THE KKNK VIRTUAL ART GALLERY IS ALL ABOUT FEELING YOUR EMOTIONS THROUGH FANTASTIC ART

Feelings dominate in the second Klein Karoo National Arts Festival Virtual Gallery. DIANE DE BEER chats to the curator Dineke van der Walt about the moods she hoped to capture in Feel/Voel, with artistic director Hugo Theart adding his impressions:

Emotion (Curator Dr Paul Bayliss , Absa Gallery)

The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) was the first of the arts festivals to be impacted by Covid-19 last year.

Announcements of the country’s first lockdown came crashing down during the last weekend of the Woordfees (Stellenbosch) only a couple of weeks before the start of the 2020 KKNK.

It was a huge blow and while we are much more adept at adapting almost 18 months later, at the time festival managements were reeling and artists were trying to work out how they would earn a living without live performances.

Thinking on their feet, Artistic Director of the KKNK Hugo Theart and his young first-time festival art curator Dineke van der Walt realised that they could create a virtual art gallery of the 11 exhibitions which were already on their way to Oudtshoorn at that time.

And it worked! Following the huge success of last year’s first Virtual Gallery, supported by Absa, they have flung open their “doors” for a second time running.

They had tested it almost on the run the first time round, but this year they had the experience of the first effort, which had been richly rewarded. And this time they could work with a digital endgame from the beginning.

“It is a privilege to be able to offer such a fantastic range of visual art to art enthusiasts in the comfort of their homes for the second time,” says Theart. “Van der Walt is again the curator of this gallery having won a Fiësta Award for her work on last year’s virtual gallery.”

This time round, the gallery showcases of six exhibitions with a total of 260 works by 83 artists from far and wide across South Africa, as well as from Zimbabwe, Taiwan, America, Ghana, Mauritius, Kenya, Iran, and Namibia, with many artists from the Klein Karoo and Garden Route region, which is also the festival’s home ground.

The theme of this year’s gallery is Voel/Feel. “This collection of exhibitions presents a wonderful opportunity for us to see, feel and understand more about the way we experience and process feelings and emotions. My hope is that viewers will find the experience enriching and exciting,” she says. 

If you think about it, just midding in the meantime (or) Progression (Curator Fadzai Muchemwa)

The six exhibitions are: Emotion (Emosie),compiled by Absa with Dr Paul Bayliss as curator,Feeling Things, compiled by Donavan Mynhardt, Paint. Verf., compiled by Johan Myburg, If you think about it, just midding in the meantine (or) progression, compiled by Fadzai Muchemwa, Something Pauses, compiled by Christa Swart and Amplifica: A Medley of Moods in Miniature, compiled by Van der Walt herself.

“Since we built the platform last year, we have received valuable feedback from our visitors regarding what worked. So this year we had the opportunity to focus on aspects we couldn’t introduce last year. The artworks are, for instance, available on our e-commerce platform making it much easier to acquire. 

“Having the virtual architecture in place for our gallery was also beneficial for curators, who could select work that would present well in the virtual rooms. This however didn’t stop us from experimenting. I believe it’s important to continue exploring ways to present works and mediums that might be regarded as too difficult for digital platforms, even if it’s not yet clear how to do so.”

All artworks, she believes though, need to be seen. There are miniature artworks, three-dimensional sculptures and ceramics (Feeling Things), as well as primarily paintings (Paint.Verf. ), or digital artworks (Emotion) and works on paper (Progression). “We’re exploring how these different mediums interact with the overarching theme of emotions, but also how various mediums present online,” she notes.

And especially  from a digital perspective, I have sometimes found these works difficult to view as part of a more conventional exhibition because it breaks the rhythm of the viewing process. But here, it can be seen as a stand-alone exhibition and because it is digital, it makes sense to view it online.

Talking about the theme of the exhibition, Van der Walt feels there’s a striking irony in titling the virtual gallery VOEL/FEEL and presenting various material textures of artworks that viewers are unable to access through touch. “For me, this presents a playful opportunity for unpacking the possibilities of art as an emotional access point or a way of finding an emotional connection with others – even when it is presented digitally and virtually.”

It was particularly important for them to continue to expand and optimise the user experience of the virtual gallery started last year.

“I have noticed many people shifting focus and looking inward, considering the emotional impact that the outside world has on them. With this in mind, I wanted to select a theme that could be both meaningful – a way for viewers to contemplate their inner emotional lives – and that would allow playfulness. After all, emotions are not all dark and challenging, they can be light-hearted as well,” she reminds us.

In these times she specifically aimed for balance in the emotions explored because she wanted an equal playing field for both positive and challenging emotions. “Too often we regard the one as more important than the other. We might feel pressured to be happy all the time, or consider the ‘tortured artist’ exploring her/his dark emotions as more intellectual or powerful than light-hearted approaches.

“There’s certainly immense value in both, but I don’t think specific emotions can be regarded as more complex or important than others. We need the variety in that medley of moods we experience from time to time. Placing too great an emphasis on feeling happy, for instance, disregards the necessity of other emotions. Similarly, focussing on dealing with challenging emotions ignores that emotions can be shaped by our thoughts and how we choose to guide our attention,” she argues.

Her hope and her aim was for artists, curators and viewers to explore the fascinating complexity of our emotional lives. “There is so much that we can still learn about our own feelings, and we do this best when learning from one another.

“In observing how others express their emotions, we can learn to understand our own. We shape each other, and heighten the role that emotions play collectively. And while we cannot connect to people in all the ways we did before, art can be a form of exchange. It becomes our meeting place.”

This is even more important than before, and art also benefits from being seen virtually and in everyone’s own time and at an  individual pace.

Ilene Bothma’s Displacement (She Felt her Heart Sinking to her Feet)(Emotion)

There are many ways to view the work, and the gallery encourages individuals to find their personal preference. On the kknk.co.za website viewers can get a quick visual overview of each exhibition and read more about each artist, curator and artwork.

There’s an option to view each individual artwork in full screen, where one can also zoom in to see more detail. This allows you to get closer to inspect a work than you probably might in brick-and-mortar gallery spaces.

“Being able to zoom in is especially helpful when viewing the miniature artworks of Amplifica, and also specifically when viewing Paint.Verf. curated by Johan Myburg – an exhibition that centres on the medium itself.” 

Each exhibition is also curated in a virtual room, showcasing the works in relation to each other, as artworks in dialogue encourage fascinating themes to emerge. In the virtual room for Emotion, viewers can watch video and sound artworks in their own time but also as often as they choose.

It’s also insightful to listen to the audio walkabouts of the curators when virtually ‘walking through the spaces’. Language choices are also available.

“In many ways, the virtual experience empowers viewers to construct their own ideal viewing experience,” says Van der Walt. And that is true. You have the choice to view in exactly the circumstances that are personally ideal.

In conclusion, Theart notes there is something for everyone in these exhibitions, with fantastic artworks on sale from only R500. “Absa customers also receive a 10% discount on their purchases as a bonus.”

Visit the KKNK Virtual Gallery, supported by Absa, at www.kknk.co.za until the end of August 2021.

ARTISTIC FIREWORKS AS THREE COMMUNITY EMBROIDERY GROUPS SHOWCASE THEIR WORK AT THE ASSOCIATION OF ARTS IN TSHWANE

It’s a triple treat with three important community embroidery groups coming together for a phenomenal exhibition at Tshwane’s Association of Arts with the bonus of some traditional work, which had an influence on all the others. DIANE DE BEER embroiders on the show that will be running until May 29 :

MAPULA EMBROIDERIES: A Covid-19 panel by Dorah Hlongwane, Maria Phalatsi & Rossina Makhubela.

With Needle and Thread is the perfect name for this exciting and extraordinary exhibition where three community groups creating hand embroidered textiles from the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo as well as some solo women making traditional cloths from Northern Limpopo, are all brought together to showcase their work.

Included are the Keiskamma Art Project, (Hamburg, Eastern Cape), Kaross (Letsitele, Limpopo), Mapula Emrboideries (Winterveld, Gauteng) and as an added bonus some traditional Minceka by the Tsonga-Shangaan women in the far Northern Limpopo.

All three projects are established embroidery groups with works hanging in museums locally and abroad and they feature in many national and international publications on textile art. All three are highly regarded and can be seen as the most important community art projects in their field in this country.

