22.05.01 Yinka Shonibare in conversation with Kathryn Smith|
22.05.01 Sue Williamson's New York letter
22.05.01 Brad Hammond: Observations from Paris II
22.05.01 Basa announces award winners
22.05.01 Obituary: Paola Beck
15.05.01 Brad Hammond: Observations from Paris
15.05.01 Launch of Archival Information Retrieval System
08.05.01 America's ARTNews heralds contemporary art in Africa
08.05.01 Kathryn Smith's Maputo Diary
08.05.01 Maitisong Art Gallery finds a new home
Yinka Shonibare in conversation with Kathryn Smith
London-based art star Yinka Shonibare was in Johannesburg recently for the opening of an exhibition of his work, a scoop for local gallery Camouflage. The exhibition is sponsored by Billiton SA and curated by Camouflage director Clive Kellner. You'll remember Shonibare for his Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour, included on 'Alternating Currents' at the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. Or, for those with a copy of Okwui Enwezor and Olu Oguibe's Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Market Place, there's an image from his Diary of a Victorian Dandy series on the front cover.
Best known for installations and tableaux, including Victorian costumes made from Dutch Wax (batik) fabrics, and multi-part paintings mounted as wall installations, Shonibare's work may seem glamorous (which it is) and superficially simple (which it isn't) but he's not as self-effacing as he initially makes out. As Enwezor titled an article about him, "The joke's on you". Shonibare's got your number.
Shonibare was born in London to Nigerian parents, relocated at a very young age to Nigeria with his family, then moved back to London to study, aged 17. His research into Dutch Wax fabrics was prompted when a lecturer commented that his work (which focused on Russian politics at the time) was "not African enough". Dutch Wax is a prime motif for the complexities around postcolonial identity. Produced in the Netherlands and Manchester, the brightly coloured and patterned fabrics are influenced by Indonesian textile design. When they didn't take off there, they were flogged to the African market where they have since become absorbed to the point that they are considered an "authenticating mark" of West African culture.
The artist gave two lectures on his work, one at Wits University and the other at the MTN Art Institute. Apparently underestimating the level of the audience at the Wits lecture, Shonibare took us through his body of work in a descriptive rather than discursive manner. Instead of critically addressing the postcolonial economy into which his work has been so easily slotted, Shonibare filled in some art historical "gaps" with regards to feminism and Pop Art, which he claims, as a self-professed postmodernist, influence him enormously. I chatted to him at his hotel the day before the opening.
Yinka Shonibare (YS) with Kathryn Smith (KS) and press agent Bev Wright (BW)
KS: Are you making any radical changes to the gallery space?
YS: I don't know!
BW: Yes ... two major changes I can tell you about. If you've driven past the gallery, the outside wall is now a brilliant yellow. And inside, there is Double Dutch, and Yinka can talk you through that one ...
KS: Are you painting the interior pink?
YS: Just the specific section where the painting is going to be. Because the painting comes with the wall.
KS: You said in the lecture yesterday, "If you buy the painting, you buy the wall." Have people done that?
YS: Yeah. You obviously don't buy the exact wall, but you have rights to that way of installing it. You buy on the agreement that it will be installed in that way.
KS: And new work? Will you be showing any of the Alien or "space race" works?
YS: No, it's quite difficult to get hold of the work. It's quite a coup for them [Camouflage], I think, as it's difficult to get hold of pieces as there are so many shows happening at the moment.
KS: Can you keep up with production levels and requests?
YS: Well, I control production levels anyway. The gallery [Stephen Friedman] says no to so many things, but we have to keep it controlled like that. But even so, it is a bit of a problem. But it's good, it's a very good thing. I'm happy that people are responding very well. It's a sign that people are engaging with my work, that they have dialogue with it. That is very exciting for me.
KS: So where is most of your work at the moment? What kinds of exhibitions or collections is it included in?
YS: The Art Institute of Chicago, the Saatchi Collection, National Gallery Canada, Modern Art Gallery Scotland - various places.
KS: Tell me a bit about the 'Authentic Ex-centric' show at the Venice Biennale. Emma Bedford from the South African National Gallery is an associate curator on the show, and two South African artists, Berni Searle and Willem Boshoff, are included on the exhibition.
