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Archive: Issue No. 40, December 2000

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05.12.00 Samson Kambalu at the Thami Mnyele
28.11.00 Brendon Bell Roberts opens gallery in London
14.11.00 'Art Region End of Africa' opens in Rejkjavik
07.11.00 Sterkwerk: A new project of the Artificial Shelter Foundation
17.10.00 In Basel: Total Global: Fourth Round: South Africa
14.11.00 7th Havana Biennial opened
Middle East
14.11.00 The First Painting Biennial of the Islamic World opens

Samson Kambalu

Samson Kambalu
Holy Balls Exercise IV


Samson Kambalu at the Thami Mnyele

In the last few years, the Thami Mnyele Foundation in Amsterdam, which opened in 1994 to provide residencies for artists, expanded its criteria from accepting only South African artists to those from all over Africa. A three month visit is followed by an exhibition. The most recent incumbent was Samson Kambalu from Malawi, who presented an installation entitled Holy Balls, Exercise IV.

Says the artist, "My Holy Balls Exercises are basically tributes to that story of humanity influenced by the Holy Bivle, directly or indirectly. They represent all aspects of my life - an arena for redefining our past, present and future. This Holy Ball exorcises ghosts from my past wisheing to take part in my present life, In my mind, the whole ert is but a large Holy Ball field, here my psychic ghosts come to help me lay this game of life. I am their team player/manager.

"Every moment in time all kinds of ghosts are coming to this field to try their luck."

The exhibition ran at the Thami Mnyele Studio from November 23 - 25.

Thami Mnyele Studio, 21 Bellamy Street, 1053 Amsterdam

Brett Murray

Brett Murray
shows at the inaugural exhibition of Brendon Bell Robert's The Open Space Gallery

Brendon Bell Roberts opens gallery in London

Under the name The Open Space Gallery, Cape Town gallerist Brendon Bell Roberts is opening in London's trendy East End, just round the corner from the cool new East End home of the White Cube. Bell Roberts intends the gallery to provide a London presence and outlet for South African artists.

The inaugural exhibition will be a two-hander featuring cousins Wayne Barker and Brett Murray, with the spliced title of 'Brayne'. Two of the best known artists in the country, both are known for their witty, subversive work which engages constantly in the politics of being a South African. Their work has been described as "standing as an indictment on colonialism as well as misplaced political correctness".

Murray will be showing wall sculptures in metal and perspex seen earlier this year in Johannesburg at the Goodman and in Cape Town at the Bell-Roberts, "part of an ongoing, ironic look at guilt, memory and the crisis of identity" which underlies every aspect of life in South Africa. That show was called 'I Love Africa', and combined iconography from Tin Tin to Bart Simpson to West African fetish figures. To quote Ivor Powell, "In the almost visceral aversion that Murray's upended and discomposed narrative scraps and stereotypes provoke, we physically experience the deconstruction - the over-bright illumination - of the vanities and utilities in the ways we make up our world."

Barker will be showing a series initiated some years ago, the Zulu Lulus. Working from a trashy barroom item once widely produced and still to be found in London flea markets, Barker used hard bright colours to reproduce the Zulu Lulu swizzle stick and its backing card in an extended series. The work is a harsh "take on racial tyranny and cultural commodification".

Barker and Murray have both exhibited extensively internationally, and are well represented in the country's major art institutions.

'Brayne' opens on December 1 at 6.30 p.m.

The Open Spce Gallery, 40 Underwood Street, N1 London
Underground: Old Street
Tel: 077 65662625

Stephen Hobbs

Stephen Hobbs
Video projection

'Art Region End of Africa' opens in Rejkjavik

Curated by Gavin Younge, Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, 'A.r.e.a. - Art Region End of Africa' opens on November 17 at the Reykjavik Art Museum in Iceland - surely the most northern venue ever for an exhibition of South African art. Reykjavik is one of the nine cultural capitals of Europe for the year 2000, and in a statement on the exhibition, the director of the Museum, Eirikur Thorlaksson says, "The aim of the exhibition is to promote international cultural exchange on a North/South axis, and to advance the debate concerning globalisation and the distinction between Western and so called non-Western art expression."

The Rejkjavik Art Museum is a contemporary building at the Kjarvalsstadir in Reykjavik, and the exhibition will occupy 900 square metres of space. The artists selected for exhibition include Berni Searle, Terry Kurgan, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Stephen Hobbs, Senzeni Marasela, William Kentridge, and ArtThrob editors Kathryn Smith and Sue Williamson.

The museum's website is at

November 17 to January 5, 2001

Reykjavik Art Museum, Flokagata, 105 Reykjavik.


A new gallery with a focus on South African art opens in Holland.

Sterkwerk: A new project of the Artificial Shelter Foundation.