The Kaross embroidery project produces beautiful and evocative quality African embroidery,  which are hand-crafted by women and men from VaTsonga and Northern Sotho cultural backgrounds since its inception in 1989. Their impetus has always been sustainable development and employment and they strive to create a commercially viable product that will help sustain all their embroiderers and employees. 

Before the devastating effects of Covid-19 on International tourism, they provided an income to more than 1 400 embroiderers, mostly women.

Their skilled stitching and their affinity for unusual and artistic colour combinations combined with well-designed Kaross images, makes their work distinctive.

They create mainly tableware, homeware and wall art, and currently export worldwide.

www.kaross.co.za

www.karossfoundation.org

The Keiskamma Art Project is part of the greater Keiskamma Trust, a South African not-for-profit organization dedicated to the holistic care of the communities that live in the area. alongside the Keiskamma River in the Eastern Cape. The trust was founded in 2000 by artist and doctor, Carol Hofmeyr and today the Keiskamma Art Project, the flagship of the greater Trust, works to maintain its founder’s vision, providing vital livelihoods through dignified work, while communicating, through art, the reality of rural lives affected by both poverty and history. 

Their aim is to provide employment and to support the development of creative skills for predominantly women and young members of the community who are then empowered with entry into the economy.
The Art Project engages collaboratively with artists from around the world and supplies training in design and craft skills and nurtures skills in production, financial administration, and computing, useful for the running of the Art studio and its shop. 

They are especially well known and loved for large scale monumental artworks, from the Keiskamma Tapestry on permanent exhibition at the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town to the Keiskamma Altarpiece which has toured North America and England for two years, displayed in the most prestigious cathedrals, such as Washington and Southwark and their Keiskamma Guernica, a magnificent work can be seen in the UP Javett Art Centre.

But the anticipation for this current exhibition are the three large tapestries depicting key events in the life of Reverend Stephen Mzamane, the main character in A Sin of Omission (2019), the novel by Marguerite Poland, which has just been named as one of the books on the Sunday Times longlist for fiction 2021.

The novel is based on a true story and opens with Stephen (Malusi) Mzamane, a young Anglican priest, journeying to his mother’s rural home to inform her of his elder brother’s death. First educated at the Native College in Grahamstown, Stephen was sent to England in 1869 for training at the Missionary College in Canterbury. But on his return home, relegated to a dilapidated mission near Fort Beaufort, he had to confront not only the prejudices of a colonial society but the discrimination within the Church itself.

Seventeen artists from the Keiskamma Art Project were involved in the making of these works, in tribute to Poland, a long-time collaborator and close friend of the project. The themes of her literary works are felt intimately within the communities of the rural Eastern Cape where their Art Project is based.

The artists visited Nondyola, the missionary station to which Stephen was sent on his return from Canterbury, and the site of the Anglican Institution in Grahamstown, in order to understand more fully who Stephen was and what he experienced. Moved by his story, the artists chose scenes from his life to depict as tapestries.

Once you’ve seen the embroideries, you will want to read the book.

Mapula Embroideries celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. They assist over 150 women in developing artistic skills as they create unique embroidered works for sale. This income helps to feed and educate their children and improve their overall lives.

The Winterveld, where the women live and create, 70 kilometres northwest of Tshwane has a complex and troubled history because of political, social, economic and gender forces that have left the area under-developed and many residents unemployed, poor, and vulnerable. Their struggles and triumphs have been reflected in many of their embroideries over the years.

MAPULA EMBROIDERIES: Elizabeth Malete.

The project was initiated by the Pretoria Club of Soroptimist International in 1991. They have developed an intricate system involving design, production, and development of artistic skills. The project is now administered through the independent Mapula Embroidery Trust, a locally registered non-profit organization.

The Sisters of Mercywho live and run an education and skills training centrein the Winterveld, provide the embroiderers with the use of a workspace free of charge and have been involved with the project from the beginning.

They are internationally known for their depiction of historical events and social history through their embroideries. Their part of the exhibition will consist mainly of wall hangings with these themes. They include deeply personal images of the very real implications that Covid-19 has had on their lives and their society. 

MAPULA EMBROIDERIES: Elizabeth Mafamadi and Kelelo Maepa.

www.mapulaembroideries.co.za

Shangaan Minceka:

The traditional Tsonga /Shangaan Minceka are also being shown at this exhibition as they can be regarded as influencing some of the embroiderers of Kaross and Mapula Embroideries.  They are, for some of the embroiderers, their traditional inspiration.

A ncheka (singular)  (minceka, plural) –  is part of the traditional attire which is worn as a wrap that ties across the woman’s shoulders. It can be either a cloth, printed in bright colours, or a dark blue cloth with a printed black pattern, richly embroidered by incorporating beads, small mirrors, bells and safety pins. Hundreds of small brass safety pins are used to pin on the garment which then forms the patterns. The brass safety pins are referred to as the quick stich.

To see these authentic and increasingly rare cloths in real life is special.

As in so many instances across the country, Covid-19 has had a severe economic impact on each project. They’re hoping that the sales from this exhibition will help towards their sustainability but for viewers, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see the scope of the country’s community embroiderers – and that’s quite something.

The exhibition which opens this weekend runs until May 29 at the Association of Arts, 173 Mackie Street, New Muckleneuk.

Tel: 012 346 3100

Gallery Hours Tuesdays to Fridays: 9am to 5pm; Saturdays: 9am to 1pm

WITH HIS LATEST EXHIBITION WORD/WOES, WILLEM BOSHOFF GETS THE WORLD READING

It’s glorious to know that one of our most exciting and enchanting artists Willem Boshoff is currently exhibiting in the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria. DIANE DE BEER tells more:

No better introduction of Willem Boshoff possible!

When genius artist/wordsmith Willem Boshoff appointed Hélène Smuts as his curator a few years back, his instincts were as savvy as his art.

Bless the Javett Centre that in these tough times they had one of the few art exhibition openings worthy of a creator of Willem Boshoff’s calibre.

And with the wealth of experience of the curator and artist combined, they have stretched this one to early January 2022, so that South Africans will have more than enough time to experience both the earlier and latest work of one of our most exciting artists. Also keep an eye out for all the events, workshops, launching of an extensive catalogue, druid walks by Boshoff, all of which will be announced and will be huge fun to engage in.

Willem Boshoff’s BLUE close-up of making process

The exhibition (as the press release states so succinctly) Word Woes is a retrospective of works spanning the duration of  Boshoff’s artistic practice. The exhibition title, taken from a signature work by Boshoff, is understood in English and in Afrikaans. In either language the two words look identical, but their meanings differ sharply. Read in English, the title WORD WOES bemoans difficult issues around words and language. Read in Afrikaans, the same words liberate, prompting us to let go and be wild.

Detail of Word Woes etching (2014)

And so it goes with Boshoff’s art. It is as awe-inspiring as it is accessible, and huge fun as the artist works with words in a way that is genius while those who look, first have fun with the vocabulary and then get lost in the artwork and the way the artist produces something so spectacular. His work is always detailed and can take the viewer exploring indefinitely.

He has already moved on, he says. Busy with approximately 30 works currently, he had a breakthrough that morning (of the opening) and was itching to get back to test his solution – something that will probably brilliantly bewitch viewers in the future.

Boshoff’s concern according to the curator and entrenched in his work is often with the context in which we receive language and the power it yields to exclude or to privilege. He uses unconventional tactics, she points out, to challenge the use of language as an instrument of cultural identity or exclusion. He describes all his works, whether sculptural or graphic, as conceptual books. That’s why it needs time to view as you not only look at the work but also read the different “books”.

City Book

As art writer/critic Dr Johan Myburg, the opening speaker noted: “Although meaning (what does it mean?) is an important aspect of Willem Boshoff’s art – in order to get the meaning, to get the hang of the words, requires a performative input from the viewer (the viewer has to change his or her position: either to under+stand or to vêr-staan or to get up close to (I am thinking of Abamfusa Lawula)) – the presence of the artwork – from the earliest aluminium Cube to the recent Blue, made from wood, cut paper and glue – has the ability to communicate immediately. In the words of the poet TS Eliot: ‘genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’.

It is the way he states his case – not with the obvious but in a way that is often playful yet deadly serious in message.

Myburg also explains that WORD WOES/WORD WOES (and a preamble to this current exhibition as are many other works), the mural made in Richmond in 2018, has been dedicated to a fellow artist, the writer Karel Schoeman – known for his novels (translated) such as Promised Land, Another Country and This Life.  He died the year before in 2017.