YS: I'm not really involved in the organisation of these things. Really and truly, I don't know anything about the organisation of exhibitions, so they spoke to the gallery. Otherwise I'd go crazy. [laughs]
KS: Do you have a full-time assistant?
YS: Yes, I have a number of assistants. They're not full-time though. With the costume pieces, I have about four different costumiers that I use. So it depends on the skills. I work more like an art director than an artist. I have design meetings with people, and so on.
KS: Have your costumes ever been "performed"?
YS: No, but there's somebody who does these crazy, avant-garde theatrical productions and she's been trying to work with me for years. I might do it at some point, but ...
KS: So you haven't been down a catwalk at Fashion Week, doing a Vivienne Westwood?
YS: No! [laughs]
KS: But are the costume works fully functional as clothing? Can they be worn?
YS: They can't. Well, they could be, but of course, the pleasure of it is that they're not, ever.
KS: Why do you say that - "the pleasure"?
YS: They're made specifically for visual titillation, and the fact that you may want access, but you won't get it. It's pure titillation. There were some people doing a fashion shoot and they rang me to see if their models could wear them, and I said no.
KS: Rory Bester wrote a text for the catalogue, implying you are some sort of taxidermist. You have also been called an anthropologist, which is interesting in the South African context. The most common observation that people visiting from abroad make is that artists in South Africa behave like anthropologists in the sense that the social context plays such a large determining role with respect to the work that is produced here. Do you think you work in a similar way, perhaps as some sort of fictional anthropologist, re-determining history, culture and representation from your own experience?
YS: What I want to say is that the study of anthropology for me is very dry. I consider myself to have more affinities to entertainment and theatre. In other words, my practice has more to do with hyperreality - theatrical reality - not the literal illustration of the study of culture. It is a space in which people can actually have fun and enjoy creativity and theatre. So it moves beyond a pure illustration of society. It's art because it becomes theatrical. It's not reality, it's fictional.
KS: Yes ... a kind of fictional or fictive anthropology. I would go as far as to say that, because I think so many complex things are revealed by the work's playfulness, or even its glamour, that wouldn't be revealed if the work took itself too seriously, or was too earnest in its desire to be politically heavy-handed. Would you accept that about your work.
YS: Oh yes, sure. In a way, I think that it's important that if you're an artist, you don't want to give people a dry, academic study. I would go as far as to say that even if they have no idea of the discipline in which you're working, they should be able to enjoy and engage with the pieces without any knowledge of anthropology or enthnology, etc. My work is about making very complex issues simple.
KS: Indeed, if anything, that comes through loud and clear. A lot of the work is really funny, but then you catch yourself laughing, and take a moment. It's good, old-style wit, which always possesses an undercurrent.
The view from Pat Steir's studio
Pat Steir's studio
Justine Wheeler, Amanda Williamson, and Vanessa Solomon at a babyshower
Pat Steir's studio
Justine Wheeler, Amanda Williamson, and Vanessa Solomon at a babyshower
Sue Williamson's New York Diary: Part 1
Sunday April 29
I have been in Madison, Wisconsin, for the past four days, participating in a conference entitled 'Fact and Fiction in Post-authoritarian Societies' at the University of Wisconsin. Writer André Brink was the keynote speaker on the opening night, and in the next two days, delegates from the US, Latin America, the Philippines, Eastern Europe and South Africa explored the way that art, performance, writing and popular music have changed - or not - with the breakdown of the old orders. Presentations have been enlightening and absorbing, and the organising group at the University of Wisconsin is working on a book on the subject.
Now I am in New York for 10 days, and head straight from JFK to ex-Capetonian artist Vanessa Solomon's apartment on The Bowery in lower Manhattan. The occasional drunk does still lie around on the street in spite of Mayor Giuliani's clean-up campaign, and I pass by one to climb the stairs to Vanessa's stunning floor-through - an apartment that stretches from the front to the back of a building - where a baby shower is in progress. The expectant mother is Justine Wheeler, who with Amanda Williamson was co-curator and participating artist on 'One Night Stand' at João Ferreira Fine Art in Cape Town last year. Also here are Lisa Brittan, co-director of New York's Axis Gallery; Jann Cheifitz, still involved in painting and screening fabrics for her own fashion business; and Amanda. Jeff Koons stops by on his way to a gala evening at the New Museum, and takes a photo of the group.
