Posts in "Art"

Am I beautiful? Oh yes I am!



What a treat to see Zanele Muholi profiled in the Weekend FT.  It brought to mind my first encounter with the riveting work of this activist-photographer …

GRAHAMSTOWN, July 8 2016: In this challenging two-part exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery as part of the annual National Arts Festival, photographer and activist Zanele Muholi provokes and pleases as she explores different ways of asking the question, Am I beautiful?

The first part, Somnyama Ngonyama (an isiZulu phrase which translates to Hail, the dark lioness), is a collection of self-portraits taken as Muholi travelled the world. They shout defiantly, “I am me!” And even, “I am beautiful aren’t I!”

The exaggerated blackness of her skin in the pictures brings ideas about race and the politics of pigment to the fore, creating a whole subset of questions for the viewer.

Muholi writes: “The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of my black figure. By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.”

Invite to the opening of Muholi’s show at Stevenson Gallery, Woodstock, August 2017

The photographs of Muholi dressed up as different personas are taken in such glittering cities as Paris, New York and London and reference black and white portraiture and fashion photography. What’s not to love, you might ask.

The second part of the exhibition, 12 portraits of queer beauty queens, men and women – taken in South African townships, villages and cities – seem to ask, “Please look at me … Ummm … Do you think I am beautiful?”

These are 12 different kinds of beautiful, all of them tapping into a gorgeousness that transcends the environment, an ill-fitting swimsuit, a few extra kilos, a scarred leg. They are all out and proud, beautiful in a most vulnerable way.

Curated by Lerato Bereng, this exhibition shows a broad spectrum of the arc of beauty.

*The 12 photographs are part of the body of work for which Muholi is best known, her life-long project of documenting members of the black LGBTQIA community of South Africa. Brave Beauties catalogues hate crimes against the LGBTIQIA community and seeks to raise awareness about corrective rape and other violent crimes against the community.


Same-same; so different …

Through a series of photographs and short essays Alexia Beckerling takes the reader on a private, magical soul-searching journey to wholeness…

A goddess in a headdress

Zeitz Mocaa: It’s about us

Even in Milan, in London, in New York and other art-obsessed places it would have been difficult this week to totally escape the hype around the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz Mocaa), the world’s largest museum of contemporary African art, in Cape Town.

In the Mother City, too, there was a haze of sparkly dust. Some of us also got a street-level, bottoms up view inside the belly of the beast and saw a lot more than hype: less smoke, more mirrors.

How we gasped when we heard about the many millions spent on re-imagining and refurbishing the old grain silo at the V&A Waterfront.

How we ‘Oohed’ when we were told that tickets to the opening VIP reception cost R70k a piece. How we ‘Aahed’ when we heard the party was being hosted by Gucci, as if the Italian fashion label was a better choice than, say, MaXhosa, Stoned Cherrie or David Tlale (but of course we are still trying to turn our gaze away from those crumbling old edifices in the north).

Thankfully, two icons who featured large in stories about Zeitz Mocaa (which is widely being called “Africa’s Tate Modern” because it couldn’t possibly just be what it is of course) in newspapers around the world were our very own, universal superstars, Desmond and Nelson. Tutu, Mzansi’s beloved Arch, was at the VIP launch, probably not wearing any Gucci at all. He is reported to have made a phone call to the recently departed Tata of the Beloved Nation, Nelson Mandela, and reported: ‘Madiba says Yes!’

Cartwheels on the roof

That was surely the green light for the last of the cynics and doubters…

Whether you got caught up in the hype or not, totally ignored it, rejoiced in it, let it get up your nose or smiled wryly as it slid elegantly off your gold lame tank top … the only thing you should not have done is let it obscure the actual point of it all.

Did you see it? Did you go? Oh the beauty, the newness, the poignancy and the pure playfulness of this enormous space filled this hopeful continent’s creative minds.