In front of the word wizardry of artist Willem Boshoff at MAP

The similarities between these giants are remarkable, says Myburg in his speech. “Both Boshoff and Schoeman are writing with stones and slabs of granite, both are writing with thorns and sand.  Both are employing words searching for meaning, for double meanings, for hidden meanings, for meaning lost in translation. Both are employing woeful words to lament the lack of meaning. Above all, both require to know: What is the meaning of it all.”

And that, he says, is what Hélène Smuts as creator, translator of meaning, states so clearly with this remarkable retrospective exhibition.

“The ability to marvel – and not to know for sure.

The ability to doubt woes – without any one firm belief.

The ability to question, om te bly torring, to unravel, om te ontrafel.

Die vermoë om te speel, om te goël, om woes met woorde om te gaan. (The ability to play, to cast a spell, to work fiercely with words.)





And then concludes: There is only one Willem Boshoff.”

 And it takes one poet to recognise and explain another.

Smuts elaborates that the wanderings of Word Woes started in 2019 when a smaller version of the current exhibition was curated for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) in the UK by Smuts and Louise Lohr (YSP) to introduce the spectacular artist after he had a work included in the YSP’s permanent collection.

As with this current exhibition, the Claire and Edoardo Villa Trust facilitated the Yorkshire exhibition after Boshoff had received the trust’s award in 2018. And with this current one,also co-sponsored with the Matthias and Gervanne Leridon Collection.

Smuts explains that she has expanded the curatorial focus “to a locking and unlocking of knowledge and meaning through the artist’s life-long exploration of language”.                          .

A supporting educational and public programme will offer guided tours, school/student workshops, printed educational resources and weekend events with invited guests.​ Watch this space. It will be worth watching out for walkabouts with the artist talking about his work. He is as much an artist when he talks.

Willem Boshoff Druid Walk Main Reef road (2010)

Venue: The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria, 23 Lynnwood Road, Hatfield, Pretoria. https://javettup.art/contact for more detail. Open daily from 10 am to 5pm and they have a number of free entrance days throughout the year  listed.

Guided tours on the hour from 1pm to 4pm.

To book for tours email: bookings@javettup.art

ACTORS AND DIRECTOR COME OUT TO PLAY AT THE ANNUAL BLACK HISTORY PRODUCTION AT MARKET

PICTURES: Lungelo Mbulwana

Pass Over starring Hungani Ndlovu

DIANE DE BEER

Life is slowly and almost silently returning to the Market Theatre – just in time to benefit from President Ramaphosa’s latest concessions doubling on the 50 seats already conceded.

Artistic director James Ngcobo kicks off tonight (running until March 28 starting at 6pm but check opening times on specific days) with his annual Black History Month production also celebrating the 45th anniversary year of The Market. Showcasing an African American playwright and in the past – as now, giving him the opportunity to spotlight some of the hottest young playwrights from the US.

The title of this year’s production, Pass Over, is suggestive of many things depending where you come from and whether you are religious, but it is also a play that has been inspired (as many before) by Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It features two young black men, Moses and Kitch, who are forever stuck in a cyclical existential conundrum: how do we get off this street corner and into paradise?

Kathu Ramabulana (right)and Hungani Ndlovu (centre) as Moses and Kitsch and Charlie Bouguenon as Mister

But they keep busy by swapping visions of the promised land, imagining all the delights that await them there. Into this conversation steps a white man, Mister (a name that already suggests many different avenues in this context), and he startles the two young men with his preppy demeanour. He has lost his way while heading to his mother’s house to bring a basket of food. With this seemingly bottomless basket packed with delicious treats Mister is blissfully free and bursting with potential tralala…

He leaves shortly after the entrance of Ossifer (a jumble of letters which could also make up officer), a white policeman … and naturally the scene is set for many contemporary struggles while referencing both Beckett and Exodus with obvious intent.

Pass Over creative team Kabomo Vilakazi, Sibusisiwe Manqele and James Ngcobo

Written by Antoinette Nwandu, a New York playwright, it premiered a few years back at Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre as well as travelling to London. She has been honoured with amongst others The Whiting Award, The Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, The Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, The Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize, and a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in English and holds a Master’s of Science degree in Cultural Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

What appealed to Ngcobo is that it is a play that speaks to the now and with so much happening in the US (and around the world on a race and oppression level if you look at the Time Next 100 list) with especially Black Lives Matter, all of that seems especially (and rightfully) heightened. “It just makes for interesting conversation,” he says. And even more than that. It seems finally, race has become the issue with Covid-19 bringing it into even sharper relief – and about time.

The cast of Pass Over

And the writing itself, notes Ngcobo. In a note from the playwright she explains that “the language is intentionally heightened, calculatedly rhythmic and playfully human. There is a kind of poetry and energy that is written into the words that Moses and Kitch use, which invites the audience to fully understand these characters and the world they inhabit.”

Ngcobo says because of the way it’s written that while dealing with tragic topics, it’s also very funny. “In rehearsal we are looking especially at the environment that gave birth to the text.”  And he is especially excited about his casting of Kathu Ramabulana and Hungani Ndlovu as Moses and Kitsch and Charlie Bouguenon as Mister and the rest.

Pass Over is staged in commemoration of Black History Month and while mainly celebrated in America, Ngcobo believes that the play will inspire South Africans to have the tough conversations around issues  of common interest including police brutality and white supremacy still flourishing long after apartheid.

Khathu Ramabulana and Hungani Ndlovu

It explores the unquestionable human spirit and the resilience of young black men who keep hoping for miracles. Moses and Kitch are struggling to survive on the tough streets of America. It’s a rare piece of politically charged theatre from a bold new American voice, just the kind of fighting spirit we need on stage in these crazy times to get audiences going.

Another project in the  making is a return of Zakes Mda’s brilliant Mother of all Eating directed by Dom Gumede with Vusi Kunene back on stage joined by Thulani Nyembe. It’s a fantastic play for these times and should be a grand face-off between these two acclaimed actors and a welcome return to live theatre.

Corruption heads the issues in this tale set in Lesotho in 1992 which shows just what happens when power is allowed to go unchecked. It plays from March 12 to April 11.

Three online productions start at the same time with Avalon written and performed by Lunga Radebe and directed by Vice Motshabi Monageng (from March 12 to 21) revolving around Sabantu, a young nouveau riche who, desperate to save his mother’s life, takes advice from a traditional prophet to search for his grandmother’s grave in one of South Africa’s largest cemeteries. He is instructed to perform a ritual on the grave, which is meant to remove the black cloud hanging over his family. What seems like quite a straightforward task turns into something much more daunting.

The next one has the provocative title of A Vegan Killed my Marriage written and directed by Craig Freimond who hasn’t worked at The Market for quite some time and stars Aron McElroy. Streaming from March 26 to April 4, it tells the story of James, a meat eating man. He is however plugged into all the scares about meat and the climate catastrophe about to happen. It’s something he tries to ignore but a work trip shakes him out of his comfort zone. He turns vegetarian which turns into vegan which becomes a kind of crusade as this king of the braai, bans all meat from his home and declares it a meat-free zone.

Di a Paro Tsa Mama (My Mother’s Clothes) is written and directed by Rorisang Motuba with performance dates from May 21 to 31.

In line with Ngcobo’spassion for indigenous language plays, this one is set on the eve of their mother’s funeral, with two sisters, aged 23 and 29, sorting through her clothes in search of the perfect outfit to bury her in. Their sensitive nostalgia morphs into harrowing discoveries about death, grief and survival in what promises to be a sensitive piece.

Depending on what happens later in the year, these three might also make their way onto stage.

Another live performance is Rose (previously played by Annabel Linder at Theatre on the Square) starring the sublime Camilla Waldman in a surprise return to the Market stage. It has been quite some time and is also a return to his old stomping ground for previous artistic director Malcolm Purkey, taking the directing reins for this one.

Camilla Waldman

Rose is a survivor. Her remarkable life began in 1920 in a tiny Russian village, took her to Warsaw’s ghettoes and a ship called The Exodus, and finally to the boardwalks of Atlantic City, the Arizona canyons and salsa-flavoured nights in Miami Beach.

It’s described as a sharply drawn portrait of a feisty Jewish woman and a moving reminder of some of the events that shaped the 20th century.

It plays in the John Kani Theatre from April 23 to June 6.

As inspired, later in the year, is a return of Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot directed by Ngcobo with two of the best, Mnedici Shabangu and Elton Landrew. And for the moment, that’s enough to keep theatre enthusiasts smiling.