Monday April 30
What does one do on one's first full day in New York but shop! Almost all the museums and galleries are closed on a Monday anyway. In Barnes & Noble, one can choose whichever books one likes and take them over to the coffee shop, and browse for hours while drinking coffee.
Tuesday May 1
I am staying with Amanda and her husband, artist William Scarborough, in their house in Brooklyn, a quick subway ride to the city. Amanda works three days a week as assistant to Pat Steir, an artist whose vast canvases, with their thrown and trickled paint deeply influenced by Japanese painting and philosophy, are meditative and beautiful. Apart from a mural at the Whitney, I have only seen Steir's work in reproduction before - she was the subject of the cover story in Art in America in November 1999 - and again I am struck by the impossibility of conveying the reality of a piece of art in a small printed magazine reproduction. Steir's studio is gorgeous - an enormous whitewashed space on the 12th floor of an industrial building on West 26th Street, in the art area of Chelsea.
Crossing 26th Street, I enter the White Box, where Lauri Firstenburg and Douglas Cooper are curating 'After the Diagram' (see listings). As I go in, I hear a recorded voice say: "No sir, that is correct", and for a moment I am taken aback. Can it be that somebody else is utilising police captain Jeff Benzien's evidence from the TRC hearings that I have used in the interactive piece, Can't forget, can't remember? The accent sounds a little South African. Reading the wall text, I find I am listening to a sound piece by Siemon Allen called Marais/Brand in which the artist has used testimony given by statistician Laurentius Marais, a witness for the Republican (Bush) team in the notorious Bush vs Gore Florida legal case over the voting ballots. On the tape, this Marais relates statistical information. Allen was intrigued that this person, clearly a South African exile, should be giving evidence in this case. The evidence veers off into odd asides about storks and babies and seat belts to support Marais's case, and over it all, Allen has set music by another South African once in exile, Abdullah Ibrahim, earlier known as Dollar Brand. The music is intended to give the piece a "filmic" quality, and Allen's intention is to reflect on the way expatriate South Africans interact with the larger world.
Inside the gallery is a second piece by Allen, Elegy, a large-scale rectangle of woven magnetic tape which gleams a dull black. A Japanese tourist is photographing it enthusiastically, first from close up then at a distance. He smiles at me as if inviting me to share his enjoyment of the piece. Coincidentally, the work by the other South African artist, Kim Lieberman is also a woven grid, but on perforated paper, in white silk thread; delicate, where Allen's piece is massive. Lieberman's perforated sheets are like unprinted sheets of stamp paper, and in keeping with the theme of movement from place to place that these imply, Lieberman carries her sheets around with her as she travels, and embroiders them wherever she is, adding the documentation of the places where the piece has been worked on. I wonder if the two artists knew what the other would be exhibiting. The pieces, with their same basic structures but very different intentions, work well in counterpoint.
Of the work by other artists on show, my favourite is a piece entitled Neu-York by Melissa Gould, who calls herself Mego (the work is also visible on the net at www.megophone.com/neuyork.html). What the artist has done is located a map of Manhattan dated 1939, and using dull, militaristic browns, made a lithograph renaming every street and park in the city, using contemporaneous names from the city of Berlin, often strangely echoing the real New York name. It's as if history had rewritten itself, or a parallel history existed, and New York had fallen under the control of the Third Reich. Effective, and quite chilling.
More next week ...
The Pavillon des Sessions at the Louvre, where the 'Tribal Arts' are housed
'The Guardian (le Gardien)'|
A second dispatch from artist Brad Hammond in Paris
Here is a museum attendant in a large room surrounded by Claude Monets. He is filling out a crossword puzzle to prevent himself from going mad.
He's a thin stringy fellow. Looks at his watch, takes the crossword paper, folds it up and puts it in his pocket, and then transfers it to the pocket on the other side. He is perching on the edge of the chair. His left foot is propped up on its side and the right rests on top of it. He has bad posture from all this sitting. His eyes take on a filmy distance as he begins to sing silently to himself, his head bobbing slightly. Occasionally he reminds himself to blink. His fingers, which are sticking out of the ends of his jacket sleeves, tap the chair in tight, fleshy rhythmic loops.
An American voice carves its way into the room. D'ya see how all these brush strokes don't look like anythin' up close but then if you come back here they suddenly, like, look like water? AH yeah, comes the over-enthusiastic response. The room is bleached in flash light, and then again.