Even if the Letraset-style descriptions of the work in the brand new galleries were already shedding the odd letter and the café on the top floor is not yet open, you could have stood in the cavernous spaces and just let yourself consider the possible connections between the past and the future and all the millions of points along that continuum.

You could have felt fussed and freaked out about “all these white guys” who still seem to be large and in charge. You could have felt angry that the whole show seems to be built on an outdated and out of favour power system. You could have felt annoyed at the American and European names, or you could have felt grateful for the opportunity to stand in front of the art. In that moment you could have felt that most exclusive of things: the feelings that were available only to you in that exact moment and specific space at that limited time … which is over now, like the rest of the past.

William Kentridge is a white guy, too, but wow he gives so many of us a lot of pleasure and makes us pause as we wonder at how we feel so constricted by our past and free of it at the same time.

The Gucci party was probably pretty fab but, as Italians superstar moments go, I think it was eclipsed by a golden moment in Milan this week when the original supermodels Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen joined Donatella Versace on the catwalk to mark the passing 20 years ago of Gianni.

It just goes to show that everything has a perfect place and time. PS The five were dressed in gold, floor-length gowns and the late George Michael’s Freedom was playing as they walked along the runway. A golden moment indeed!

Back in Cape Town, you might be thinking of the Zeitz Mocca opening weekend: “Oh puh-lease, I live in Cape Town, I don’t have to be part of the bun fight of an opening weekend with its free tickets.”

You might add: “I am not one of those people who turns up to queue rain or shine (both of which were options on a typically capricious Cape Town spring weekend). I will go once the fuss has died down, it will be nicer and quieter then.”

That misses the point totally. The opening weekend was packed with all the usual suspects, plus a lot of people who don’t normally ‘do art’.  They posed and people-watched and took selfies in front of Nicholas Hlobo’s haunting dragon in the cavernous atrium while their children did cartwheels on the roof, providing a totally different show and a snapshot of us.

It is, indeed, about us. You can choose to see it or not.


Salt River shows off its sexy new look

Children help Julia Mary Grey with her mosaic

It has been the brightest of weeks in Salt River and scores of people from all over Cape Town and beyond are expected to come out to celebrate this weekend. More than 30 artists have painted the suburb every shade of red and many others besides during Cape Town’s first International Public Art Festival.

Every time I have been down there the artists have been surrounded by children, many of them eager to help. The children of this neighbourhood have claimed the project as their own and have done a lot more than dab the odd bit of paint here and there.

A 125-metre wall in Dove Street, entirely the work of local youngsters completed with guidance from artists, including Hajila, is a legacy of and for a community that has opened doors, walls, hearts and homes.

Senzo Nhlapo ©Senzart911

The fun and festivities are due to climax this weekend when the final touches will be put to the artworks, and many locals and visitors will come out to celebrate and admire the neighbourhood’s brand new look.

The festival is a launchpad for various other programmes, all of which will use art as a platform for education and upliftment. Some of these have already started with local children among the beneficiaries with art classes being held at the Blackpool football club and at two schools.

There will be various art-focused activities at and around the Blackpool football club this weekend. Many Salt River residents will be on hand to take visitors on tours of the suburb and its new art for a small fee. There will also be music and food (local delights prepared by people from the neighbourhood) as well as other entertainment.

It’s all happening in and around Blackpool football club, 9 Shelley Road, Salt River.

More information

Oh what a wonderful world … whatever the critics say

Reclaim the space: Youngsters get creative on a wall in Dove Street dedicated to the youth of Salt River and being painted by them under the guidance of artists

South Africa’s first International Public Art Festival is in full swing in Salt River with artists and local children changing the suburb by the day.

Long a lover of graffiti, I have swung by a few times this week and every time have found plenty of artists at work creating gob-smacking murals. The work is drawing children like magnets and there are always many more children at “work” than artists at every mural.

