Art – Space to play

2010-07-02 13:01

The most appealing thing about art is that you can read into it

whatever you like.

Regardless of what the artist says, in seeing the work you

create meaning. Besides, says curator Melissa Mboweni, if you have to explain

your art to ­people, it’s not making itself heard.

Mboweni is the co-curator, along with Thembinkosi Goniwe, of SPace:

­Currencies in Contemporary African Art. Though this is a Fifa-endorsed

­exhibition, refreshingly it deals with ­issues around soccer rather than

­directly with the sport itself.

“It deals with issues of rhythm, play, beauty and participation,

all aspects of a soccer match,”­ says Mboweni.

Many of the artists represented are from African countries but are

now based in Europe.

Mboweni says one of the ideas they explored was what right

an artist has to represent Africa in his or her work if based ­elsewhere: “If

you travel with the ghosts of your memory, they will come out in your


The other aspect explored in this ­exhibition, both in the works

and in the curatorship, is physical space and pace, hence the exhibition’s


“David Koloane (whose work is represented) said years ago, when he

curated 7 Stories in the 1990s, that apartheid was about ­movement and space.

Physical space is ­something relevant to the continent, South Africa and


The exhibition looks at the notion of ­transcience of the city,

the hustle and bustle, and how people interact with a city that has changed,”

says Mboweni.

The use of currencies in the title, ­according to Mboweni, is

intended to look at the economic demarcation of both subjects and artists.

More than that, though, it refers to a current and ­constantly

changing tempo – a bit like art which continually alters to project life and


Those expecting representations of our past will be delighted to

find that the works here reflect an African ­experience rather than one directly

­informed by our apartheid past.

However, Mboweni says: “We are ­burdened with the stereotypes that

have come from the past.

I find it ­interesting that there are issues, like the

xenophobia in 2008, that are not dealt with.

Here we have artists dealing with

post-colonialism, modernity and moving from one city to ­another.”

She believes that, in time, more work would appear that deals with

this blemish on our recent past.

Local artist Berni Searle’s piece only deals with it ­obliquely by

exploring the image of a burning tyre which was once a child’s swing.

Among the other works included in this varied exhibition are two

­Moroccan artists known as Collectif 212.

Imad Mansour’s is easy to miss – three

decorative doors in different colours with peepholes to 3 universes.

Before you

knock on ­Mansour’s doors, Kudzanai Chiurai’s fabulously bling political

portraits ­beckon and ­opposite those are Ghana’s ­Godfried Donkor’s pin-ups.

The most striking piece is Mary Sibanda’s gargantuan woman, dressed

in what appears to be an extension of a maid’s uniform, who greets visitors as

they enter.

Of all the weird and wonderful ­pieces included in the exhibition,

only one, a video by Zen Marie, is directly linked to the World Cup.

After weeks of soccer-themed art events, it’s a welcome change to

take in some art that alludes to all the wonder of the lives of those who watch

­football without actually ­depicting it.

» SPace: Currencies in Contemporary African Art is on at Museum

Africa in Newtown until July 11. Contacts: ?011 ?833 ?5624

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