S'il-vous-plait-no-flash says the attendant loudly and monotonously. No Flash ripples in an excited whisper through the group and back at him as though it was some crucial piece of information. But they probably knew it anyway, which is why the words fell out of his mouth in black regulation letters and onto the floor.
The guardian looks at his watch and deciding to walk around the space one more time, plants his hands deep in his pockets and sets off in search of adventure to the other end of the room.
The action of his walking, the way his head rolls backwards while his shoulders roll forwards and back again takes on the quality of balancing snooker balls. Oh, how he would love to just collapse like a sack of potatoes under his own weight.
He stops and checks his watch. He wants to know how many minutes have passed since he last checked it. He sighs. Behind his head, between the exit and the large painting about the way light falls on walls are Monet's words in regulation letters:
I PAINT SO THAT I MAY FORGET MYSELF.
Basa announces award winners
This year's winners of the prestigious Business Day/Basa (Business & Arts South Africa) awards were announced earlier this month at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg.
The awards are the result of months of evaluation by a panel of judges from various sectors of the business and arts arenas and were developed to recognise and encourage excellence and innovation in the field of business support for the arts. The awards are open to all companies sponsoring arts events, projects or organisations in South Africa and to all companies sponsoring arts events overseas. There are 10 business awards in 10 categories. In each case, a specially commissioned work of art was given to the winning sponsor.
The winners for 2000 are:
Category 1: Best Use of a Commission of New Art
Category 2: First-time Sponsors
Category 3: Increasing Access to the Arts
Category 4: International Sponsorship
Category 5: Long Term Development
Category 6: Single Project
Category 7: Sponsorship by a Small Business
Category 8: Sponsorship in Kind
Category 9: Strategic Sponsorship
Category 10: Youth Sponsorship
The Chairman's Premier Awards
Obituary: Paola Beck|
Edited release from the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
Paola Beck died on May 15 after a short illness at the tragically early age of 42. Her death deprives the country of its leading thinker, teacher and trainer in arts and culture management - the field to which she dedicated her life in this country.
Born in Malta, Paola came to South Africa in 1982 and moved from work in the print industry through art restoration, industrial design and gallery management to a Fine Arts degree at Wits.
Paola was an accomplished artist and a fine musician with a passion for all of the arts that always informed her work in management. She continued her long apprenticeship with a period as a sales representative, combined with a lecturing contract at Pelmama Academy in Soweto and further experience of arts management at the Gertrude Posel and Johannesburg Art Galleries. In 1990 she became Galleries Manager for the Market Theatre Foundation.
This experience confirmed her belief in the need for comprehensive training in arts management and - in a way that was characteristic to her approach - having analysed the need she set out to equip herself with the means to address it. In 1992 Paola joined the Wits MBA programme.
She combined her studies there with a leading support role to the work of the National Arts Coalition becoming its General Secretary in 1995 while also developing her vision of an arts management course designed specifically for the needs of the country's new cultural policies.
The Arts and Culture Management Course run at the Graduate School for Public and Development Management at Wits was entirely her creation from fundraising to recruitment, curriculum development, convening all five modules and teaching on many of them.
Although the programme only ran for three years its impact - through its students - in the best of current arts management practice is clearly evident. It also achieved international recognition - being exported to Kenya in 1998.
Paola's work on this programme was recognised with the award of the first ever 'Arts Project of the Year' by the Arts and Culture Trust in 1998 and she became a regular contributor to international cultural policy and management debates at conferences around the world.
For the last two years Paola committed herself to the creation of an independent Institute for Cultural and Development Management - ICADM. ICADM was to be the body that would bring together national government, the arts management profession, the tertiary sector and NGOs to provide a research and development framework for the field.
Paola's history with the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) began before its formation with her contributions to the Arts and Culture Task Group (ACTAG) - particularly her single advocacy of the importance of management to the delivery of new policies. Since then she has worked for the Department developing management programmes for Community Arts Centres and - at the time of her illness and with the support of Interfund - she was developing management curriculum materials for the crafts and music industries.
Paola carried her personal philosophy of sharing into everything she did. It is therefore both ironic and fitting that her last work was to address the need to train a new generation of trainers to deliver accredited arts and cultural management courses across the country.