Dutch artist Jack Mensink, whose numerous trips to South Africa have made him well known to many artists here, has just opened a new gallery in the town of Tilburg in the south of Holland, where Mensink lives. The gallery, situated in the ground floor of a handsome house in typical Dutch architecture near the station and the town centre, will be called Sterkwerk, and will focus particularly on art and design from South Africa. The first exhibition, entitled 'Get Down White Boy!', presents the well known South African Big Boy and Boogie Lights, produced by Brett Murray and Conrad Botes, and was officially opened on November 4 by Wilbert van Herwijnen, the alderman of culture of the city of Tilburg. Tilburg is already on the agenda of cultural tourists to Holland - an old textile factory is now the space for one of the best medium-sized museums of contemporary art in the world, the De Pont, with a collection which includes work by Richard Serra, Thomas Schutte, Sigmar Polke and Marlene Dumas.

Since 1995, Mensink's organisation the Artificial Shelter Foundation has been developing projects which link artists from South Africa and the Netherlands, and also to be found in Tilburg is a textile museum where exhibition space adjoins the factory floor, where many old machines still function. This museum will host an Artificial Shelter project in which five artists from Holland have been linked with five from South Africa to design a large scale fabric piece - two metres by three - which will be produced on the old machines of the factory. The artist couples are Jack Mensink/Brett Murray, Rob Moonen/Kevin Brand, Deborah Landman/Lisa Brice, Anet van de Elzen/Andrew Putter and Liesbeth Biek & Jos van der Pol/Sue Williamson.

To get back to the new gallery : Sterkwerk will include an office and a gallery, making it highly feasible to host artists from abroad. Artists who are interested in exhibiting their works at Sterkwerk are welcome to send in their portfolio / slides / photos / concepts and / or proposals. Within a few weeks the website,, will be up with pictures of what the space looks like and information on Sterkwerk projects. 'Get Down White Boy!' closes January 6.

Sterkwerk, Noordstraat 32, NL 5038 EJ Tilburg, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 13 5430911
Fax: +31 13 5421374

Mthethwa and Nhlengethwa

"Swiss artist Mo Diener recently completed a residence at Cape Town's Greatmore Studios in Woodstock."

In Basel: Total Global: Fourth Round: South Africa

In an extended programme of encounters with 'non-western' art - round three featured Cuban artist Kcho - the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel opened the fourth round, focussing on South Africa, in September. The series is intended to present to a Swiss public a background to contemporary art in this country, and to open discussions on various aspects of this. Curator Zayd Minty and artist/curator Stephen Hobbs participated in a discussion on African Rennaissance, Art from South Africa in the West on September 25, and on October 15 there was a presentation of a video entitled Light Steps by Swiss artist Mo Diener, who recently completed a residence at Cape Town's Greatmore Studios in Woodstock. In this engaging piece, Diener, dressed in full Xhosa regalia, appears to be walking forwards through the city streets and station of Cape Town, while everyone else in view walks backwards. On October 22, Marcus Neustetter of the MTN Art Institute will make a presentation on the role of new media in art from South Africa. Also part of the museum programme is a thirty minute video discussion organised by Cape Town's Public Eye last year on video art in South Africa. The discussants are Malcolm Payne, Stephen Hobbs, Bridget Baker and Minnette Vari.

For more details, check the website at

William Kentridge

William Kentridge
Procession 1998
Video still

Kevin Brand

Kevin Brand
Babble 2000

Kevin Brand

Kevin Brand
Babble detail, 2000

Lisa Brice

Lisa Brice

Jane Alexander

Jane Alexander


7th Havana Biennial opened

One of the most highly regarded biennials by the South African art community - the Havana - opens this week in Cuba. Originally conceived for Latin American and Caribbean artists, since its second edition in 1986, it became the space for confrontation and dissemination of wide sectors of the visual arts from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In interesting venues all over the decaying grandeur which is Havana, the work not only of internationally known artists but also those still emerging, is exhibited. The opening ceremonies, infused with performances and the music and dance so characteristic of the city and made internationally famous in the film The Buena Vista Social Club, attracts art people from all over the world.

The 7th edition of the Biennial, scheduled for November and December of this year, "intends to reflect communication and dialogue among human beings in the midst of global and economic turmoil and the re-emergence of ethnic, religious and cultural particularisms which seem to increasingly accentuate the differences among the various communities and nations of the world."

Five South African artists will be participating - Jane Alexander, Willem Boshoff, Kevin Brand, Lisa Brice, and William Kentridge. Alexander will show a series of the photographic collages in which the artist places her sculptures in a series of landscapes. Entitled African Adventure: Cape of Good Hope, this set of fifteen images places sculptures made by Alexander over the past two years into a series of landscapes which in sequence, work as a loose narrative of a journey that starts in the Karoo and finishes in Long Street, home of the streetchildren on whom Alexander bases her sculptures. The penultimate images occur outside the Adventure Centre, ironically a travel agency for backpackers eager to embark on an "African experience". Boshoff's piece Writing in the Sand pays respect to South Africa's newly recognised official languages of Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu. Says Boshoff, "These indigenous tongues have been spoken for hundreds of years but were marginalised and disenfranchised under European rule. Today, in post-apartheid South Africa, we mistakenly believe that languages are no longer under siege - that their place in our new constitution is a guarantee for their survival."