A PIECE OF ART HEAVEN IN THE KAROO

All pictures courtesy of MAP

MAPSA Contemporary Art Gallery in Richmond
Mapsa logo

When traveling internationally, we wouldn’t think twice about going into an art gallery in a village you might be passing through, but locally – not so much. Harrie Siertsema and his team have made sure that both Richmond in the Karoo and Mpumalanga’s Graskop should stop you in your tracks. DIANE DE BEER takes a closer look and loses her heart:

MAP Opening of exhibition by Sam Nhlengethwa at Harrie’s Pancakes in Pretoria.

“Living with art” is a phrase invented for art connoisseur and instigator of the Modern Art Projects South Africa (MAPSA) Harrie Siertsema, which is mainly found in the small Karoo town Richmond and Graskop with two extraordinary galleries.

That’s right, not many when driving through or rather passing by on their way to either Cape Town or in the other direction, Johannesburg or pass through Graskop, would consider it possible to visit what many consider world class galleries.

But that’s exactly what Harrie and curator/artist Abrie Fourie have established with financial assistance from Harrie’s longtime partner Willem van Bergen with art possibilities growing and evolving at some speed..

It all began with Harrie buying what he thought was a single house in the small Karoo town, only to discover at closer inspection that it was much more – almost an entire block. While peeping through a window of the house he was interested in, someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked for work. The deal was done.

MAPSA Collection Richmond: from left Eric Duplan, Jan van der Merwe, Seretse Moletsane and Maja Marx

When you arrive in Richmond, this same George Williams will welcome you to MAPSA or for a stayover at their guesthouse.

With the purchase, Harrie’s many hours of play as a youngster-  when this former architect was measuring not only every room in his childhood home but also the furniture – kicked in.

But not only that, he can remember buying his first artwork at the age of 15 with money he earned working at a local stationery shop. “I still have it,” he says as I sit admiring the amazing art I can see over his shoulder in his city home, a constantly growing extension of that first purchase.

This is a man with a straightforward passion, but one he has followed without fail while on the way, not only supporting established artists, but also discovering up-and-coming artists at shows, SASOL New Signatures and Absa L’Atelier.

He describes his particular art bent as close to the Italian Arte Povera (poor art) movement that emerged in in the late 60s. “It wasn’t as if I knew of them at the time, it simply must have been a part of the zeitgeist,” he believes. His interest is recycled and rescued art rather than the corporate kind and when you look at the names like Jan van der Merwe, Gordon Froud, Jeremy Wafer, Sam Nhlengethwa, Willem Boshoff, Robert Hodgins, Cecile Heystek, Diane Victor, Claudette Schreuders, Sandile Zulu, Seretse Moletsane and Strijdom van der Merwe (a who’s who of local artists and the list goes on).

The narratives grow and there is a multitude of  South African stories being told by a diversity of local voices magically reverberating in places that will hopefully capture a much larger audience – of both local and international travellers.

Since its inception in 2005, MAPSA’s activities have included exhibitions in various venues in South Africa (Cullinan, Dullstroom, Graskop, Pretoria, Aardklop, Potchefstroom and Richmond) determined by Harrie’s many other business interests.

Like in Richmond where an old supermarket packed with broken pinball machines was turned into a spacious art gallery, Harrie was having a pancake at a small café in Graskop when before he knew it, he was the owner of a pancake joint with two burners. Many years later it has been turned into a flourishing business with Harrie’s Pancakes thriving in Graskop, Cullinan, Dullstroom and in Pretoria with a Delagoa Arts and Crafts alongside.

Colombé Ashborn’s MAP Graskop Cottage

Further expansion in Graskop also includes a hotel where it really all began and where some of his favourite artists were asked to decorate the rooms, which allow visitors the delight of sleeping in a space filled with not only the individual artist’s art, but also a real sense of the artist. A gallery similar to that in Richmond also features in this Mpumalanga town with space that artists can usually just dream of.

There’s always something happening in their art world. MAPSA has commissioned site-specific installations and published limited edition monographs while artist’s residencies, workshops and retreats are ongoing at different properties in Richmond.

They constantly engage with the community and well as dealing with the challenges facing contemporary artists. They are determined to make a difference and to contribute to change and development whenever possible. Collaboration is something they encourage and nurture and with Harrie and Abrie a dynamic duo backed by the rest of the team, including the logistic genius, executive manager Morné Ramsay, they are constantly at work to provide creative opportunities to artists from around the country as well as Richmond inhabitants.

For people tackling the N1 in any direction, Richmond is the perfect stop for a stayover. The first time I did this with family and friends, finding ourselves the next morning with mugs of coffee still in pyjamas in a gallery with spectacular art – in the middle of the Karoo – was simply magical and unexpected. And still feels unreal and something to be cherished with every stopover.

That’s what art can do for you. It keeps on giving in the most imaginative fashion and when you have someone like Harrie with the team he has surrounded himself with as he would, you know that you have to keep an eye on what they come up with next.

MAP Richmond Bookbinding Project, from left to right, Jesica Olifant, Felicity Pipes, Elizabeth Jones, and Mongezi Ncombo

On site in Richmond for example, they also have an extraordinary Bookbinding Project overseen by artist Mongezi Mcombo, an Artist Proof Studio alumni, who also produces his own work on the premises, OpenLab, a biennial project where artists can explore site-based public interventions, an interdisciplinary laboratory, the yearly Land Art Project for art students of the University of the Free State under the guidance of Professor Willem Boshoff (how can you resist with the never-ending vistas of the Karoo) and an informal Clay Brick Making Collaboration. And this sentence should really be open-ended because they are constantly coming up with yet another collaboration or creative venture that adds to MAPSA’s art experience.

Staying over is an option, but not everyone wants to take such a specific break when on the road. In that instance, Richmond is the perfect turn-off for a well-deserved artistic break. Pick up a MAPSA art walk map from the gallery, which will point you in the right direction to include their magnificent contemporary art collection. Also discover Willem Boshoff’s dictionary Word Woes (which as the title suggests works in different ways when read in either Afrikaans and English) as well as work by Strijdom van der Merwe, Johan Moolman, Gordon Froud and Abrie Fourie in the connected Sculpture Garden.

MAP Martli Jansen van Rensburg room in Richmond

Included in this space is also the previously mentioned bookbinding project and Ella Ziegler’s Does The Ground Feel Tears?, a text-based work using handmade alphabet bricks, a MAPSA collaboration with local brickmaker Trevor Snyders.

Sculptor Guy du Toit has added his version of Two Thousand and Ten Reasons to Live in a Small Town, a public art project facilitated by VANSA and funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, which has many different goals incorporated in a single project.

 The latest in the MAPSA series is Richard John Forbes’s Black Room (see more detailed story following in this space) which will blow your mind and give you a sense of experiencing art in a very distinct and visceral manner.

Add to that MAPSA’s fruit and veg garden, Hoggie Viljoen’s indigenous garden as well as Shane de Lange’s text-based work The Fence and Hannelie Coetzee’s Tokkas, Londa and Oom Samuel engraved on a plastered wall.

If all of this sounds quite hectic, this is just a taster and not even half of it. But it can all be explored in your own time.  I would simply start with the gallery, have a wander through the sculpture garden and then see how much more is possible or keep the rest for the trip back or whenever you pass through Richmond again.

It can easily turn into a lifelong and life-enhancing discovery.

For more info and bookings:

www.map-southafrica.org

For stayover bookings at Richmond: contact Hazel Mbuyane on 073 386 8509 (but be aware that they often have residencies or other activities which prevent stay-overs)

The gallery has a number for George Williams on the outside which can be contacted for info or a walk-along: 073 436 4413

For bookings at the hotel in Graskop: 013 7671244

Phone Harries’s Pancakes manager Lindy Kruger, for gallery viewings or accommodation in Harrie’s Cottage: 078 111 9060 .

For good food when passing through:

Vetmuis: Magriet Burger on 082 380 1196 or

Die Padstal: Klaradyn Grobler 079 755 8285.

READ INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST RICHARD JOHN FORBES AND THE ASTONISHING BLACK ROOM FOLLOWING:

RICHARD JOHN FORBES’ ODE TO DARKNESS

The latest addition to Richmond’s surprisingly bustling art scene is BLACK ROOM recently established by sculptor Richard John Forbes who opened the door during the town’s annual book festival in the last week of October. DIANE DE BEER speaks to the artist:

Eclipse with black book in the background

What you find in Black Room, is a collection of his work of the last 15 years.