The power of her advocacy over more than a decade is reflected in the current emphasis within DACST on Arts and Culture Education and Training and in the prioritisation of arts management. It is a tragedy that she will not be there to make her unique and always passionate contribution to the process. She will be greatly missed.
Observations from Paris: 'The Curse'|
Artist Brad Hammond is currently in Paris and will be sending occasional observational pieces through to ArtThrob
An aerial view of the Louvre looks like a body - that is, in the same way that electrical pylons and clouds can look like bodies. There's the head area which is square, with two definite shoulders and arms that run down on either side.
On the floor plan, the left arm has a road running across it where the wrist should be so that the left hand looks as though it's been cleanly chopped off. This is where the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas are held. For now, it's called 'Tribal Arts'.
There is some writing on the wall. Part of it reads: "... France grants these beautiful works their rightful place in the world of museums ..."
The atmosphere is preserved. Temperatures are regulated to prevent wood from ageing naturally. People are whispering as they mingle with the stolen objects. On a little wooden bench, three women huddle together with reference books on their laps and discuss post-colonialism, aesthetics, ideology ... things like that. The one with glasses is becoming frustrated. An elder woman is explaining something to her and the third gazes blankly into the void between them - all spooky-like.
A small group has gathered near the entrance, shaking rain from umbrellas, checking cameras and stuffing change into purses. Two men separate out from the group and discuss their hotel in hushed voices and exchange funny stories about the French not understanding the language and where they're from back home.
A squealing detonates, followed by giggling. Everyone turns to see a young woman burying her head into her boyfriend's chest. He is pushing her towards a glass cabinet. She is embarrassed now so he stops and they go off together.
Inside the glass cabinet is a little black wooden figure. The head is smooth and large for its torso. Its button eyes are pin-size and its fat little legs wouldn't look odd on a staffie. Overall it's not very big - not as high as most people's knees - like a crocodile. It looks a lot like many objects from Africa, or Asia, or Oceania - except that it's oozing. And sticky, like a wound. Tiny fibres of fresh dust cling to its wet, glistening head. They move together, the way iron filings bristle to magnets, or kelp to an unseen current.
A single, slow, silvering drop is forming on its chin. It is milky yellow. Like venom.
Launch of National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System
Of possible interest to artists is the announcement that a National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS), making information available for public use via the internet, has been launched.
An official announcement reads: "The launch of NAAIRS represents a technological breakthrough towards the realisation of objectives envisaged by the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No 2 of 2000) to enable members of the public to identify and locate public records in archival custody that they may require for the exercise or protection of rights.
"The facility, which will be maintained by the National Archives of South Africa (NASA), also constitutes an advance in the National Archives' outreach strategy in terms of the National Archives of South Africa Act (No 43 of 1996) to make archival services known to the broader public, especially the less privileged sectors of society.
"The success of NAAIRS, billed as the first existing public sector mainframe database to have been made available on the internet, is the result of a major collaborative project involving the State Information Technology Agency (Sita), National Archives of South Africa (NASA) and the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST)."
NAAIRS can be accessed on the National Archives website: www.national.archives.gov.za
ARTNews, April 2001
The Newest Avant Garde: America's ARTNews heralds contemporary art in Africa
In an attempt to introduce the concept of contemporary African art to a market used to thinking of the African continent as a source of masks and tribal accoutrements, ARTNews ran a story by Barbara Pollack on the subject in its April issue.
Under the headline 'The Newest Avant Garde', Pollack opened with this paragraph: "Africa, an entire continent long overlooked as a source of contemporary art, has suddenly burst onto the international art world's radar screen. In the past five years, artists from Benin, Senegal, Zaire, Mali, Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria and especially South Africa, have been receiving high-profile exposure in museums, galleries and biennials. While the political upheavals in these countries serve as backdrop to their work, many of these artists struggle to make individual statements that transcend politics and nationality. By so doing, they are transforming our very definition of African art."
The Spanish art magazine Atlantica, which under the editorship of Octavio Zaya promotes African artists and others working outside the major art centres of the US and Europe, is credited with helping to create the preconditions for a change in curatorial practice which allowed artists like William Kentridge and British artist Yinka Shonibare to emerge as major art world figures.