Artist Ruth Francis gets some guidance from local schoolchildren

You would have to have a heart of stone to not engage with these children but the artists are going further than getting their opinions and letting them dab a bit of paint here and there: they are running workshops and classes away from their creations to introduce these eager young people to the creative arts.

There have been some rumblings around town that the festival is somehow gentrification by stealth, that it is not what the residents of Salt River want, that it is being imposed on them by (I am guessing here) white monopoly capital/similar.

Surely carelessly applying this criticism to anything you don’t like, as if standing against gentrification is merely a fashion statement, confuses the real issues and steals air time and energy from the real battles?

As journalists we were particularly annoyed at this, left, which seemed like a pretty poor effort by the Cape Times on Tuesday.

The paper repeats questions/rumours about there being a lack of local artists and runs a picture of a large mural painted at the festival this week (I am reliably informed) by local graffiti/street artist DFeat447, aka Jason Redman, without crediting him.

Did they really not think to ask? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all hope for a correction and maybe even a little more effort next time …

Call Off The Search did a little research, privately canvassing the opinions of various locals. Without exception the feedback about the festival and organisers was positive, the only slightly tweezer-lipped responses coming from people whose houses weren’t being painted for whatever reason, for example slightly conservative parents having said no.

We also asked Warda Rahim, pictured, the much-loved head of the Salt River Civic, what she thought of the criticism. She told Call Off The Search that the organisers, the NPO Baz-Art, had been incredibly thorough in canvassing views in the neighbourhood and involving every one from the start. She expressed confidence about every aspect of this event, particularly about the educational aspect.

Also Baz-Art this week released a statement explaining the origins of the event and funding (entirely by the folks who had started it and for the love of art). They hope to raise money in the fullness of time to expand the festival and associated work but that is still a dream. Either way Baz-Art is a NPO and bound by that status.

Read the full statement and make up your own mind:

تم نشره بواسطة ‏‎International Public Art Festival – Cape Town – South Africa‎‏ في 14 فبراير، 2017

This weekend looks like it is going to be pretty epic, with the festival wrapping up with various events, including guided tours of the new works in the suburb, focused around the Blackpool football club in Shelley Road.

More info

The work speaks for itself, meet me at the wall!

Jack Fox, left, and Mak1one at the launch of the International Public Arts Festival PHOTOS Melissa Cucci

Mak1one looked like he was made for the stage at the launch of Cape Town’s International Public Art Festival in Salt River on Friday, but he clearly couldn’t wait to get off it and back to the wall he is painting as part of the festival.

The well-known Cape Town street artist said he was very excited to be there – “too excited to speak”, in fact.

Blood, sweat and spraypaint: Mak1one at work

He thanked the non-profit organisation Baz-Art, which has put the event together, saying that he knew that a lot of blood, sweat and spraypaint had gone into organising it.

The festival is a launchpad for various local upliftment projects, including art classes for children and support for local people trying to start small businesses that can be connected to art, be they small galleries or walking tours or food stalls.

Mak1one is one of 33 artists taking part in the festival, which runs from February 10-19. During the festival, artists will be creating their work under the watchful eyes of locals and visitors in the neighbourhood surrounding the Blackpool Football Club in Shelley Street, Salt River.

The festival is open and free to all to visit. If visitors want a more locally informed experience they can pay R100 and one of the newly trained Salt River guides will take them on a walking tour.

Mak1one told the crowd gathered for the launch, largely local residents and art fans, that he felt he didn’t have too much to say. “The work we create will tell the stories … Meet me at the wall!”

“Anyway don’t they say … A picture is worth a thousand words”

More information

Artists climb the walls to paint them at public art fest

WiseTwo is one of the established public artists on board

If you thought Cape Town’s art scene was getting a little crowded, think again. If the rowdy response to the Mother City’s newest art festival is anything to go by there is still a lot of space for growth … thousands of metres of outdoor space, in fact.

