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Archive: Issue No. 43, March 2001

Go to the current edition for SA art News, Reviews & Listings.


27.03.01 Arts and Culture Trust Annual Awards postponed - again.
20.03.01 Taxi 001: Jo Ractliffe on a shelf near you
20.03.01 Culture in Cape Town
20.03.01 Glossary to understanding contemporary South African arts and culture
13.03.01 South Africans in Venice, Part II
06.03.01 South Africans in Venice
27.02.01 Artthrob Questionaire
27.02.01 Two new galleries open in Johannesburg

Arts and Culture Trust Annual Awards postponed - again

The annual Arts and Culture Trust of the President Awards, given to individuals, companies, organisations and the media judged to have most succesfully supported the arts in the previous year, have once more been postponed. The Awards, which were instituted in 1998, recognise excellence in eleven categories, eight of which carry monetary prizes. The winners of the monetary categories receive R10 000 each.

Originally the awards for the year 2000 were to have been announced on November 28 of that year. In October, a letter was sent out to nominees telling them that since the ACT offices would be moving from Cape Town to Johannesburg, the awards had been postponed to March. Recently, a new letter has been circulated, which reads: "We have had to re-look at this event and with the assistance of our founding trustees have decided to re-design the awards. As a result of this we need more time to plan and present a prestigious event. Based on the amount of work still to be done, the final date of this event will most likely be in September. The re-design of the event will necessitate re-opening the call for nominations. Your nominations will be held over for the next awards and therefore you need not re-apply."

One hopes that the money which should have been awarded last year to the nominees will not now go into the planning and presentation of the "prestigious event". And will the new awards be for the two year period 2000/1, or what?

We apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused but we promise an unforgettable event later this year. Your understanding and continued support is much appreciated and we ask you to keep watching our website at: for any new developments in this regard. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any further information.
Yours sincerely
Lulu Khumalo
Chief Executive Officer

Jo Ractliffe

Taxi 001: Jo Ractliffe

Taxi 001: Jo Ractliffe on a shelf near you

The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) released an artist's monograph on Wayne Barker last year and announced the launch of a series of artists books edited by Brenda Atkinson, funded by IFAS, Prohelvetia and the MTN Art Institute and published by David Krut Publishers.

A bold, independent publishing venture that has the potential to fill a glaring gap in the local arts publishing world, the books are in three languages (Dutch, French and English) - to harness international distribution - and intelligently conceived educational supplements are available separately for each forthcoming title. Taxi 001: Jo Ractliffe is now available in Exclusive Books, Art On Paper in Main Street, Melville, Boekehuis, in Cookham Street, also in Melville, the Protea Bookshop in Pretoria, and selected shops in Cape Town.

A quick sneak preview reveals a beautifully designed book that manages to convey the often fleeting and ephemeral qualities of Ractliffe's photography and video work, and reads like an exhibition on paper. It is a comprehensive document of Ractliffe's most important production to date, spanning Nadir, Shooting Diana, reShooting Diana, Guess Who Loves You, End Of Time, Vlakplaas and the Vita award winning video installation, Love, Death, Sacrifice and so forth. A list of references, articles and exhibition is also included.

Soon to be launched is Taxi 002: Samson Mudzunga, co-authored by Kathy Coates and Stephen Hobbs, and Taxi 003: Jeremy Wafer with a text by Lola Frost.

For more information, contact David Krut at + 27 11 646 8595 or, Maud Felix-Faure at + 27 11 836 0561 or or Les Cohn at +27 11 406 2807 or

Public Eye

The Public Eye offices in the Bijou, an art deco cinema which burnt down some years ago and which also houses Conrad Hicks' Blacksmiths Forge.

Ben Ngubane

Minister of Culture
Ben Ngubane
by Stent

Click to see the animation.

Culture in Cape Town:

Public Eye turns two...

The Cape Town Section 21 company dedicated to promoting art in public spaces celebrates its second birthday this week at its new offices in the old Bijou Building in Observatory. The organisation has a busy year ahead. As a follow up to the two Softserve art events held previously in the South African National Gallery, there's been a name switch for this occasion to Softsell: Money and Culture, with the aim of developing critical, positive ways of connecting art, advertising and business. The central exhibition will now take place on the weekend of September 7, 2001 (instead of in February as originally planned), and instead of being limited to certain galleries, the whole National Gallery in Cape Town will be used and the exhibition will stay in place for three days after the party is over.