In this work Boshoff stencils text onto the floor in sand. The piece will be 4 metres by 10 metres. The writing is done in the sand because it is an unstable medium and is easily disturbed. Writing in sandy places is easily damaged... disturbed by water and wind. Writing in Sand deals primarily with this loss. It points at an abject extinction of a people's collective myth when they no longer share it by word of mouth. It also hints at the figurative nature of information in cyberspace and the loss of smaller languages, such as San, Khoisan, Khoekhoen, Nama and Griqua, due to the dominance of superlanguages in their all-cut attempt to be heard clearly in a world where everyone tries to shout out their loudest.

Brand's piece, Babble, also deals with language. Known for his work in which he reconstructs well known images in pixels in white, shades of grey and black, for the Havana Biennial Brand has worked from the famous Breugel painting of the Tower of Babel. Cutting woodblocks with details of scraps of letters and communications symbols, Brand vacuumformed sheets of clear plastic on to these, then painted on the colours from the back. A final touch, once the work is in position in Havana, will be the addition of gold leaf highlights in certain areas. A second set of the sheets will be given to Dutch artist Rob Moonen who will meet Brand in Havana, and decide how to use his set according to his response to the city.

Lisa Brice has responded to the theme of communication by taking along a series of her Exit boxes. Each of these illuminated signs tells a short story in four images based on internationally recognised signage icons. As part of her installation, Brice will also work directly on to the walls, making l drawings in the historic Morro Castle, her venue, on the same theme, using paint with a special velvet finish.

Kentridge will be exhibiting Shadow Procession, a 35 mm film transferred to video and DVD. It was shot using animated paper cut-out figures, three dimensional objects, shadows, plus edited film from Ubu Tells the Truth. It is around seven minutes long, and was produced in 1999.

In his film, shadow figures made out of dark cut-out figures trail in ragged form across from the left to the right side of the screen. The melancholy sounds of an accordian, played by Johannesburg street-musician Alfred Makgalemele is heard in the background. In all, the work has three parts - the last two picking up some energy with dancing and drumming beginning with "echoes of the militant toyi-toyi chants of South Africa's insurrection, punctuated by militarised and combative slogans".

In a review of Shadow Processions, Ari Sitas has written: "The film as a total experience, feels unresolved: has Kentridge abandoned any empathy with his subject-matter? Has he flattened everything into an undifferentiated world of raw materials, there to be played with without referential consequence? The third part of the film seems to say so - the procession is incidental, the meaning of the toyi-toyi chants is decorative, objects take over and the cut-out form in movement is its intrinsic value. Crude and real images - the cat, the eye, do not disturb the proceedings, they act as a visual switch, a playful excess. Yet the first part of the film points another way: although abstracted, the cut-out figures invoke history and devastation, and a peculiar sense of hope."

The Biennial will host more than 80 artists, with the curator for Africa being Magda I. González Mora. Guest curator Clive Kellner. For further information and details go to where the program, exhibitions, symposiums, workshops, Cuban art, and architecture are listed.

The Biennial runs from November 17, 2000 - January 5, 2001.

Veronika de Greef-Gabrielse

Veronika de Greef-Gabrielse
Surah Fatihah
Oil on canvas
200 x 200 cm


The First Painting Biennial of the Islamic World opens

A call for submissions in the Exchange section of ArtThrob led to the selection of South African Veronika de Greef-Gabrielse for the First Painting Biennial of the Islamic World. The event is being hosted by the Islamic Republic of Iran's Academy of Art, in collaboration with the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, and is intended to give "impetus to artists to reflect the spiritual values embodied in the Islamic infrastructure."

The piece for which DeGreef-Gabrielse was selected is an oil painting entitled Surah Fatihah, based on the construction of new referential frameworks within the Christian-Islamic interface, and explores the visual-verbal resonance of calligraphy. Its colour symbolism of blue/feminine/lunar and yellow/masculine/solar enhances the meaning of the text which is the first chapter of the holy Qur'an, recited at every call to prayer, five times daily. The Surah Fatihah is a prayer likened to the Hail Mary (or Our Father), with its supplication to "... guide us along the straight path, the path of those upon whom thou hast bestowed thy favours..." An exploration of the duality between spirituality and materiality emerges.

For the past few years, De Greef-Gabrielse has focussed her study and its visual manifestation on theological discourse, literary perspectives, feminism and Islamic philosophy. She has exhibited in both group and solo exhibitions, and is currently exploring the role of martyrdom, expressed in metal and printing.

Artists from 18 countries have been selected for the Biennial, which includes a conference on contemporary painting in Islamic societies in its programme.

For further information, please visit

November 4 to December 25, 2000