Archive: Issue No. 123, November 2007

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Re-Opening of the Rain Forest Project Room
by Tracey-Louise Edwards

As any regular Johannesburg gallery goers can tell you, the Gordart Gallery in Melville is renowned for its commitment to promoting the arts with particular focus on the young, up-and-coming and often under-exposed artistic talent in South Africa. The evening of October 17 marked the re-opening of Gordart's Rainforest Project Room, a fertile collaboration between the Gordart Gallery and Noah Financial Innovation (Pty) ltd.

Originally opened in January 2006, the re-opening of the room celebrates the establishment of the initiative on the new Gordart premises. In a press release the gallery describes the room as 'a platform for young and recently graduated artists to showcase their work as well as a venue that can function as an entry point for artists working outside the Johannesburg art scene'. The smaller space of the Rainforest Project Room affords the upcoming artist (possibly not in a position to showcase large bodies of work or finance a one-person show) the opportunity to showcase work in an intimate solo capacity.

The success of the collaboration derives from its mutually beneficial relationship. Noah shoulders the financial expenses while Gordart provides the technical and curatorial expertise. In return for its funding Noah, as stated by Chief Executive Officer Raymond Ndlovu, has 'germinated the new seedlings' that will allow South Africa to breathe. Ndlovu believes that as these 'seedlings' grow so will the arts and along with that a better social and value system often encouraged through the arts.

In her speech, Antoinette Murdoch lamented the economic development and funding of the arts, likening it to a typical South African school scenario where sport is so often made compulsory while, often to their detriment, the cultural activities remain optional. In such times where it seems our art initiatives indeed lack funding, it is refreshing to witness such a successful joining of forces. This tiny room in the heart of Melville's suburbia has managed to generate a staggering R100 000 through sales that will be placed directly into the hands of the artists.

Continuing on the theme of funding Gordon Froud (curator and Gallery director) introduced featured artist Goodness Nhlengethwa by extending the metaphor of the lone girl child, used in her work, to that of the arts in South Africa. The arts become the neglected 'Child Alone' without the 'funding parents' that enable an essential growth. On entering the Rainforest Project Room after the poignant speeches and suave display of culture, I was unfortunately disappointed at the quality of work on display.

This, however, did nothing to affect the jovial atmosphere of the re-launch. Sumptuous food and wine was served (much to the delight of starving artists everywhere) while the audience was wittily serenaded by Cindi Samson and company, freestyling on the mic and guitar. In an art world where we are constantly attending openings, it is refreshing to attend an initiative that has a proven and highly successful track record. The long term sustainability of the Rainforest Project Room is an important and hugely exciting landmark for our South African art community.