Softsell's unusual emphasis on collaboration and hybridity has sparked intense local and international interest in the project. Top designers, artists, architects, writers, musicians - and many others from the worlds of art, media and business - are already collaborating on the project. Copywriters are working with singers; architects are working with typographers and lighting designers; performers and vj's are collaborating with wire sculptors. If you want to get onto the Softsell mailing list, please e-mail

In the 'Home Port' , a collaboration with a Dutch organisation called Cell, Public Eye will direct a project which considers the meaning to the residents of Cape Town of the city's status as port. This project will also take place in five other port cities around the world this year - Jakarta, Havana, Bombay, Rotterdam and Shanghai. Each group will produce a tabloid newspaper about the event, and these will be bound together to form a catalogue. The Public Eye project will take place in the first week of December, and is still in development.

In a third project, Public Eye are organising an exhibition of large scale outdoor sculpture at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. PE will celebrate their birthday at a fundraising dinner (R100 a head) in the old Bijou on Friday, March 23. Artwork by members artists, including Brett Murray, Lisa Brice, and Kevin Brand will be auctioned. If you would like to be there, or to get on the Public Eye mailing list, email coordinator Robert Weinek at

and BLAC launches their programme for 2001

A seminar entitled Whose looking, whose laughing and whose buying held at the Baxter Studio Theatre In Rondebosch on Friday, March 16 was the first public event for BLAC this year.

The seminar addressed the topic of the challenges to black artists in theatre, dance and the visual arts in having their work heard, seen and appreciated by diverse audiences and institutions. Featured speakers were Marc Lottering (actor), Jaqui Job (dancer) and Ashraf Johaardien (publicist, theatre administrator).

The evening also marked the launch of the organisation's website, BLAConline. Register online and have a presence on this pioneering website for a year. Check for further details and the new site, as well as the new animation by Stent.

Glossary to understanding contemporary South African arts and culture
Mike van Graan of The Cultural Weapon published this "glossary" on this week:

ACCOUNTABILITY: not applicable for amounts lost in excess of R45 million

ACTOR: a euphemism for "waitron"

ADAM: the first man in the line of defence against any critical onslaught - real or imagined - on the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology

ARM'S LENGTH: 2 millimetres

COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY: Nteta, Nteta and Nteta

CONSULTATION: government taking advice from consultants paid to talk to those whom government couldn't be bothered talking to

CRITIC: (1) a racist (2) someone who's the toast of town when s/he writes something good, and who's just toast when s/he does the opposite

DACST: (1) Department Against Common Sense and Thought (2) Department Acting in Cahoots with the State Theatre (but then lapsing into ignorance and denial)

FLAGSHIPS: museum versions of the Titanic

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: a wonderful democratic right practiced without fear in the Netherlands

HOLY GRAIL: an audience of forty or more

I DIDN'T KNOW: the arts equivalent of sport's "the devil made me do it"

LOBBY: (1) a foyer (2) a mini-lobotomy required of all who remain involved in arts and culture (3) an apartheid-era practice

LONDON: a place where artists may ply their trade at state expense, provided their work does not deal with unpatriotic issues like crime and HIV/AIDS

LOTTERY: (1) a reference to your outside chances of getting NAC funding as an opera company or orchestra outside Kwa Zulu Natal (2) the promised land

MAESTRO: saviour of the State Theatre (but then you had to see the State Theatre)

MARKET: (1) first theatre to retrench staff AFTER receiving a state subsidy (2) people who used to buy theatre tickets, now resident in Perth (3) a potential source of income whose interests are seldom considered when creating art

MOTHBALL: temporary closure, no, temporary openness, no, half-closure, no, full half-openness, no, half temporary full closure

NAC: Natal Arts Council

OPEN LETTER: a device most likely to elicit a response from the Department in less than one month

PATRIOT: (1) an arse-creeper (2) a brownnoser (3) a ja-baas (4) a zip-on-the-lip

PLAYHOUSE: (1) a concept in search of definition (2) a definition in search of a practice (3) a practice in search of funding (4) four walls, a Board and a tape recorder in Durban

POLICY: a good set of ideas implemented badly, then mistakenly thought to require another good set of ideas

RACIST: (1) someone with whom you do not agree (see critic) (2) legitimate employment policies at the Playhouse

RINGFENCE: taking away from Peter, Dick, Tom, Harry, Sipho, Maria, Bulelwa, Sophie and Rajni, to bail out Paul

SCAM: Acronym for Scott Asset Management

STD: State Theatre Disease, terminal in the case of orchestras, ballet companies, and the odd job or 400. Experts deny a link with HIV (Have Invested Villainously)

