But is it art?

Sunday World - - News - BOI­TUMELO TLHOAELE

THERE was eu­pho­ria when Art­logic and FNB an­nounced the Joburg Art Fair s pro­gramme.

With the in­clu­sion of the launch of Art Week Joburg, the idea of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing art out­side the con­fines of a gallery open­ing night” set­ting was ex­cit­ing.

This meant be­ing fer­ried across the city on dif­fer­ent days to Soweto, the Mabo­neng Precinct, Braam­fontein, Rose­bank and Alexan­dra, the fes­ti­val s hubs, which aim to

con­nect lo­cals and visi­tors to the city

But this ex­cite­ment was short­lived on my trip. I chose to go to Alexan­dra, a place rarely as­so­ci­ated with art.

This is where Alex’s Gom.Art gallery and the Mabo­neng Town­ship Arts Ex­pe­ri­ence were ex­hibit­ing work from lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers.

The Arts Ex­pe­ri­ence is based on the con­cept of home gal­leries, where houses are vis­ited to view art­works.

The aim of this on­go­ing project is to bring peo­ple to spa­ces where they wouldn t nor­mally go. Back to the tour. I en­joyed the home vis­its, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hospi­tal­ity and walk­ing into the de­li­cious aro­mas of even­ing meals.

But the lack of good art was dis­ap­point­ing, with a few ex­cep­tions, such as Nd­abuko Ntuli’s paint- ings, ex­hib­ited at the Gom.Art gallery.

Ntuli s work de­picts the African woman in her nat­u­ral role as nur­turer.

He presents this with sen­si­tiv­ity and so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

Gom.Art direc­tor Vika Mjoka said Ntuli was on his way to Chicago in the US on the in­vi­ta­tion of the Color Me Africa art in­sti­tute.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is run by So­raya Shep­pard, whose mis­sion is to cele- brate artists from across the con­ti­nent.

Mjoka said it had been a strug­gle to raise funds for Ntuli’s visa.

They sold some paint­ings and fur­ther re­lied on con­tri­bu­tions from friends.

This story high­lighted the ma­jor dif­fer­ences between the well-oiled ma­chine that is the fair at the Sand­ton In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre and the Alexan­dra space, which seems to lack on ev­ery level.

I won­dered about the real intention of the tours.

I didn’t see any­thing mind­blow­ing, al­though I en­joyed the dif­fer­ent set­ting.

Asked whether the Alexan­dra tours were for the art or sim­ply an­other town­ship ex­pe­ri­ence” for tourists, Ijeoma Loren Uche-Okeke, re­gional devel­op­ment man­ager for the Vis­ual Arts Net­work of South Africa, said it was about the art.

But she ad­mit­ted that there were clear lim­i­ta­tions.

We did the best we could un­der the cir­cum­stances… we did not have enough time. But next year, it will be more struc­tured,” she said.

Let’s hope this means that while the fo­cus is on the au­then­tic­ity of the town­ship art ex­pe­ri­ence, other ba­sic com­po­nents for a qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence will be pro­vided for.

Cu­ra­tor and artist Them­binkosi Goniwe said that to ex­pect any­thing to be on a sim­i­lar stan­dard between Sand­ton and Alexan­dra, let alone any other town­ships, is a dream”.

The na­ture of things are not de­pen­dent on play­ers,” he said. The prob­lem is the struc­ture, the sys­tem and the his­tor­i­cal fac­tor.”

By its na­ture, art was an elit­ist ex­er­cise and only a few peo­ple would put the same kind of ef­fort and re­sources in Alexan­dra as they would in Sand­ton, he said.

This re­flects the na­ture of things un­chang­ing and the con­cen­tra­tion of re­sources in the same places.”

A Joburg-based cu­ra­tor and vis­ual artist, who did not want to be named, said it was im­por­tant to recog­nise the dif­fer­ent ge­o­graph­i­cal ar­eas, and that art at places such as Alexan­dra is a so­cial prac­tice, which is a genre on its own”.

She ex­plained that the tours went be­yond the art­work, and were about cul­tural ex­change and bridg­ing the gap between economies. But does it re­ally? I walked away feel­ing dis­heart­ened. Some­thing was amiss, but I couldn’t put my fin­ger on it.

I re­ally did hope to see some amaz­ing art­work, de­spite the ge­o­graph­i­cal area.

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