All about Ka­belo Malat­sie, di­rec­tor of the Vis­ual Arts Net­work of South Africa


I am the rak­gadi (aunt) in the arts, and brand-spank­ing-new di­rec­tor of Vis­ual Arts Net­work of South Africa ( VANSA).

VANSA op­er­ates as a sup­port point and devel­op­ment agency for con­tem­po­rary art prac­tice in South Africa. We are a na­tional net­work of artists and arts or­gan­i­sa­tions with just over 8 000 mem­bers, but the net­work has a greater po­ten­tial to de­velop the arts in a mean­ing­ful way. We de­velop in­dus­try knowl­edge, re­sources, net­works and pro­jects that are con­cerned with re­al­is­ing new so­cial, cul­tural and eco­nomic pos­si­bil­i­ties for con­tem­po­rary art prac­tice in the South African and wider African con­text. Since join­ing VANSA, I have tried to un­der­stand the in­sti­tu­tion, its flaws and beauty. But hon­estly, I’ve been in the job for such a short time that I feel I have not done any­thing. I like what I do be­cause ev­ery­thing is very lay­ered and there is no right or wrong way of do­ing any­thing.

The worst part of my job is ad­just­ing to a nine-to-five af­ter work­ing in­de­pen­dently for a year and a half. Art in South Africa has be­come for­mu­laic be­cause we keep see­ing works by the same artists who are in high ro­ta­tion. My hid­den gem in the in­ner

city is ashamedly my house. I am such a home­body it is crim­i­nal, but when I’m in the city I love ev­ery­thing… its build­ings and the pal­pa­ble, crazy buzz and en­ergy. The cityscape is al­ways beau­ti­ful at sun­set and at night. The best views in South Africa

have to be in the Tsit­sikamma area, the wa­ter­falls through­out Mpumalanga, Cape Town, and Pon­doland in the East­ern Cape. When I’m tired, I watch anime or some mind­less se­ries I find on­line. My

kitchen cup­board sta­ples are chill­ies, fresh chill­ies, pick­led chill­ies... chill­ies in any form! The best ad­vice I have ever re­ceived

was from my grand­fa­ther re­spond­ing to my grand­mother’s re­quest to ad­vise me. He said, ‘It does not mat­ter what I say, she will do what­ever she wants.’ Work­ing in

the arts has taught me to see and un­pack sit­u­a­tions from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives, and al­low my views on things to change as I grow. The one thing no one knows about me is that I don’t like peo­ple tak­ing pic­tures of me. Ev­ery artist should try to re­main on their path, but not be too fixed on how they reach their goal. They should al­low their jour­ney to me­an­der. My go-to com­fort foods are fruit and ice lol­lies. I al­ways travel with dried fruit and wet wipes. The one place I’ve trav­elled to that

I’ll never for­get is Swakop­mund, Namibia. See­ing those golden dunes next to wa­ter was so un­be­liev­able. It com­pletely changed my world view on what is pos­si­ble. From

my trav­els I al­ways bring back con­nec­tions with beau­ti­ful peo­ple, smells, colours and ways of do­ing that defy my own logic.

My next dream hol­i­day is in South East Asia and Cape Verde. If money were no object, I’d treat my­self to an early re­tire­ment and an ex­ten­sive trip on the con­ti­nent. The last book I read was Tir­dad Zol­ghadr’s Trac­tion. I’m lis­ten­ing to Frank Ocean, Sibusile Xaba, Hlasko (Neo Mahlasela), Erykah Badu’s But You Caint Use My Phone, Thomas Chauke and a lot more. I hate it when I am forced to make small talk. I’m def­i­nitely not one to call when you don’t want an hon­est an­swer. If I could change one thing about

South Africa, it would be the su­per-high level of in­equal­ity and lack of ba­sic so­cial ser­vices. Don’t leave Jo­han­nes­burg with­out meet­ing real lovers of Joburg in their homes, vis­it­ing the in­ner city, and go­ing to the Jo­han­nes­burg Art Gallery and Carl­ton Cen­tre. When I was younger, I used to think

that I would be sin­gle, liv­ing in a pent­house, with lots of vin­tage cars. It’s re­ally funny how my life has turned out to be ab­so­lutely noth­ing like that! ka­be­lo_­malat­sie

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