STIPEND: the equivalent of a dancer's monthly salary paid to Board members to attend one-off meetings to discuss the dancers' possible retrenchment

SUSTAINABILITY: longevity for local arts companies made possible only by international governments

TAPE: not the kind of thing to leave on when discussing Indians

TAX INCENTIVE: a desire by artists to pay tax in exchange for ongoing work

TENDER: consultancy work generally awarded to Gobodo Incorporated

THEATRE: (1) see white elephant (2) a dark place (3) a resilient phenomenon which survives and grows contrary to expectations

TRANSFORMATION: changing the colour of incompetence

XULU'D: Zulu for "collared"

WHITE ELEPHANT: see theatre

WHITE PAPER: a 100-year plan

WHITEWASH: investigations into arts and culture scandals

WIXLEY AND FRANKS: the Smith and Wesson of arts and culture

Mike van Graan

Berni Searle

Berni Searle
Snow White, 2001 Video installation (detail)

Minnette Vari

Minnette Vari
Mirage, 1999
Video Animation

Minnette Vari

Minnette Vari
REM, 2001
Video Animation

South Africans in Venice Part II: who is showing what

Venice may no longer considered to be quite so cutting edge and contemporary as Germany's Kassel, with its Documenta, but to show on the Venice Biennale still carries enormous cachet for an artist, and the prospect of showing on such an august international art event, which will certainly be visited by a great number of the world's most important art people is one to be taken very seriously.

Thus, it is even more frustrating than usual when an artist has made his proposals in plenty of time, but the funding has not yet come through, and time is getting short. Willem Boshoff, who will be showing on 'Authentic/Ex-centric: Africa in and out of Africa' jointly curated by Salah Hassan and Olu Oguibe with Emma Bedford as associate curator, put up no less than five proposals of varying degrees of difficulty and expense, but has still not had the nod allowing him to go forwards. The theme of the exhibition is to explore contemporary African art practice at the millenium within and outside of the continent, especially as it manifests in the form of conceptual art. The piece Boshoff hopes to make will be called Panifice, which means, making bread. The concept behind Boshoff's piece lies right at the heart of the impulse that brought the African Forum into being: to try to close the artistic divide between Africa and the countries of the Northern hemisphere. Boshoff has started with the biblical phrase, "Who among you if a man's son asks you for bread will give him a stone?" Bread is a symbol of life, and the sharing and breaking of bread, a basic act of fellowship and companionship. But Boshoff thinks that Europe will never be prepared to break bread with Africa. His loaves of bread, 56 in all, and slightly larger than lifesize, will be made of granite, and thus, unbreakable. Each will sit on a breadboard engraved with text matching European with African languages in what Boshoff sees as a futile but poignant attempt to claim a common humanity.

On the same show, in a piece which should resonate against Boshoff's, Berni Searle's Snow White is a two screen video installation in which the artist is drenched with flour, then uses the flour which has fallen in front of her to make a large roll of dough, which she proceeds to break into pieces. Again, a subtext is the primal act and meaning of making and sharing bread - or in this case, a roti. Searle is constantly reinventing and transforming herself, thus claiming for herself new appearances and identities which question the traditional stereotypes so long a part of South African society.

The other artists on Authentic/ Ex-centric are Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Godfried Donkor, Rashid Koraichi, Berni Searle, Zineb Sedira and Yinka Shonibare.

The other important show to feature South African artists is the one being curated by the director of this year's Biennale, the 49th, Harald Szeemann, who selected the artists for his show himself, and has made it clear that the artists may make no public announcements about their work before the official press release about the show, expected some time towards the end of March. The Biennale this year is entitled "Plateau of Mankind", and will be held at the Giardini di Castello and at the Arsenale. Szeemann, (who also directed the Biennale of 1999) has made it clear that the characteristics or the complexity of any particular project will be the only criterion in establishing the exhibition venue, and hence "the Padiglione Italia will no more host famous artists only, as before", to quote from the official correspondence.

In deference to Szeemann's wishes, the two South African artists on this central show, Tracey Rose and Minnette Vari have declined to speak directly to ArtThrob on their work, but the following is understood. Rose is currently artist in residence at the SANG (see listings) and is the subject of this month's artbio. She is using her residency at the SANG to prepare her work for Venice, which will be a video installation, and had this to say about her approach to the proposed work, "I'm hoping there'll be a lot of humanity in it - not just self lacerating but something more. There must be an allowance in any artwork for you to be charmed, that's frivolous. We should all create our own mythologies."

