Last week, Maria McCloy invited me to attend an exhibition at Unisa in Pretoria. ”Pre-what?” I said rolling my eyes thinking I’m gonna say yes and not go because whose got time to go to Pretoria? When she said she’s organized transport to attend the opening of the exhibition last Thursday, and the fact that it’s curated by one Thembinkosi Goniwe, there was no backing out. Stefanie Jason from Mail and Guardian, Maria and I made our way and we almost never came back, Miss Milli didn’t wanna get on the bus back. The brainy Goniwe says this of the exhibition: “Towards Intersections is an exploration to establish seams and points of exchanges: it is a contact zone in which to transact cultural economies and intellectual perspectives articulated from personal and socio-political interests. Of importance is the employment of these perspectives to establish discourses that question both historical and contemporary conditions to open up future potentialities. It’s an intersection of different artists, countries, experiences, venues and mediums from sculpture to painting, graffiti, video and performance art.”
I don’t really like openings because they are usually social events disguised as an exhibitions and this one was a perfect mix. I also really like discovering artists who operate outside the typical white cube gallery spaces. While I appreciate the existence of galleries like Stevenson and Goodman, I always feel really uncomfortable that the black artists in those spaces, if they are not making works that are tantamount to naval gazing (nothing wrong with that by the way in my books), the work is almost always about black identity which is informed by Apartheid and Colonialism and here we are in a post-Colonial and post-Apartheid South Africa. But all of those galleries are white owned and have been white owned. So you have a performance, a creation, an object, an instance, an expression of the angst of being black in this context in spaces where the art is mostly consumed and most likely bought by the very same white audiences that the artworks themselves are reacting to be it historically, socially and politically. Who gets exposed to these expressions of angst? Who gets to own these expressions of angst?
What is the point of art kanti? Is it to be bought and sold or is it there to awaken, touch, influence and interact with spaces outside a vortex of capitalism, of racism and sexism because it is usually made as a response to that? Anyway, now I’m getting into a subject that isn’t my forte but it’s something of a tension between me and that world. A lot of my friends operate within those spaces. They are artists, they make their living from producing art. Somebody needs to buy their works in order for them to eat. White people buy art. That is such a commonplace feature of things in the art world and in South Africa that a black collector’s forum needs to be formed as a response to the situation. It’s an interesting conundrum that a lot of black artists, not just in South Africa but throughout the world find themselves in.
The exhibition, which is at the Unisa Gallery is comprised of a combination of established artists like Mary Evans, Ed Young, Breeze Yoko, Blessing Ngobeni and Nelisiwe Xaba and some young ones I haven’t heard of, whose work really made an impression on me, especially a young performance artist named Buhle. It ends on 30 June and is free for all to attend.
This exhibition is part of the Africa month celebrations happening in South Africa and doesn’t begin and end at the Unisa Gallery, there’s an extensive programme of other exhibitions, talks, walk abouts and instillations until next month. Here’s some of what you can catch from this week:
Opening At 6pm on the 28th of May Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein is Introspection… Where art Thou? Curated by Ruzy Rusike the show engages with the position of the self in the new South Africa, taking self-reflection as its meditative means through the visual works of art. It features young artists Asanda Kupa, Palesa Mopeli, Busi Senong, Quinton Edward Williams and Alphabet Zoo (Minenkulu Ngoyi and Isaac Zavale)
Key industry players, students, media and artists Berry Bickle, Dana Whabira, Mary Evans, RaelSalley, and Buhlebezwe Siwana will be part of a panel discussion from 11am to 2pm on the 25th of May at UNISA Art Gallery in Pretoria.
Arts & Finance will be the theme of the discussion at The Gordon Institute Of Business Science on the 27th of May at 6pm . On the panel : Business Arts South Africa’s Michelle Constant; art collector and Black Collectors Forum member Makgati Molebatsi, Monna Mokeona of Gallery MOMO, Bongani Mkhonza curator of UNISA Art Gallery.
The opening on the 29th of May till the 30th of June at 6pm, Newtown, Johannesburg’s Museum Africa will showcase Anthea Moys, Nelisiwe Xaba, Ato Malinda, Buhlebezwe Siwana, Breeze Yoko and Rael Salley. All events are free and open to the public.
Images: Philip Santos