But is it art?
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.