Archive: Issue No. 88, December 2004

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Christopher Till in his new art space


'O.V.' at Generator


Sangomas invest SANG opening with tradition


A woven cloth and ship carving from the SANG holdings of African art on 'Ilifa labantu'


Steve Bell does Jo'burg Bar


Jesus Loves You


Tracey Rose's tablecloth (R8000)


Monday, November 1

Early morning phone call: request from the SDV freight company for a picture framing invoice from Dakar. SDV needs it to get the six 'Better Lives' prints framed in Dakar and shown on Dak'Art 2004 released from customs. The invoice? Needless to say this particular piece of paper has long since passed into the great wastepaper basket in the sky which swallows all bits of seemingly useless but secretly important bits of paper,

Can remember the framer's name, Mr Kadoura. Spend 30 minutes designing a nice invoice for him. Fill in the details as best as I can remember them. Fax it off.

Thursday, November 4

Who remembers the Generator Art Space in Newtown, Johannesburg? Under the auspices of Christopher Till, then Director of Culture for Johannesburg, this experimental space showed new work by young artists in the second half of the nineties. Now Till is opening a new Generator space at 71 Buitengracht Street , Cape Town in the ground floor of an old building. Very attractive space, and Christopher is open to considering projects -and proposals from young artists and curators for Generator.

The project which is launching the space is a collaboration with curator Tom Mulcaire, who is showing 'O.V.', a project by Paola Yacoub and Michel Lasserre which is running simultaneously at the Centre Pompidou in Pairs and Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. 'O.V.' is an online editorial format which allows not only the artists but also other participants to contribute to montages of images chosen as a response to weekly news shows. This week's compilation is being projected large onto the wall at the back of the gallery .

At Generator, 'O.V.' will be projected on Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. for the next four weeks. Check it out at (

Friday, November 5

Zayd Minty is giving a walkabout at the South African National Gallery of the show he curated of South Asian artists of the diaspora. It's called 'A Place Called Home'. Wasn't here for the opening, so this is a really good moment to catch up,

It's always a pleasure to see a coherent show in which the sum of all the work together broadens one's understanding of the theme - in this case, what it means to be of South Asian heritage in a different country. - organised around a tight point of view. Local artists include Zen Marie, with material relating to his cricket fantasies, Omar Badsha,, he of the exquisite photographic eye and Usha Seejarim, who takes an obsessive look at the rituals around roti-making.

Saturday, November 6

Thupelo are having their annual workshop with local and invited international artists, and this year, it is located in Woodstock just across from the Greatmore Studio buildings. The workshop studios are in the top floor of an old school, large rooms filled with light and air, looking down to the docks. The artists work here for 10 days, culminating in an open day, which will take place next Saturday. Call in around lunchtime looking for Jimnah Kimani, from Nairobi, who was one of the artists in Egypt, but am told that as he was up until after sunrise, he is now sleeping it off.

Tuesday , November 9

Leaving the book binders bump into Ernestine White, a masters student at Michaelis, who says her work is up in the art school gallery. White is a master printer from Tamarind, and her total control of technique is clear in her work. One piece entitled 'I do not speak Xhosa' (born here, the artist was brought up overseas) shows a series of lithographic selfportraits of the artist. In the first image, her face is veiled in streaming white paint, a veil which image by image clears to show the artist gazing directly at the viewer.

Thursday, November 11

New inquiry from SDV - that Dakar invoice that I faxed to them - the amount was in Central African francs and the customs office can't work out what that is in rands. Well, of COURSE it was in francs, I was trying to make the invoice look genuine, wasn't I. I had spent quite a while on websites translating the roughly remembered rand price back into CFA. Now relocate the same website so I can give customs the exchange rate. Would have thought their job included having up to date global exchange rates at instant access.