Vari first met Harald Szeemann in Zürich in 1999, and according to an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel, has declared himself fascinated with her work, and particularly Oracle, which he saw at the Bern Kunsthalle in April 2000, during the Swiss manifestation of 'South Meets West'. He went on to comment that "we don't have such intense work in Europe, and it will be a long time before someone makes a work like this."
According to a written artist's statement, Oracle is about "eating history and doing time". "In my research for this work, I have taken as a starting point Francesco de Goya's painting of Saturn devouring his children. Through my work I tear at the fabric of different realities, severing images from their origin and cleaving apart the logic of their familiar rhetoric.

"The proliferation of information about a history as active as South Africa's has been, can sometimes prove too much, and one reaches saturation point. Unable to deal with the influx of information, unable to digest all the different versions of reality, the figure in Oracle must reject mouthfulls of it, spitting pieces out, despite the forceful urge to ingest more."

At this stage, two other Vari works are also possibilities - Mirage that will be on show on "Rest and Motion" at the Oudtshoorn festival, and REM a new work, not yet shown in South Africa. There is also a possibility of a new work.

In Mirage, Vari plays with the South African coat of arms, which mutates from its original appearance into a shifting conglomeration of images and stories. In REM, the artist filmed herself sleeping, and edited together the most restless parts into a projected dream sequence in which many other elements are introduced, so the piece reads as "a tableau of human and animal figures and various objects engaging in a flow of relationships: the hunter and the hunted, the shaman and the devotees, adversaries in combat, the arrival of Europeans in their awkward cattle-drawn wagons. Despite their hallucinatory appearance, some images also seem strangely contemporary: scenes of modern warfare appear, present-day vehicles move about, people engaging in familiar late twentieth century actions. On the projection surface, all the different images appear as dream-objects in a landscape of apprehensive expectation. Throughout, the central figure performs her slow, rolling, trancelike dance, asleep and dreaming."

Finally, Cape Town artist Paul du Toit is on a show entitled '70/2000:The Road to Meikle Seggie,' a travelling show which will be housed in a yet undecided venue. The overall theme has to do with the number 7. The 70 participating artists had to produce seven works each, like the seven black boards of Joseph Beuys and the fibonacci sequence to do with seven of Mario Merz. Du Toit's piece, of seven cylindrical blue tubes, is entitled The Seven Sound Pillars of Wisdom.

Maria Magdalena Compos-Pons

Maria Magdalena Compos-Pons
When I am not here /Estoy alla (Triptych #2), 1996
polariod photograph

Minnette Vari

Minnette Vari
Oracle, 1999
Video Animation

Paul du Toit

Paul du Toit
The Seven Sound Pillars of Wisdom
Impasto acrylic on canvas, paint, wood, resin
Each cylinder is 25 cm high

South Africans in Venice, Part 1

South African artists will be represented in three different arenas at the 49th Venice Biennale which opens on June 10 this year. Traditionally, the older countries like Italy, Germany, the United States, Spain, Britain etc. have their own pavilions in the Castelli Giardini, the public gardens, while the johnny-come-lately countries with no pavilion like South Africa are sometimes allocated a minor space at the back of the generously sized Italian pavilion. In other cases, curators have to go out and locate other suitable exhibition spaces, of which there are many, but all are expensive, in the rest of the city.

At the last Venice Biennale, curated by the same director as this year, Harald Szeemann, the entire African continent was conspicuous by its absence, with the only participants Ghada Amer of Egypt and Georges Adeagbo.

To remedy this situation, the Forum for African Arts came into being to assume the responsibility of strengthening and sustaining the African participation in the Venice Biennale and develop and pursue long-term plans and strategies for a sustained presence of African artists in the Venice Biennale and other international art forums. The Board of this Forum, which is composed of prominent African and international curators, art critics, artists, and scholars, has served as an advisory board for the exhibition 'Authentic/Ex-centric: Africa in and out of Africa' , proposed for the 49th Venice Biennale and jointly curated by Salah Hassan and Olu Oguibe with Emma Bedford as associate curator. The intention of this exhibition is to explore contemporary African art practice at the millenium within and outside of the continent, especially as it manifests in the form of conceptual art. The exhibition features the work of several prominent contemporary artists who were either born on the continent or have their roots in Africa, including Willem Boshoff, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Godfried Donkor, Rashid Koraichi, Berni Searle, Zineb Sedira and Yinka Shonibare.

