The Year of the mirror which will include performance art, music, screenings, masterclasses and a children’s programme, talks and walkabout series. The talks and walkbaouts are offerd to the public for free and on a first come first serve basis.  The full list of talks, speakers panelists and talk times can be found at http://www.turbineartfair.co.za.

 Radio partner Kaya FM will be broadcasting live from the Fair on Saturday 13th July.

 

Dates:            12 – 14 July 2019

Venue:          10 Fricker Rd Illovo, JHB

Tickets:          R120 via Webtickets or R150 at door

Weekend pass: R250 via webtickets or R300 at door

Children R100: 4 years & older Includes access to children’s arts area and children’s walkabout on a first come first serve basis

Students & Pensioners: R100 at door and R80 via Webtickets (Friday only)

VIP opening night (11th July): R750 via Webtickets only and will include Performances by Gregory Maqoma (founder & executive  director of Vuyani Dance Group) and Mabuta

 

 

FAIR HIGHLIGHTS & SPECIAL PROJECTS

 

  • RMB Talent Unlocked is an emerging artist and curator mentorship program that started in 2014 under the name Fresh Produce. The workshop programme culminates with a curated booth by Fulufhelo Mobadi at the RMB Turbine Art Fair.

 

  • A Meeting of Minds: Louis Khehla Maqhubela and Douglas Portway Presented by Strauss & Co

 

  • Market Photo Workshop alumni exhibition 

 

  • Dumisani Mabaso benefit exhibition – as an artist and printmaker, Dumisani’s life and work is inextricably linked to the history of South African Art.

 

  • The Graduate Exhibition curated by Kefiloe Siwisa in collaboration with Maja Marx  for some fabulous work of artists who are at the beginning of their artistic careers.

 

  • The new space lends itself perfectly to installations and visitors will see the likes of Nkhensani Rihlampfu presented by M Studio Community and Jake Singer.

 

  • Gerard Sekoto Foundation will be presenting an exhibition.

Spirited Curator is Celebrated with Glorious Exhibition at UJ Art Gallery

20190605_192140_HDR
The Wildebeest and the swarm of African Migratory locusts by artist Hannelie Coetzee (see more info below)

It’s a rare honour when a curator is celebrated with an exhibition. DIANE DE BEER went to the launch and spoke to many involved in  this luminous exhibition:

 

 

During her two decades of curatorship at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, Annali Cabano-Dempsey has attempted to reach as far and wide as possible presenting a spectrum which would interest the public but also the students – one of the benefits of having an art gallery on a university campus is this potential audience which can be nurtured.

In acknowledging the dedication and passion Cabano-Dempsey has brought to the gallery, 21 Years of Curating the Cube (currently running until June 26) celebrates UJ’s continued role in supporting and embracing the diversity of art in South Africa.

The Keiskamma Guernica by members of the Keiskamma Art Project
The Keiskamma Guernica by members of the Keiskamma Art Project

 As the gallery’s 6th curator, Cabano-Dempsey has seen the gallery emerge as one of Johannesburg’s foremost art centres. The UJ Art Gallery (originally known as Rand Afrikaans University – RAU) opened in the 1960s and has since hosted numerous temporary exhibitions and acted as custodian of a large collection of artworks.

“My style of curatorship is collaborative.  I interact with artists on a regular basis before an exhibition, advise and shape a bit – and then I allow the artists to project their own voices.   I also hand over the reins to guest curators from time to time.  In the case of the 21 years exhibition, I felt too close to the artists, and called upon Johan Myburg to curate the show.  We worked through all the exhibitions of the past two decades and it was surprising that he found a golden thread of text, signs, signals, semiotics unveiling itself – something I never intentionally brought into my curatorship.”

Gordon Froud sculpture
Gordon Froud sculpture

In his opening address at the exhibition, artist Gordon Froud remarked on the amazing space designed by the architect, the late Jeremy Rose, which embraced and encouraged exciting exhibitions. He also praised Cabano-Dempsey for her detailed curation and the way she kept artists informed about specific exhibitions. They would know exactly how their work did, and who came to see it during the exhibition. “That’s rare,” he remarked.

He also spoke lyrically about her opening up the space to students and facilitating gallery training, for example, that would benefit them as artists in the future when they stepped into the real world. He described 21 Years of Curating the Cube as a meeting of old friends.

And fortunately for this remarkable sculptor, UJ also has an outdoor exhibition space which allows for large works to be displayed at their best (see picture).

Although she has been closely involved with a wide spectrum of artists forming part of the annual exhibition’s programmes for more than two decades, she chose to hand over the curatorship of 21 Years of Curating the Cube to respected arts writer and author Johan Myburg. They worked closely together in choosing the 38 works which was much more difficult than they expected, but the final decisions rested with him.

20190605_192722_HDR
Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone: Artist Majak Bredell deconstructs issues of religion, women and the body and her works are strongly informed by the African continent and the Black Madonnas of Europe.

“My brief was to curate a show as a celebration of Annali’s 21 years at the UJ Gallery, something like paging through her ‘exhibition album’, so to speak. You can imagine the amount of shows, artists and individual artworks we are talking about,” explains Myburg.