Pollack tracks the new developments through the 'Magiciens de la Terre' exhibition at the Pompidou in l989 (though wrongly names Willie Bester as a participant on the show), 'Content:In/sight: African Photographer, 1940 to the Present' curated by Okwui Enwezor and Octavio Zaya at the Guggenheim in 1996, through to the Johannesburg Biennales and the 'Liberated Voices' show which opened at the Museum for African Art in New York in 1999 and is still touring the country. Artists whose work is pictured in the article include Penny Siopis, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Kendell Geers, Bridget Baker and Mbongeni Richman Buthelezi. A number of artists are quoted, and many more are named.
There can be little doubt that the piece will help the artists of Africa to become increasingly accepted on the world art scene.
by Kathryn Smith
On the Freedom Day long weekend, a group of Gauteng artists and art tarts - all participants in some way in the video exhibition 'South - voyages into mutant technologies' curated by José Ferreira (see Intl. Listings) - made a pilgrimage of sorts to Maputo, Mozambique. It was a first-time trip for several of us. Recalling my parents' stories about vacations in Lourenço Marques in the 1960s, LM Radio and all the prawns you could eat, I found independent Mozambique a very different place - traumatised, poor and run down, with so much old 1950s and 1960s signage you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stepped into a time warp. I came away having discovered a new favourite city - and thinking how ridiculous it is that I hadn't made the trip before. It's an international holiday spot around the corner. But there's a range of unwritten rules that you would only know about if briefed by someone who's lived there or knows it well.
Day 1: We leave Johannesburg after rounding up the troops (Stephen Hobbs, Thomas Barry, Verity Maud and Lorna Ferguson), armed with enough mosquito repellent to sink a small ship. This time of year, the chances of getting malaria in Maputo are small, especially if only visiting for a few days. But constant application of lotions, sprays and the like are very necessary.
A six-hour drive took about 12 hours. An entire highway leading out of Johannesburg was closed and the border was a veritable warzone of lorries, colossal car delivery trucks, pedestrians, businessmen, farmers and us - without the original car registration papers.
When going by car, these are a necessity - you also need two red hazard triangles and, for good measure, a 'ZA' sticker affixed to the rear. Luckily, a recent service record sufficed, but not without some serious negotiation and a lot of sweating (the radical humidity didn't help). Fortunately, no money had to change hands, other than the obligatory Mozambican third party insurance and an extra R12 each to have our passports stamped for entry. I never got an answer about the extra cost when the visa costs R140 anyway.
In addition to this, when you register your car for cross-border travel, you have to declare every item of electronic equipment in your luggage - and anything else you would like back when you exit Mozambique. Cameras, cellphones and laptops are all desirable and resellable items. If your car is checked and you don't have a receipt for such things, chances are they'll be appropriated.
You can get away without changing currency in South Africa - when you need meticais, there's always someone on hand willing to take your rands, or better yet, US dollars. Most places accept payment in any of these, or a mixture of all three. The dollar runs the economy, especially if you're staying in a good hotel - don't order room service or drink at the bar (we did both). And the exchange rate is incredibly elastic, depending on who's doing the changing. In our short time there, we had offers ranging from 1.8 MT to the rand, to 2.5.
On arrival, we went directly to the exhibition opening, which was incredibly well attended. Exhibition co-ordinator Fatima Vieira had worked her magic to secure television interviews and news slots. Even Malangatana, Mozambique's own William Kentridge (in terms of international popularity), made an appearance - a documentary about him was part of the exhibition.
Then off to dinner at Costa da Sol for clams, prawns, squid, local beer (2M and Laurentina) and too much tequila. Virtually everything you order comes with chips and, with the water being as it is, it's better to avoid eating salad and cut fruit unless staying in a four or five-star hotel.
Day 2: Up early-ish for a fantastic breakfast at our hotel (Rovuma Carlton on the Avenida Ho Chi Minh). The four-star hotel, along with another, fully sponsored four rooms for visiting artists. Serious luxury, air conditioning and a fantastic view of the city. The incredible support for culture in Mozambique, be it visual or performing arts, is apparently a legacy of the late Samora Machel.
On a walk near the hotel, we discovered the botanical gardens, with a fantastic greenhouse that we couldn't gain access to. Parts of Maputo look very much like Durban, architecture and foliage-wise. And playing 'spot the street named after a famous communist figure' gets tedious quickly - they're all either Avenida Karl Marx, Frederich Engels, Mao Tse Tung ... you get the picture. But you get the feeling that you're walking through a city that is rebuilding itself at a rate of knots - major construction and a buoyant positivity are everywhere - despite being harassed to buy anything and everything.