It’s all still a project in flux and one that flourished due to synchronicity, believes the artist. When standing quietly and motionless just after entering the Black Room, what you discover is that this is a place where the artist, his work and the space found one another, and the winner is the viewer.

It all happened when Richard was in transit between Joburg and George where he was moving – and lives now –  and the work was waiting to be moved from the north to the south. By the grace of how these things happen, Harrie Siertsema of Modern Art Projects South Africa (MAPSA) had a space looking for transformation, loved the work and Forbes’ ethos, and voila!

While Richard, always the philosophical one, doesn’t believe in luck but rather coincidence, he knows that what has been happening these past few months with his work – and the future to come – is meant to be.

Richard J Forbes with a blackened skull – found object

He works predominantly with large sculptures, quite a limiting niche to occupy, because it is art that is bought mainly by serious collectors and institutions. Synchronicity plays an especially large role because of the way he works and produces, and when you walk into Black Room it makes sense with it all coming together.

He  feels there’s a kind of providence about this specific exhibition and space, with Richmond on one of the main tributaries in the country (N1). It is meant to be seen and it seems the stars have aligned.

Entering the Black Room disturbed by light

 As an artist, he has often been told that his work is unpredictable. To my mind, with Richard being an artist, that’s a compliment. But, as with most things in life, people want you to keep producing the thing that perhaps made the biggest impact. That’s just not who he is. From start to finish he is about change and movement. Even the individual pieces move.

Richard J Forbes’ introductory poem read by his niece Delilah Richie Kaufman who is 10 and lives in England followed by his proposed viewing of the room:

He has also changed mediums. He started out as a painter, one who loved colour. Since he turned to sculpting, he prefers to stay with the colour (or lack thereof) of the material he is working with.

The word that has been used to describe what he does is ‘erratic’ and yet, there’s no sign of that in Black Room, which has brought many of his big pieces together enabling a conversation. “When I put them all together, there was a flow with the different pieces communicating with one another,” he says. “It was so exciting and I really hope that many people get to experience this.”

And if I could do anything to help and encourage, this is it. Being in Black Room with the artist is a privilege. While these creative individuals are often reluctant to speak too much about their work, Forbes explains that his partner, Kate has encouraged exactly that. She believes that it can only enhance the work if the artist shares something about the process.

“I always felt that I had spoken my words in art, but she has taught me that I need to express myself,” he explains and in the process perhaps accessing the work more easily for the viewer.

As such, because he is seldomly around, he has introduced quite a few aids to help viewers to engage with his work. One of these was to invite a 10-year-old niece (living in the UK) to read his poem that’s a kind of introduction to the exhibition and now can be listened to instead of just being read. And there’s more, which should allow passers-by to access the art easily.

Tornado in Richmond, NC – block print on Gelatong wood

With this work all gathered together, he introduces different themes and layers. As the viewer standing in this dark room with light intruding as much as you wish, there seems to be a kind of silence before the storm – something which permeates the work, one piece even representing a tornado with everything else seeming to flow from that.  “I feel there’s a bit of a storm in the room and it is important for me to have governance over that storm,” he says.

He adds that there are things in the universe that leave us in awe or that scare us and hopefully some of what you experience in the room filled with Forbes’ art is a pathway to navigate some of those feelings.

“People who have visited this work told me that at first they felt fear or confusion, a feeling of lostness,” he says, but he doesn’t want to elaborate more because it is something that people need to experience individually. And as is often the case, it’s all about who you are and what you discover that determines the experience. “The artist is a filter for the world and what filters out is his experience.”

Personally I felt an immediate emotional connection  to the space – quite turbulent. But then everything went very still …

Richard John Forbes working on his Black Book

What we then do with what we see and understand will be different for everyone. And that is what Richard enjoys, seeing how people experience his work and the effect it has on them. Just being in his presence, his excitement about the work is extraordinary. It’s what creatives do. They make something, put their feelings on display and allow you to do with it what you will.

Another unexpected bonus of Richard’s Richmond experiment is not working in isolation.  Being an artist in a studio can be a lonely occupation but once you start collaborating with others, it becomes a community. This is exactly what he found while working on the installation in Black Room.

Once he started talking to Harrie and they discovered similar obsessions with the tone (or lack thereof) of black, his journey took on new twists and turns – hence Black Room. Apart from the sculptures, it’s also black that keeps evolving and that keeps Richard engaged and playing. “Black became more and more significant in my work,” he says as he experiments with all kinds of ways to create a specific tone, a different dramatic effect. It is his curiosity about materiality that drives this particular experimentation, like when he works in paper pulp or burns charcoal, all of which imbues his work with energy.

With this current exhibition, Richard’s dream, which was sent into the universe, has come true. “All I want is a curator that allows me to be the expansive person I’m meant to be,” he says.

From left: Like-minded souls – partners Willem van Bergen, Harrie Siertsema and Richard J Forbes.

And in stepped Harrie Siertsema … and his team including curator Abrie Fourie, executive manager Morné Ramsay and the list goes on.

And we, the viewers, benefit from an experience that’s all heart.

www.map-southafrica.org

For stayover bookings at Richmond: contact Hazel Mbuyane on 073 386 8509 (but be aware that they often have residencies or other activities which prevent stay-overs)

The gallery has a number for George Williams on the outside which can be contacted for info or a walk-along: 073 436 4413

For bookings at the hotel in Graskop: 013 7671244

Phone Harries’s Pancakes manager Lindy Kruger, for gallery viewings or accommodation in Harrie’s Cottage: 078 111 9060 .

For good food when passing through:

Vetmuis: Magriet Burger on 082 380 1196 or

Die Padstal: Klaradyn Grobler 079 755 8285.

In A World That Feels Closed, Teksmark Breaks Down Barriers – As The Arts Should

PICTURES: Nardus Engelbrecht

It was the fifth year of the Teksmark (text market) at the end of last month, something originating from Hugo Theart (artistic director: Kunste Onbeperk) and supported by Cornelia Faasen (CEO of the Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief NATi) and Lara Foot (CEO and artistic director  of the Baxter Theatre Centre) – and not even Covid-19 was going to scupper their plans.  Going from strength to strength, this year’s crop of entries exceeded 120, a clear indication that people had time but also the talent to start writing. DIANE DE BEER reports:

Die Sondige Sewe by Niël Rademan
For many this was their first outing to the theatre post Covid-19 and Cape Town’s Baxter (the home of the Teksmark) made surer everyone complied with the rules.
Fortunately, huge crowds are not a necessary part of the deal as the three days pack in mainly the playwright and artists involved, a few producers and possible independent funders, as well as representatives of the different festivals.
A clutch of debut plays are selected for possible further development and short extracts are featured by selected directors and casts. Sometimes the playwright is involved but not always. The most exciting development these past few years has been the inclusion and thus expansion of entries from all the official languages. It has made a huge difference in a country too small to create pockets of the arts. We need the cross-pollination to grow and flourish.
We should all be pulling together but language has always been a stumbling block in the sense of who speaks and understands what and with not many (white folk) who can speak more than two of the 11 official languages.
Two of the comedies from the Suidoosterfees Nati Rising Star Project: Die Workshop by Fabian Rainers (left) and Al Dra ‘n Aap ‘n Goue Ring by Margo Kotzé

But if anyone is going to find a solution, this is the perfect platform and already this year there has been a much stronger push for collaborations. Sometimes a playwright would use three languages to tell a story. In another instance, a gang of playwrights got together to write a play almost in Robert Altman fashion where different sketches are pulled together to make a whole.