That was the context he had to operate within and that formed the scope of the exhibition as well.

Panorama of Franschhoek by Titus Matiyane
Panorama of Franschhoek by Titus Matiyane

“I made a selection based on a thread I detected in a number of the exhibitions/works of the past 21 years – the thread being manifestations of messages or mark makings in the form of signals/codes/text – in its widest sense of communication.”

He offers an example as explanation: On entering the gallery the first salient piece of sculpture is Marco Cianfanelli’s text-based work, referencing the quote by Desmond Tutu that truth, knowledge and beauty will triumph. “Whatever you want to understand under ‘truth, knowledge and beauty’ is subjective, but the basis, I think, is that of triumph. The message will live on. And art as carrier of message will triumph,” he says.

“I think the tweet (Jan’s Last Tweet, a work by the genial Jan van der Merwe – pictured) is a poignant little amplification of this triumph.”

IMG-20190606-WA0017
The Last Tweet refers to technology (twitter), a method of disseminating very quickly whereby a message could be conveyed on a global scale, also enabling misuse of power.

Anyone familiar with Myburg’s work and processes will witness the thought he puts into this kind of effort. “My intention was to highlight this notion (of triumph) in a subtle way. Not in your face. Should the viewer miss it, so be it. There is, right at the back of the gallery, a clue to my curatorial thinking,” he says. (And for those who like puzzles, this is like a challenge in treasure hunt!)

The artists included are the ones that had a link with the gallery in the last 21 years (to start with) but then also the ones whose artworks comment on the named “thread”.

It includes existing work (as per UJ Collection) and work on loan, but also recent work, i.e. Hannelie Coetzee, Diane Victor, Michael Meyersfeld, Angus Taylor, Mark Swart.

“My intention was a show as ‘unintrusive’ as possible in order for the work to speak. My approach was less rather than more, since the works all have an inner strength. I did not want to tamper with that. Hence a quiet show.

Bohlale-bja-mathome by Colbert Mashile
Bohlale-bja-mathome by Colbert Mashile

“Favourites? All of them. Being able to work so closely with these gorgeous works is a privilege. And I realised how limited my understanding of these works were. Perhaps still superficial. But that is the beauty of art: You cannot see too much of a particular piece. There is always something that you miss.”

All of these elements can be found in this remarkable snapshot of South African art in a specific period of time.

Do yourself a favour. If you’ve never visited the gallery, that’s an added bonus.

 A last word from the curator who is being honoured: “The next decade of my art journey (or what is left of it) will focus on two things:  To make the gallery accessible to wider audiences.  It has been my mission over the past few years to break down the ivory tower, to create a more informal atmosphere and to invite a younger generation to interact with the gallery programme on an interdisciplinary level. And then to recognise established and revered artists, but to also bring in younger promising artists into the fold.  I found that collaborations with corporate partners, artists’ collectives and joint exhibitions (the established with the emerging) allow for this approach.”

 

 

  • 21 Years of Curating the Cube runs until  26 June 2019 at the UJ Art Gallery. FREE OF CHARGE. Open Times: Mon to Fri from 9am to 3.30pm. Address: University of Johannesburg, Corner of Kingsway Ave and University Rd, Auckland Park, Johannesburg

Phone011 559 4674

 

  • More info on Hannelie Coetzee’s featured artwork: She did a succession study of humanity’s relationship with nature. Locusts eat the same amount of grass per body weight as wildebeest. A swarm consumes as much of a crop as a fire does. Disclosure: This swarm was bred and studied by Wits Scientists in the 1960s. The current curator of the AP&ES Museum, James Harrison made it available to the artist to repurpose into an artwork

 

 

 

Two Young Art Activists, Herschelle Benjamin and Jeremeo Le Cordeur, Shine their Creative Light with Flair

Pictures: Jeremeo Le Cordeur

 

Jeremeo and Herschelle
Jeremeo Le Cordeur and Herschelle Benjamin

In a world where the arts are no longer a priority, two young art activists caught DIANE DE BEER’S eye in the way they were forging ahead and establishing their careers in a space which would nourish their own creativity but where they also wanted to promote that of others:

 

Two young Capetonians Herschelle Benjamin and Jeremeo Le Cordeur are proof that artists often don’t have a choice. Once those creative genes kick in, they have to listen.

Benjamin, an only child, when choosing a career knew that law would be a wiser bet, but he enrolled for that as well as a drama degree – just to make sure.

“After one week of depressing law lectures, knowing that I will fail because I had no real interest or passion for it and seeing all of my drama friends at the library or at the drama department living their dreams, I changed courses without consulting my parents.”

With bursaries for Stellenbosch University studies, when switching lanes he knew he had to succeed and show his parents that he would still be a star pupil.

Jeremeo Le Cordeur
Jeremeo Le Cordeur with his award from the Suidoosterfees

Independently, Jeremeo Le Cordeur who describes himself as a creative soul, is a performer, theatre-maker and arts photographer who graduated from City Varsity, a school of media and creative arts in 2008.