The inaugural International Public Art Festival (Ipaf) will take place in and around Salt River, Cape Town, from February 10-19, and act as the opening of Art Month in Cape Town.

Artists from a variety of genres and from near and far have applied to be part of Africa’s inaugural Ipaf, with artists from as far afield as Kenya, Ukraine, France and Australia keen to take part alongside two dozen locals.

Baz-Art, the NPO that is responsible for the festival, set an original target of 25 artists to take part in painting Salt River beautiful.

The organisers, including local artist Chantel Woodman, pictured right, who is curating the festival, say they have been overwhelmed by the interest from at home and abroad.

Sébastien Charrieras, pictured left, Baz-Art founder and director of XO Events, says the foreign interest is very welcome since international exchange is a key pillar of Baz-Art’s programme to use the power of art to improve people’s lives.

One of the organisation’s stated aims is to help South African public artists gain their rightful place in the genre globally.

Another slightly unexpected development, says Woodman, is that the interest has come from all corners of the art world, with a number of established fine artists eager to get involved.

Woodman, who who went to school with a number of Cape Town’s most prolific and best-loved public artists, knew there would be demand from the city’s diverse and dynamic public art community. “Street art is a way of life for some people. It’s in their cultural DNA,” she said.

WiseTwo at work

The list of public artists who have expressed an interest reads like a Who’s Who of Street Art SA, with Mak1one, Mars George, Mr Migo and WiseTwo among the names already on board.

But, Woodman adds, she has been a little surprised and very delighted at the interest from the fine art community. A few established names from the fine art world who are signed up are: Paul Senyol, Andrzej Urbanski, Claude Chandler and Julia Mary Grey.

“There is a lot of hype around fine art … paintings selling for hundreds of thousands and so on,” Woodman says. “But this is something different, another form of expression.”

Having your cake: Julia Mary Grey is creating a work for the festival

A number of fine artists have told her that it has been a lifelong dream to paint a larger-than-life mural for all to see.

“People from these different communities are welcoming the opportunity to explore different ways of expressing themselves,” said Woodman.

Whether it is in their cultural DNA or adopted, artists are climbing the walls to paint them.

South Africa’s first International Public Art Festival (IPAF) will be held in Cape Town from February 10-19. The festival will be the launchpad for a number of other programmes, including art classes for children, support for spin-off businesses and other interventions aimed at community upliftment.

More info at


Creativity on the streets with a craft beer, Cape Town-style

The Mother City’s newest art festival promises to bring art lovers out of the galleries and on to the streets – and they will possibly be swapping their delicate glasses of bubbles for craft beers.

Baz-Art, the company behind next month’s inaugural International Public Art Festival (IPAF), is a non-profit organisation that has been described as the “love child” of relationships that grew around the creation of Leopold 7 craft beer. The festival is just one part of Baz-Art’s plan to use art to improve people’s lives and environments.

Other aspects of the programme, to be launched during IPAF from Feb 10-20, include making neighbourhoods more beautiful and safer, giving art lessons to children and helping to get spin-off businesses, such as food stalls, cafes and galleries, off the ground.

Alexandre Tilmans, co-owner of Leopold 7 and a partner in Baz-Art, told the African News Agency (ANA) on Thursday that it was the process of creating, marketing and selling the craft beer that had “opened his eyes to the power of art”.

Crafty combo: Alexandre Tilmans, a partner in Leopold 7 and Baz-Art

Tilmans, who is currently building a brewery in Cape Town For Leopold 7, said he had collaborated closely with artists and designers in Cape Town. During this process, he said, he became aware of a large gap in the art world in South Africa.

In a city that is home to so many beautiful murals, Tilmans was amazed that public art was seen to have such negative connotations and that there was a municipal bylaw declaring graffiti an illegal act.

Despite all the art fairs and festivals and the excitement around the the imminent opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) at the V&A Waterfront, Tilmans said he was surprised that there was no event dedicated to public art.

