'Jive Soweto!' at the Hector Pietersen Museum in Soweto
by Michael Smith
Melissa Mboweni - curator, writer, previous ArtThrob Gauteng Editor and current director of Akani Creative Consulting - is curating a show at the Hector Pietersen Museum in Soweto during September, South Africa's Heritage Month. Mboweni was originally approached by the Arts Alive Company to curate a visual art exhibition in Soweto. Their interest was in broadening the festival's usual focus on music and theatre, and also to extend its footprint beyond the suburbs of Johannesburg and into the townships.
The title of the show was chosen in homage to a song by seminal South African musician Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse. Mboweni calls the song celebratory, but also reminiscent of the tumultuous decade of the 80s and the bloody death-throes of apartheid. One of the chief concerns the show will seek to address is space. As Mboweni says, 'In Soweto there is hardly any professionally-run exhibition space where one can showcase fine art while also giving artists the opportunity to exhibit their work. Currently the Hector Pietersen Museum is the only world class professional space available but it too has its own constraints. A fine art exhibition in this space would have to speak to the permanent exhibition housed in the museum. The exhibition would also have to show some historical awareness of the 1976 Soweto Uprisings and of Hector Pietersen himself.' Mboweni believes the museum's decision to accept the exhibition is a coup.
Crucially, Mboweni speaks of the knock-on effect of SA's current economic boom being felt in Soweto, with certain aspects of consumer culture previously only associated with the Northern suburbs creeping into Soweto's malls. She believes this augers well for the hosting of professionally run exhibitions in Soweto, and indeed for the establishment of a greater and more consistent visual art presence in the township. As such, Mboweni believes the timing for such an event is perfect.
Some big-name young artists are billed for the show, including Hannelie Coetzee, Ossie Dowery, Churchill Madikida, Senzeni Marasela, Zanele Muholi, Kenneth Nkosi, Farrell Ngilima and Peter Tobias.