It’s just easier to mix and match on every level when this kind of collaboration becomes the norm and for audiences the variety is huge. As much as everyone has their favourite artists, there’s nothing as exciting as a much larger pool to choose from and to witness.
This is a time to move forward and not back. Once the barriers came down, there was an explosion on our stages of new talent. The diversity is to our benefit locally and we could lead the way internationally. This is the way to enrich and enlighten minds by experiencing one another’s stories and the way stories are told.
Covid-19 has been a nightmare for everyone, but if anything has been a certainty in these uncertain times, it is that artists will find inspiration and show us many different ways to move forward.
When one of our top and most prolific playwrights Mike van Graan, for example, collaborates with the likes of Wessel Pretorius and Malika Ndlovu sparks are going to fly. There were six playwrights in all, none of whom had met before when they arrived at the Teksmark.
They had been commissioned by Lara Foot to attempt this way of telling a storie(s) with Van Graan as the one who had to pull everything together with some kind of through-line. They had weekly digital meetings but this was the first time they saw an extract from the work.
The Valley of the Shadow by Qondiswa James, Tankiso Mamabolo, Tiisetso Mashifane, Malika Ndlovu, Wessel Pretorius and Mike van Graan.
The thing I found interesting having read the play, The Valley of the Shadow, without knowing who the writer(s) was – was that I didn’t detect that it was a team effort. Because of the different characters (and that was a clever way to do this kind of collaboration) each story had a specific voice which meant that the writing could organically change from scene to scene.
Playwright Kanye Viljoen’s text was in Afrikaans, English and Xhosa, as she dipped into a Karoo tale familiar to many – a mermaid somewhere in the Meiringspoort environs. It’s a magical South African story with roots in the past (meaning different things to different people in the group) but set in our present and how we can tell stories.
Kanya Viljoen’s multi-lingual Grot
She wanted to uses different languages as would happen in a South African context. Even when you don’t understand everything, it doesn’t land strangely on the ear because it rings true. I have watched many bi-lingual plays at The Market in the past where English was used to tell the story and isiXhosa or isiZulu perhaps to capture more of the culture through the language.
Do you miss out when you don’t understand something? Of course, but perhaps finally in this technological advanced  time, there’s a solution other than just sticking to a universal language – in the South African context, English.
People playing in their own language and those listening is something to experience – still not common in this country. Hopefully, as this kind of writing happens more frequently, someone will find an imaginative fix.
Another language case in point was iNau and ander drama by Jolyn Philips, who brings the lives of three women, Bientang, Narina and Lydia, to share a very particular story of which this particular unfolding makes a strong statement of this time – and more than anything it is about time.
To capture these silenced voices for those who have never been without voice, she sat down after the performance (in which she also participated) and described the toughness of allowing the drama to unfold. It needs to be part of the performance because it explains so much for those who need to hear. It’s a powerful performance and can be described as life-changing without any dramatics.

There was much to praise in all the other selected Teksmark plays including themes of dysfunctional families playing out by using mercy killings (assisted dying) at the heart of the story in Mike van Graan’s What We Wish For; Covid Moons, Clare Stopford’s response to being trapped in a high-security block of flats in Cape Town during the first Level 5  lockdown (the play opens on Friday 20 November and that night is sold out but tickets are available for all other performances from 17-21 November. Book online now at https://artstown.co.za/) and what she achieves is innovative and refreshing; Niël Rademan’s contemporary cabaret Die Sondige Sewe managed to revive a tired and now neglected genre with smart writing and snappy performances with a simplistic execution which benefits the script.

What We Wish For by Mike van Graan

The other magnificent move was the inclusion of a series of plays which formed part of the Suidoosterfees Nati Rising Star Project. As the name implies, these are young playwrights who attended a writing school in the Eastern Cape led by Abduragman Adams through the Jakes Gerwel Foundation.

They dovetailed smartly with the Teksmark and addressed issues such as bullying and sexual predators on the one hand, while on the other there were two delightful comedies; the issue-driven farcical Al Dra ‘n Aap ‘n Goue Ring and Die Workshop, with playwright  Fabian Rainers finding a tongue- in-cheek way to tackle universal issues.

As in previous years, the playwrights keep moving the goalposts for the following year’s  crop – and this time it feels as if a closed world allowed everyone to break down all existing barriers!

Viva the arts!

 

 

 

The Sample Workshop is Stunning Example of Cool Capital’s Eye Catching Guerrilla Tactics

Cowmash showcasing her art

When architect Pieter Mathews gathered his coterie of Pretoria artists to stage a typical Cool Capital guerrilla exhibition in the basement of his firm, Mathews and Associates Architects’, most high-profile building to date, the Javett Art Centre at UP, they all leapt to participate. He shares the excitement of the event with DIANE DE BEER who encourages those visiting the Centre, which again reopens on Heritage Day (September 24), to also check what’s left of the glorious art in the basement parking area:

“A basement is an underground space…the humblest of spaces specifically in the Javett: UP”, writes Pieter Mathews in the explanatory notes of The Sample Workshop, the catalogue documenting the guerrilla exhibition. The exhibition took place under the radar of the conventional gallery space above. Many factors including the transient nature of art, the way art is viewed in the world and the fact that the artisans who participated in construction of the gallery would possibly never see the actual art, were the driving force behind The Sample Workshop.

Creative Carla Crafford.

The project initially grew from a practical need to test samples of ideas and patterns to be used in the building. It however evolved into a project in its own right which allowed Mathews to specifically honour Pretoria artists. It all started forming in his mind when the temporary building site offices, constructed from drywall, had to be shifted to the basement and while he was looking for possible sandblasting options for certain parts of the building. This space, a wet basement which is largely naturally ventilated and to some extent vulnerable to nature’s elements receives unique light through the voids.

As the white boxes (of the art centre) above ground offers opportunities for the often elite art afficionados and students to enjoy exhibitions made possible by curators, he believed that in the spirit of ‘art for the people’ it would be appropriate for an underground exhibition to be held in the area that only the construction team had access to.

Jan van der Merwe making art

He wanted to show temporary artworks by some of South Africa’s foremost artists from Diane Victor, Gordon Froud, Malose Pete, Dr Jan van der Merwe, Annette Pretorius (2019 runner up of the Sanlam Portrait award), Guy du Toit, Carl Jeppe, Eric Du Plan, Heidi Fourie & Alain Lang (2019 Ampersand fellows) as well as some of the hottest new kids on the block like Cowmash (2019 PPC Imaginarium  winner), Keneilwe Mokoena, Nazirite Tam and Helena Uambembe (2019 recipient of  the David Koloane Award).

As the instigator of Cool Capital, described as the “world’s first uncurated, DIY, guerrilla biennale which explores the possibility of creative expression that Pretoria has to offer”, he knew that the artists would understand the concept and buy into the transient nature of what they were creating.

In essence, they were going to create art in a building site which was at that stage of the process, under the custodianship of the main contractor. This meant each artist had to be inducted according to the health and safety act. It created huge excitement amongst the construction workforce who by the very nature of their work seldom have anything to do with the finished project.

Lukhanyo Dyasi stakes his claim for the worker posse.

This was going to be a joint project and the workers were also asked to contribute and nominate someone whose art would be representative of the group. The artistic individual, Lukhanyo Dyasi, is a crane driver guide who was personally involved in the construction of the basement, created an apt site-specific artwork of an excavator hand.

Excavator in hand played with the idea of his hand resembling the bucket of the machine simply stating that he and his co-workers “had a hand in its creation”.

Their contribution was further enhanced by the photographs (also seen here) of Alet Pretorius who was archiving the process of the building, but for this particular exhibition, did portraits of the construction workers and put them up on a temporary drywall a part of this gift economy. All of the workers who recognised their picture, got their own copy (of art) to keep as a memory.

Heidi Fourie at play with plastic

All of these interventions blurred the lines of what is seen as a traditional art and artists which included all the different issues floating around this almost clandestine artistic endeavour on a site that was soon to become an art haven in the capital city.

For his own interpretation of art, Mathews played with the construction site and found material and give a nod to similar work by Kendell Geers. “He was my inspiration,” explains Mathews, who took photographs of a composition of tyres and danger signage he discovered by accident on the site. In similar fashion, he paid homage to collaborating Swiss artists Fischilli/Weiss with a found composition of fire pipes scattered around the building site.

Carl Jeppe in action

Another fascinating aspect of the experimental exhibition is what artists do when they know their work will probably disappear sooner rather than later. Artist extraordinaire Carl Jeppe has been drawing large imaginary landscapes these past few years. His challenge was to find a way to do something larger than he’s ever done and in only one day. “Instead of my usual ‘Mythical’ landscape, I decided to draw from memory some of the iconic buildings that we see around Pretoria realizing that the Javett: UP will soon be regarded as iconic as well!” He was also intrigued by the notion that the work itself was not permanent but would remain on record as an event that took place.

Playing with that impermanence, Allen Laing’s work titled Fossil of Pedagogosaurus Defunctus, crushed under its own weight (wood found on site, olive wood, screw and nails) dealt with a fossil that was “discovered in 2018 by the acclaimed and highly esteemed Mr Allen Laing (MTech, BA, matric, etc.) at a depth of 10 meters below ground in Brooklyn, Pretoria. Although rivals and detractors of Laing’s career have claimed that the fossil is falsified, Laing’s outstanding academic credentials seem to solidly counteract these claims”.

