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