Nucleo de Arte is like the Bag Factory. We popped in to visit briefly and saw some fantastic things. Working with some friends, Goncalo Mabunda (José's assistant on 'South') creates astonishing furniture from old weapons (grenades, guns, mines) abandoned after the war.
3pm saw us sitting on a television sound stage being interviewed for a local arts and culture variety show called Mosaic. All in Portuguese - we couldn't understand much, but were entertained with fashion, Maputo pop stars, other artists and dancers. And the host was a dead ringer for Barry White. Then a (very) late lunch at Piri Piri, one of the oldest restaurants in the city, and preparation for our night out on the town.
First stop was Africa Bar, for reasonably priced drinks and bar food. Highlight was a fantastic jazz band headed by Leman, a virtuoso performer, musician and vocalist. Then to clubland. Lokomotiv, at the old mint-green and white train station, is one of the more awesome venues I've been to. Playing a curious melange of music from Toto and Britney Spears to loads of R&B and bad house mixes of every bubblegum radio tune out there, it was a total gas. And women get in free. We bailed out at about 3am, too tired to experience the other highly recommended spot at Minigolf, an attraction being a crashed Cessna aeroplane in the middle of the venue as decoration.
Day 3: Market shopping first and then driving around to find all the museums closed for lunch. Some open in the mornings and again in the late afternoons - trading tends to go until about 7pm, and some of the museums stay open this late too. Had a wonderful time at the fort, where there was an exhibition of some really good paintings. Lunch at my now most-favourite restaurant, a 1950s dining hall called Cristal - an enormous and utterly delicious seafood pasta that could have fed three. A last-minute walkabout was cancelled at the exhibition venue and we spent the evening socialising with the film crew who are in town shooting the new Will Smith-plays-Muhammed Ali biopic.
Day 4: An attempt to leave very early and drive an hour up the coast to find a gorgeous beach was foiled by general fatigue brought on by too much indulgence. So instead we visited a beach in Maputo, hung out watching the fishermen on the pier and discovered a fantastic craft shop, with objects produced by artists with physical disabilities - your normal tourist fare but some really unusual objects too. Then on the road back to Jo'burg, missing the Bafana Bafana vs Mozambique match being played in Maputo stadium. For the record, we won 3-0.
One last detail: don't spend your last meticais, as we did, on presents and such - you need quite a bit of cash to get back through all the tolls before you reach the border. Maputo does not have ATMs for foreigners - they only seem to take local bankcards. And credit cards don't get you as far as they do in Jo'burg.
Maitisong Art Gallery finds a new home|
by Kathryn Smith
Formerly housed in the Jungle Connection Centre in Doornfontein, this "place of leisure and storytelling" has relocated to the Kopanong Centre (formerly the Bizarre Centre), on the corner of Raymond and Rockey streets, Yeoville.
It seems that a primary motivating factor for the move was accessibility and proximity to public transport. But gallery manager Ntombifikile Molobi outlines a more interesting aspect of the move, which has to do with a proactive community involvement that doesn't wait for the authorities to repair a situation. She and several partners, all community activists, organised themselves into a consortium and bought the building as part of an individual regentrification strategy for Yeoville, which suffers from the knock-on effects of too many shebeens and shady businesses. She says: "The move won't just afford us a bigger working space (which includes the courtyard), but is intended to accelerate the process of re-establishing credible businesses that will inhabit Kopanong Centre."
To celebrate the relaunch, they are hosting an Omenana, a cultural festival with Nigerian origins. The festival will feature, among other things, work by Nigerian-born artist Ozor-Ejike Ezefuna (see listings).
Living up to the traditional Setswana concept of maitisong, the gallery will continue running cultural programmes in the evenings, featuring live performances, poetry and book readings as before, but now including children's storytelling and folktale performances. The sessions will be run by Saul Molobi, an author who recently published a children's book called Thulani's Magic Water as part of the Junior African Writers Series by Heinemann International. They will take place on the last Friday of each month in the evening, around a fire in the courtyard. "This will give an idea of how things used to be in the golden days of our ancestors", says Molobi.
Viewing sessions featuring African films and other multidisciplinary activities are planned.