“There is certainly no shortage of talent,” he said.

This was why Tilmans and Sebastien Charrieras, owner and director of XO Events, a company that specialises in events and incentives, decided to throw the “combined force of their skills, experience and passion into a project designed to uplift artists while transforming the communities around them and helping South African public art claim its rightful position in the global art world”.

The festival is a centrepiece of Baz-Art’s work and will be used to launch various other projects under the banners of education, international exchange and community upliftment.

The festival is timed to fall around the time of two other art events, the Cape Town Art Fair and That Art Fair. IPAF, the organisers say, will offer very different art and inspiration from what is on offer at the more traditional art events.

After The Rain Comes Sun After The Sun Comes Rain again by Faith47 and Mak1one

Baz-Art says it has the support of the local communities and authorities, as well as “a list that reads like the Who’s Who of the South African public art world”. Just a few of the artists who have expressed an interest in the festival are Faith47, Mak1one and Falko.

The inaugural festival will be focused on the district of Salt River, one of the communities where Baz-Art is developing educational and economic activities to encourage “inclusive community building and respect for the arts”. Baz-Art has set up a festival office at Blackpool Football Club in Salt River.

In the run-up to the festival, Baz-Art is identifying walls in the surrounding neighbourhood for artists to paint, making sure neighbours are happy with the plans and getting all the necessary sign-offs.

Each contributing artist will be given a space in Salt River to decorate as they choose. The murals will be designed to beautify the area, adding to Salt River’s unique character, and to engender a sense of pride in individuals behind the stories and those depicted in them.

Refugee Rights are Human Rights by Faith47 and Mak1one in District Six, Cape Town

Local people are being trained to take guided tours of the neighbourhood focusing on public art.

A number of other activities are planned for the festival, from live painting by street artists to music and street food and a programme of street tours.

The organisers say the 10-day festival will also be the launchpad for various long-term projects, including art classes for schoolchildren, with eight schools initially identified.

Another pillar of Baz-Art’s mission is to enhance South Africa’s role as an international hub for art. The company says it will work with existing art fairs and events and create new partnerships with players around the world to build Africa’s profile.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Art hits the streets of Cape Town

Wayne BKS goes by the aliases Conform and Skiet

Work by Mohamed “Mo” Hassan

In a taste of what is to come in February at Cape Town’s newest art festival, two artists will this Sunday put on a live “performance”, making a 7m wide work of art in downtown Cape Town.

Bringing art out of the hushed and hallowed spaces of galleries, Wayne BKS, who goes by the aliases Conform and Skiet, and Mohamed “Mo” Hassan, will work side by side making a piece of art on a large sheet of plastic stretched between two lamp-posts. They will be hoping that neither the wind and sun, nor the public glare, is too harsh. But the illustrators and artists are also what is commonly known as graffiti artists, so are probably used to being criticised and misunderstood.

That will soon change, however, if the team at Baz Art, the NPO that is launching South Africa’s first International Public Art Festival (IPAF) next month, have their way. The NPO seeks to bring street art into the mainstream and to use it to improve people’s lives.

Work by Mohamed “Mo” Hassan

In addition to IPAF, a festival dedicated to teaching, creating and showcasing street art, Baz Art is launching a variety of programmes, from art classes for children to beautifying neighbourhoods with large, well-maintained murals and helping entrepreneurs set up spin-off businesses such as food stalls, galleries or local tours.

Work by Wayne BKS, who goes by the aliases Conform and Skiet

The live graffiti painting will take place as part of Open Streets City Centre, which will see Bree and Longmarket streets closed to motorised traffic for the day on Sunday. The Open Streets event is the latest in a series of street closures across Cape Town, from Langa to Bellville and Observatory to Mitchells Plain, designed to encourage residents to reclaim the streets as places to connect and commune.

The International Public Art Festival will be held from February 10 to 20. More info

– African News Agency (ANA)