Nazrite Tam reworks Pierneef

Hong Kong based artist, Nazirite Tam (UP Alumnus) decided to go fake Pierneef (a la station panels). Tam carved moulds, then melted sheets of plastic to make a permanent impression of the Pierneef moulds. Tam created five different panels for The Sample Workshop. The work is titled Station panel rip off (1-5), proudly proclaiming that a Chinese artist created fakes of Pierneef’s works.

Keneilwe Mokoena created a mural by stretching pvc tape on drywall. Her artwork creatively explored a single point in space-time, which is connected to everyone and everything else that exists and will ever exist.

Well known artist Gordon Froud created a piece related to his 2018 Standard Bank exhibition entitled Harmonia, Sacred geometry, the pattern of existence. This exhibition and the piece Metaron’s cube in bronze, silver and gold, investigated the platonic shapes as well as ancient geometries – through these he explored the interconnectedness of all things and how our perspective changes the way we see or interpret the world around us.

There are of course many more while these artists were seriously having fun as they allowed their imaginations to take flight in the spirit of the exhibition which was always tongue in cheek with the art establishment firmly in their sight.

But there was also a serious side with The Sample Workshop addressing some of the inequalities prevalent in a world that is constantly struggling with ‘us’ and ‘them’ on so many different levels.

Lynette ten Krooden’s art in the making

For architect/artist Pieter Mathews it was a way of bringing many worlds together and of adding the artistic to the architecture in a fundamental way. The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria opened to the public on heritage day 24 September last year and again reopens to the public this Heritage Day 2020.

 While there are still remnants of art visible when you park in the basement at the Javett Art Centre at UP, the full body of work can be seen in The Sample Workshop catalogue available on ISSUU:


https://issuu.com/coolcapital/docs/the_sample_workshop

IN FULL CREATIVE SWING WITH STORIES, SONGS AND MAGICAL SHOWS, A BOOK AND TV SERIES, NATANIЁL CELEBRATES LIFE IN FULL COLOUR

It’s almost like experiencing a command performance when speaking to Nataniël about his momentous week at the beginning of October. DIANE DE BEER explains: Being who he is with all his talents on display, it’s a busy time, even though Nataniël complains that none of his hard work is paying dividends at the moment. But … Continue reading IN FULL CREATIVE SWING WITH STORIES, SONGS AND MAGICAL SHOWS, A BOOK AND TV SERIES, NATANIЁL CELEBRATES LIFE IN FULL COLOUR

VINCENT PIENAAR’S LIMERENCE HAS A NOSTALGIC RING TO IT WITH A ROGUISH HERO MOST LOVE TO HATE AND YET TOO FEW WOMEN CAN RESIST

THE thing that strikes one most with the two latest of Vincent Pienaar’s novels, is the joy. It’s something that he ascribes to and it works as you jump into what might not be an entirely happy premise and yet, you are taking off on an adventure. DIANE DE BEER gets some thoughts from the … Continue reading VINCENT PIENAAR’S LIMERENCE HAS A NOSTALGIC RING TO IT WITH A ROGUISH HERO MOST LOVE TO HATE AND YET TOO FEW WOMEN CAN RESIST

AGEING GENTLY WITH PAUL SLABOLEPSZY IN WHAT CAN BEST BE DESCRIBED AS A TIME WARP

 DIANE DE BEER MR JOHNSON (Available on BoxOffice/DStv) DIRECTOR/WRITER: William Collinson CAST: Paul Slabolepszy, Frans Rautenbach, Jana Cilliers, Graham Hopkins, Anthony Coleman A confession to start this review: I have always been a Paul Slab fan. Not only of his writing, but also of his acting. And probably more than anything, of his passion as … Continue reading AGEING GENTLY WITH PAUL SLABOLEPSZY IN WHAT CAN BEST BE DESCRIBED AS A TIME WARP

The First Klein Karoo National Arts Festival Virtual Gallery Is Visual Feast

DIANE DE BEER

KKNKBarbara Wildenboer in die 3D Virtuele Galery 2
Festival Artist Barbara Wildenboer in the 3D Virtual Gallery 2

The arts have been reeling from Covid19 from the word go especially as it all began locally right at the start of the festival season when many artists earn the bulk of their bread and butter money.

It’s been a frantic scramble for artists to find a way to function in this new world and as many of us realise, this (which we don’t yet understand in its fullest) is the new normal. Awful phrase, but we might as well get used to it because it is what it is and even though Donald Trump is trying his best to ignore the many dying from the virus, the whole world has had to reinvent and find a way to start functioning again.

In the arts, it has been fascinating to watch because this is what artists do – they reinvent themselves – but for some like visual artists, it is perhaps an easier process. They’re not quite as dependent on live audiences in close proximity as actors and musicians for example.

With this in mind, the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) was quick to react.

Their festival, which would have been held at the end of March, like all those following, had to be cancelled and they are still scratching their heads about how to proceed in the future.

KKNK Barbara Wildenboer in die 3D Virtuele Galery
Barbara Wildenboer in the 3D Virtual Gallery

But what became pretty obvious fairly soon was that they could create a virtual art gallery of the 11 exhibitions which were on their way to Oudtshoorn just as the festival was closed down.

“We are extremely excited to launch the first Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) Virtual Gallery, where art enthusiasts from all over the world will now have the opportunity to engage with the festival’s visual arts exhibitions,” explained Hugo Theart, Artistic Director of the KKNK.

Theart says the festival has built a reputation for its extraordinary visual arts exhibitions over two decades and this year has encouraged them to take the virtual leap. “Although the cancelation of the 2020 festival due to the current Covid-19 pandemic remains a great disappointment, we are excited about this new digital experience”, he says.

And that’s exactly the thing. In this new world artists have to get creative and find new ways to do their work.

KKNK Usha Seejarim Nesting installation SMAC Gallery Photo Credit Zivani Matangi (002)
Usha Seejarim Nesting installation SMAC Gallery. Photo: Zivani Matangi.

As chance and luck should have it, their brand-new visual arts curator, Dineke van der Walt, is young and probably grew up in a digital world. She was excited about the possibilities of this virtual gallery and says that in the future it can only get better. What it does is allow an international as well as local audience to visit this year’s art contribution with the theme Down to Earth.

KKNK Maryna Cotton and Sarel van Staden, MeerKat, Exhibition Karoo Stories
Maryna Cotton and Sarel van Staden, MeerKat, Exhibition: Karoo Stories

According to Van der Walt, art can be viewed and bought directly in the Virtual Gallery. “Festivalgoers, art enthusiasts and collectors now have the opportunity to roam the digital halls of our visual arts programme, viewing the splendour of 11 exhibitions without the crowds. The offering includes works from 45 artists and more than 200 artworks”, she explains.

And she’s not exaggerating. Even though the exhibitions weren’t created with the digital space in mind, the curator and artists have been extremely creative, finding a unique way to show the work in a way that works specifically with each individual exhibition.

KKNK Sbongiseni Khulu The Creation of Famine Exhibition Another Kind of Blue Curator Amé Bell David Krut Projects (002)
Sbongiseni Khulu: The Creation of Famine Exhibition: Another Kind of Blue; Curator Amé Bell, David Krut Projects

Running through the different exhibitions, Van der Walt points to a few talented young curators, including Amé Bell, Tammy Langtry, Tlotlo Lobelo and Suen Muller. “Artists include Usha Seejarim, Lisl Barry, Manyaku Mashilo, Strijdom van der Merwe, Heidi Fourie, Linda Ballen, Zhi Zulu, Olivia Botha, Ronél de Jager, JP Hanekom, Keneilwe Mokoena, Maryna Cotton, Sarel van Staden, Owen Claassen, Vincent Osemwegie and Nanette Ranger – as well as a collaborative exhibition between Jenna Burchell, Jaco van Schalkwyk and Wayne Matthews”, she says.

She notes that artworks by three young artists from Oudtshoorn are also presented by the Absa Gallery. Colin Meyer, Zietske Saaiman and Earlyn Cloud.

KKNK Barbara Wildenboer, Festival Artist Portrait with Pareidolia series
Barbara Wildenboer, Festival Artist Portrait with Pareidolia series

“A highlight of this project is a remarkable retrospective of this year’s festival artist, Barbara Wildenboer,” Van der Walt explains.