Saturday, November 20

Sangomas and a choir invade the Nat Gall for the opening of two new exhibitions, 'Ilifa labantu' and 'Voice Overs: Wits writings explore African artworks'. All very lively. The opening speech of Pallo Jordan, Minister of Culture, is interrupted twice by assorted singers, dancers and praisesingers. The second time this happens, an expression of amused resignation passes over the minister's face.

'Ilifa labantu' shows off the National Gallery holdings of African artefacts, and 'Voice Overs' features the notable Standard Bank collection,of African art, with each piece accompanied by a wall text by an academic from Wits University. Helpful as these texts are, one does note that the name of the writer is larger than the name of the artist on the wall texts, and the title of the show itself seems to emphasise the voice of the writers over the beautiful objects themselves.

Monday, November 22

Beginning of the week. Make new set of lists to try and deal with endless admin. Isn't it a long time since I sent off the exchange info to SDV? What's up?

Every year, Jonathon Shapiro a.k.a. Zapiro launches a new compilation of cartoons. This year's is entitled Long Walk to Free Time, and the cover features Madiba struggling to get to a waiting arm chair while half a dozen hands pull him backwards. Opening the proceedings at the Marimba Restaurant is British master cartoonist Steve Bell, famous for, amongst other things, drawing Brit PM John Major with perenially droopy Y-fronts worn over his suits. Steve gives a funny speech. So does Jonathon. Everyone is in a good mood.

Post opening, the cartoonists repair to Jo'burg Bar, and Steve activates one wall with a George Bush special, egged on by a slavering Tony Blair.

Wednesday, November 24

Hear from SDV at last, An invoice for R1500 must be paid before my work can be released from customs. They've got to be joking. Artists aren't supposed to pay for their work to come back from international shows. Send urgent email to Ousseynou Wade, director of Dak/Art.

Friday, November 26

Receive charming note back from Ousseynou. The Biennale will pay.

Saturday , November 27

Long time readers of this column might recall that at one time I chased minibus taxis around Cape Town photographing the vinyl lettered messages on their rear windows - GIMME THE LOOT, JUST ANOTHER POOR BOY, LOVERS CAN BE FRIENDS. Today, on the way to the airport I see in front of me a silver grey and black hearse, classically draped cream curtains inside its rear window. It also has window lettering. JESUS (heart shape) YOU. Is this intended to cheer the corpse on its last earthly ride? The relatives of the dear departed? Or is it a final final attempt to convert the dead of any other faith?

To be picked up at the airport is Freddy Denaes, Paris publisher of Editions de l'Oeil, a series of small format books on international artists. Over the next few days, I will try to connect him with local artists.

Monday, November 29

Yay. The crate from Dakar is delivered.

Tuesday, November 30

In a twist on the 'Dear Artist, Please can we have a piece of your work for our auction' appeal, Amanda Bloch of the Red Cross Children's Hospital Trust, working with the Goodman Gallery, has asked artists to supply artwork for a tablecloth and a set of 10 under plates. The cloths have been digitally printed. Only one cloth of each image has been made, but there are two sets of plates - the second set to go to one of the other artists as a thank you.

Tonight is the big night, and the tables in the glitzy ballroom of the Arabella Sheraton have been laid with the artists' tablecloths and plates, A suitably well padded guest list has paid R500 each to attend. After supper, the bidding begins. It hasn't been easy to see the cloths beforehand, covered as they are in dinner stuff, but the images are projected on to a large screen and the bidding crackles along. Apart from the dinner tickets and other donations, the cloths and plates raise about R1m, In total, the event raises about R2.65m.

Some artists have given the artwork as well, and William Kentridge's circular drawing of a furry black cat biting a pigeon's tail and plates go for R40 000, Norman Catherine's hand painted recipe, plates and cloth for R34 000, Sam Nhlengethwa's artwork, plates and cloth for R21 000.

In leaving the ballroom, see that a glass of red wine has spread across the surface of Clive van den Berg's cloth with its quirky little drawings in black (R13 000). Well, this will be a test for the washability of the cloths.