There are worse places to get some respite from the howling Grahamstown winds than the plethora of visual art exhibitions at the National Arts Festival this year. Here are some of the top picks:
1Athi-Patra Ruga: The Elder of Azania The Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award for visual art is always a highlight, but the work of Athi-Patra Ruga, this year’s winner, doesn’t exactly fit the mould of a typical art exhibition. The Elder of Azania – the latest evolution of his Azanian tales – is a 40-minute work that is part performance, part visual art, part costume and sound installation, which means you’ll need to book in advance to watch one of the five performances.
2Kemang Wa Lehulere: History Will Break Your Heart Kemang Wa Lehulere’s offering takes a bit of mental work as visitors to History Will Break Your Heart at the Monument Gallery will discover. Wa Lehulere’s work is conceptually dense and spans across a layered array of media that ties itself to the Fluxus and Actionist movements of the late 1950s, while narrating untold stories from South Africa’s past.
3Jodi Bieber: Between Darkness and Light The Goodman Gallery presents more than 100 photographs from celebrated local photographer Jodi Bieber at the Grahamstown Gallery, Albany History Museum.
4Battleground Curator Michael Godby’s exhibition responds to “the challenge of showing Charles Bell’s 60 drawings of the War of the Axe in Grahamstown, the very territory that was fought over during the Wars of Dispossession”, which should bring this relevant topic into the contemporary discussion.
5Phallus There are many others that will keep you going throughout the festival, but if all else fails, head to Phallus on the farm Bon Tempo in the Manley Flats area. There’s a surprisingly vast collection of phallic art displayed throughout the Phallery and Priapic Sculpture Garden. Leave the children at home for this one.
HISTORY WILL BREAK YOUR HEART Kemang Wa Lehulere shows some new work at the Stevenson Gallery’s exhibition this year
BETWEEN DARKNESS AND LIGHT Photographer Jodi Bieber shows more than 100 photographs at the Goodman Gallery exhibition this year