Within South Africa short-listed artists were approached to submit proposals for work that would address the themes of the exhibition. From these, the most appropriate and powerful works were selected which, in the opinion of the curators, would contribute most effectively to the exhibition as a whole. Funding is being raised within South Africa to enable the two South African artists to produce new work for this purpose.

For the show, the curators have secured a central venue, the Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, which is just off the Piazza San Marco. An additional venue, the deconsecrated church known as the Athenaeum, which is directly alongside St Mark's Cathedral, has also been obtained for the exhibition and will house one of the artist's installations.

The exhibition is funded by The Ford Foundation while The Prince Claus Fund is supporting the publication of the accompanying book.

Biennale director Harald Szeemann has also curated his own show which will be situated in the Italian Pavilion, and will form a central focus of the Biennale. The participating artists have been embargoed from discussing the show, but ArtThrob has learned that Tracey Rose and Minnette Vari have been selected by Szeemann for this important show.

Elsewhere in Venice, at a yet undecided venue, Cape Town artist Paul du Toit will be part of a show enjoyed an extremely successful run at the Edinburgh City Art Centre and formed part of the main show of the Edinburgh Festival last summer. The title of this component is 70/2000 The Road to Meikle Seggie, and the overall theme has to do with the number 7. The 70 participating artists had to produce 7 works each, and the other participating artists include Marina Abramovic, Marie Stangret, John Latham, and Ian Hamilton-Finley. The Venice showing will be held under the auspices of the Demarco European Art Foundation.


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Robert Hodgins

Robert Hodgins
Office Redecoration, 2000
Colour lithograph
11.8 x 17.3 in. / 30 x 44 cm

Tapfuma Gutsa

Tapfuma Gutsa
Listening to the baby kick, 1998
Opal Stone

Two new galleries open in Johannesburg

Art on Paper in Melville

After 14 years working in museums, Alet Vorster has decided to dedicate her time to the promotion of work on paper, including prints, drawings, some photographs and sculpture in some instances. Next to the Outer Limits bookshop on Main Road Melville, the gallery is announced by a simple, but bold sign on the fa´┐Żade of the building. A flight of stairs leading up to the space on the second floor gives the entrance a sense of occasion. The space is simple and clean with no frills or fussiness. Visitors and potential buyers are welcome to spend hours at the print drawers and under Vorster's very informed guidance, are sure to leave with a strong purchase.

Vorster encourages her artists to make the work affordable, as graphics should be. She's just collaborated with dealer and publisher David Krut on showing the results of an Artist Proof workshop with British master printer Maurice Payne, who has worked with David Hockney over the last 35 years. First-state prints were showed to a select group of friends and strategic stakeholders in preparation for Payne's return to work the plates to final state. The group of prints, by Kim Berman, Sam Nlhengethwa, Caludette Schreuders, William Kentridge and Deborah Bell, will be shown at the space later this year.

Art on Paper is a breath of fresh air in the current quagmire of a relatively comatose gallery system in Johannesburg. While Vorster will deal well-known names, she is interested in acquiring the work of emerging names. And it's not all about earnest monochrome linocuts, either - she hopes to bring a Bitterkomix show to the space in July. And with art critic husband Wilhelm van Rensburg, she has the opportunity to capture a gap in the market that if anything, has the potential to skyrocket.

Art on Paper, 8 Main Road, Melville, JHB (next to Outer Limits book shop)
Tel: (011) 726 2234)
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10.00 am to 5.00 pm

Chapungu Garden Gallery in Sandton

A version of the eponymously titled famous gallery and sculpture park in Harare, Zimbabwe, Chapungu markets and promotes the stone sculpture produced by the Shona people. Recently shown to great excitement in London's Kew Gardens and permanently on show at the Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town, Melanie Meyersfeld has decided to open a version in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Having mobilised cultural heavyweights Bridget Mabandla and Judge Albie Sachs to open the garden gallery, I hope these objects will not become victims of Sandton culture vultures, who will inevitably purchase one to go with their 4X4. No doubt the choice of suburb was no accident. The spectacular size and presence of the works are perfect choices for the nearby convention centre or hotel lobbies, but needs to be carefully managed so as not to repeat problems still experienced with the dealing of Venda art and other similar situations.

Artists will conduct workshops at the space during the first week of opening, which the public may attend. Workshops will be run until March 2.

Chapungu Garden Gallery, No 304 Adolf Street, Strathavon, Sandton
Tel: (011) 447 2476 or 447 7353
Fax: (011) 42 7692
Cell: 083 676 3560
Gallery hours: Sundays to Thursdays 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.