Since then he has been working the arts in any way he knew how. In 2009, he joined Fresh Theatre Company, a community theatre group specialising in musical theatre, where he performed in musicals such as, Life is Rock N Roll, Love in Cyberspace, and Pinocchio.

In the following year, he created Vulture Productions, a platform to support and create new work. Since then, he has been at the helm of many successful productions such as Pizza’s Here (2011), I Know How You Screamed Last Scary Movie (2011), and Risk for the 2012 and 2013 National Arts Fringe Festival in Grahamstown and in 2013, he directed a play at Artscape titled, February 14th, which received excellent reviews.

In 2014, he directed Tannie Dora Goes Bos, which was included as part of Artscape’s 8th Women’s Humanity Arts Festival. The following year he directed John, which explored the controversial world of sex workers, working alongside SWEAT (Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce).

In the meantime, in 2016, a photography project was introduced to Vulture Productions. It was aimed at showcasing the work of South African theatre practitioners through arts journalism. In 2018, he was selected to represent Artscape Theatre in an arts-residency program called EVS (European Volunteer Service), based in Liverpool in the UK – which led to the creation of Mama, with performances at The Unity Theatre, Woordfees and Artscape.

Jeremeopic
Jeremeo Le Cordeur starring in his own production Dude, Wa’s My Bakkie? Picture: Warren Meyer

And this year, he wrote and performed in two mono-dramas and collaborated with directors Ian van der Westhuizen and Dan van der Ventel to present Jerry An Unconventional Hero and Dude, Wa’s My Bakkie? (A Double Feature). These productions performed at Alexander Bar, Woordfees Fringe and Suidoosterfees, where he was the recipient of the NATi (Nationale Afrikanse Teater-inisiatief) Rising Star award for his vibrant storytelling.

As a youngster, Benjamin’s mom would tell him that a “pencil should never be left untouched”. “I didn’t think I was the best artist or writer but was forced to become friends with pencils, pens, paper and books. They were always there. Through all the phases and changes, my relationship to words and language is one constant one that has helped me in some of the darkest times of my life,” he explains.

The writing became more frequent and across different mediums. “Poetry still remains my secret love, dramas entice and challenge me, journalism makes me feel I don’t know enough and that I want to know more… It’s not the medium or genre that resonates but the power or ability of words, the imagination and the truth always being at the forefront of it all.”

Completing his initial studies, he received an internship at Media24 as an arts journalist. He also won the international Elizabeth McLennan Scholarship for Theatre & Performance from the Scottish Universities’ International Summerschool in Edinburgh. “This year, I’m going back after being picked as the first student host/tutor from Africa to the summer school.”

Slavenhuis 39
Herschelle Benjamin’s Slavenhuis 39 performed at the US Woordfees

Last year he won the Teksmark Writers Bursary, was also picked as one of Artscape’s New Voices and had a play produced and performed in the Arena Theatre under direction of Sandra Temmingh. Another play, In Slavenhuis 39, was also produced this year for the US Woordfees where it was well received and won the award for Best Upcoming Artist(s).

“I’ve written pieces for the Die Student on Netwerk24 and the new Vrye Weekblad. I am also working on my M degree. And I’m partnering on a few other projects for the future.”

Just a glance at their work and one can see these two artists were destined to meet. “We first met at Teksmark in 2017 and started working together,” explains Le Cordeur.

“He told me about his media production company, Vulture Productions, and that he needed a writer for the US Woordfees, because the company was invited as media. I was busy with my Honours degree and had time to help him during the festival. The rest is history…”

Herschelle
Herschelle Benjamin

“With Herschelle’s creative writing and my arts photography, we reported on many productions in Cape Town and at the Stellenbosch Woordfees. Our work was later recognized by Hugo Theart, artistic director of KKNK, who invited us to join Kritiek, a critical writing project to nurture new arts writers in 2018.”

This year they moved into the marketing departments at arts festivals. At the US Woordfees Benjamin ran the social media for the festival and at the KKNK, Vulture Productions were represented by the two of them as part of the social media marketing team.

“It’s all about building our industry, becoming well-rounded business-like artists and creating a career that span decades,” explains Benjamin.

Le Cordeur believes that Vulture Productions has shown the importance and value of support within the arts. “It’s provided opportunities for myself and so many others and it continues to have a significant impact on my own artistic development. I would love to have an exhibition of my photographs in the future,” he concludes.

As a performer, he’d like to sink his teeth into as many characters as he can, which is exactly why he collaborated with two directors to bring his own creations to life. He was rewarded richly for the effort. He will also be presenting three plays at the Free State arts festival from July 1 to 7.

Watching them operate at festivals is hectic, but these two youngsters understand that they have to grab every opportunity to make their way – especially in these early days. From reporting on and photographing the arts, to writing, performing and directing usually their own material, they have individually and collectively created a brand.

They deliver, are often over-used to a point of exhaustion because of the quality of their work, but this is their way of becoming fully fledged artists. Who says it’s easy? But if you’re Jeremeo Le Cordeur and Herschelle Benjamin, you have found a way. It’s hard work, but that’s how they keep those creative juices pumping – for themselves and their community.

For more information visit www.vulture-productions.com