“Translating exhibitions which were planned for very specific brick and mortar spaces to the digital sphere proved to be specifically challenging,” she notes. A particular struggle was to find the best way to showcase installations as well as an interactive “sound painting”. “Due to the immersive and interactive qualities of these works, they are designed to be experienced by bodies in spaces,” she says.

“I also wanted to make sure the virtual rooms didn’t feel too empty and therefore thought it best to make as much information as possible available around the artworks and the exhibitions. The inclusion of the audio walkabouts also really helped to add voices to the spaces and give visitors accessible information delivered by the respective curator or artist. I enjoyed adding these different voices talking about their exhibitions in their own words – it helps add personality to each exhibition.

“I’m very interested in utilising curatorial strategies to effectively engage audiences and throughout the process tried to keep in mind how visitors might move in the space, and what could be included to facilitate a pleasant experience in the virtual gallery. I realised that different visitors might prefer different modes of viewing work online, and subsequently tried to include more than one way to access the work.”

And this is what I find particularly fascinating. Often at festivals, we don’t have an abundance of time to go through the different galleries and I find myself limited in the viewing experience because I haven’t done enough of homework.

KKNK Jenna Burchell, Sound portrait - Wayne Matthews in F Minor, Exhibition - A Land I Name Yesterday, Barnard Gallery
Jenna Burchell, Sound portrait – Wayne Matthews in F Minor, Exhibition – A Land I Name Yesterday, Barnard Gallery

Van der Walt has gone out of her way to make sure the exhibitions become alive with a fount of information to dip into.

She has also included a visitor’s book in an attempt to help put faces (“or rather names”) to the visitors, as a way to allow exhibitors and artists a form of interaction with their viewing audience.

“I enjoyed confronting my preconceived ideas of what curatorial strategies should and could be and considering what form presenting exhibitions might take when it solely exists digitally.

“It’s been a wonderful learning curve for me, especially working on creative ways to attract visitors and create a new exhibition experience. Because I don’t believe virtual exhibitions should merely try to imitate brick and mortar exhibitions, it can be a unique curatorial method.”

KKNK Ronél de Jager In a quiet corner of the room Exhibition Vanishing Act Curator Suen Muller (002)
Ronél de Jager: In a quiet corner of the room; Exhibition: Vanishing Act; Curator Suen Muller

This is hugely exciting. The live experience can never be replaced by the digital world. It is important to play with the different strengths – not try to imitate, which is exactly what Van der Walt did.

She also pointed out that this had to happen after the fact. With this experience and (perhaps) in future doing both, the digital is simply going to go from strength to strength and enlarge rather than diminish future audiences.

“This initiative creates an important platform to visual artists to sell their work and generate an income from works that were created for the KKNK this year,” Theart says.

He adds that this will be the first of many exhibitions. “We believe this will become another KKNK institution which will add more value to our supporters and add more opportunities for visual artists in future.”

The first ever full scale KKNK Virtual Gallery is open at www.kknk.co.za  and can be viewed until 22 July 2020.

It’s truly a spectacular experience.

Hustles Explains the Creative Compass of an Architect and a Photographer with a Contemporary African Space

DIANE DE BEER

I am fascinated by the idea that the greatest architecture in the city has happened by accident

Thomas Chapman.

Hustles1

Hustles – Five Years Of Local Studio by architect Thomas Chapman with photographer Dave Southwood:

 

Because of the time I’m writing in, I couldn’t speak to the author(s) face to face, but really didn’t need to, because they state their purpose so clearly in the book Hustle – Five years of Local Studio by Thomas Chapman (Photographer: David Southwood).

The title, explains the architect Thomas Chapman, refers to the “opportunistic process of becoming local – of using design to solve urban problems amidst immense financial and time constraints – and throughout this process, trying to hustle an architectural product that is present, engaged, hopeful and ultimately, never boring”.

Knowing a few of their buildings but also having read this book, they can never be accused of that – boring! No sir!

Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre
Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre.

With this book then, Thomas wanted to capture the spirit of the five past years of his practice, which consisted entirely of projects that required hustling of some form or another to get the project done.

In the meantime, he states, while compiling the book, they have embarked on a new phase for the practice with “more trusting clients, (slightly) bigger project budgets and hence a greater refinement in design and construction.

He admits to it being tempting to include some of these projects to extract value from what was becoming a very expensive book, but he resolved to draw the line at 99 Juta, at the time their most recently completed project in Braamfontein, which he thought still captured the spirit of Local Studio as a start-up.

Their choice of photographer, David Southwood, a self-proclaimed human rights photographer, is someone whose pictures of their work made them change the way they saw and contextualised their work so that they started thinking differently about people in cities.

Urban landscapes
Urban landscapes

David recalls their first meeting in the book and quotes something he said on their drive: “I like photographing architecture, but I much prefer photographing scenes which embed the built form into the street and render the structure as a continuum of its context, if in fact they are at all connected. In fact the photos of architecture that I have done which I like the most obscure the structure almost entirely.” As it turned out, the architect and the photographer were a perfect match.

Urban landscapes
Urban landscapes

He remarked further on in this introduction: “The only way a practice can include as many street photographs as this in a monograph is if they are genuinely concerned with the street. Local Studio is obsessed with the street. The street is the immediate  material context in Johannesburg if you are building, where the urban fabric is rough and unkempt.”

Outreach Foundation Community Centre
Outreach Foundation Community Centre in Hillbrow.

Familiar with the following project, the Outreach Foundation in Hillbrow, because of the Hillbrow Theatre where Gerard Bester is involved, this is also one of the projects I want to focus on here.

Gerard explains in a piece about this complex that the theatre provides a space for inner-city children and youth. It serves the neighbourhood and after-school programmes are held. The theatre was there, but in 2009 they raised some money for a homework centre. After workshops and discussions were held with Thomas, what emerged was a building that now houses the computer centre, dance studio, boardroom and offices of the youth centre.

He explains further that though Hillbrow has negative connotations for outsiders, “I think the people that actually live in Hillbrow, have made it their own.”

Hillbrow Trauma Counselling Centre
Hillbrow Trauma Counselling Centre

Even though it is one of the city’s toughest neighbourhoods, he believes that we have to keep “engaging an exercise in imagining what Hillbrow can be, and not oppose that; to absolutely engage with the people that reside in the neighbourhood, and not gentrify it but to create meaningful, authentic change.”

Which is exactly what has been happening with the project he is engaged with – creating a safe space that is also open and accessible.

Hill Cafe
Hill Street Café

Pretty close by is (was) the Hill Street Café, a steel restaurant pavilion built as a temporary structure on the foundations of a demolished lunatic asylum in Jozi’s historical Old Fort (just above the Constitutional Court) which was designed to last 2 years but eventually stood for four.

I can remember doing an interview with Gerard there about the Hillbrow Theatre and it’s a pity that the structure, which was erected there specifically to commemorate the space where the Asylum stood, has been removed. It was a warm and embracing space with great coffee and I remember cool service.

Fullham Heights now
Fullham Heights which now houses Breezeblock Café and Whippet Cycle Company on the ground floor, Local Studio on the first floor and two residential units on the top floor.

The other building which I am familiar with is the one that also houses the brilliant Breezeblock Café in Brixton. Called Fullham Heights, Thomas notes that it is one of the first projects to demonstrate the principals and guidelines of the Johannesburg Corridors of Freedom policy. It looks to promote mixed-use development and residential densification in neighbourhoods adjacent to the recently completed BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) network.

He explains that the building is a conversion of an old corner shop, which had been a Chinese restaurant and subsequently rented by Local Studio as office space prior to its purchase for redevelopment.

Fullham Heights
The Local Studio offices, a part of Fullham Heights in Brixton.

Now the building houses the funky Café and Whippet Cycle Company on the ground floor, Local Studio on the first floor and two residential units on the top floor. The new structure contrasts with the original concrete facade and pavement colonnade, which were restored as part of the project.

These are simply two projects selected because I am familiar with them, but there is so much more to this book. One needs to see the full scope to understand the ethos. Even if the firm is bigger and reaching higher, I can hardly believe that with this kind of creative compass, their work doesn’t still remain in this kind of contemporary African city mind space.

Westbury Pedestrian Bridge and Park
Westbury Pedestrian Bridge and Park, an effort to influence the choice of architecture in the city.

And what would be even better would be to buy the book and do your own guided tours to discover a city you probably weren’t even aware exists.

 

To buy the book:

https://local-studio.myshopify.com/products/hustles-book