It’s the real deal

2008-07-17 00:00

Margaret von Klemperer

IF you are studying art at school, or teaching it, the next exhibition in the Tatham Art Gallery’s main gallery is one for you. Tatham education officers and co-curators Kobie Venter and Thulani Makhaye are taking a selection of works from the permanent collection that relate to the national visual arts curriculum and are putting them on display, filling the foyer, the stairwell (which will showcase Rorke’s Drift prints), the main exhibition room and the ceramics room.

This will be a great chance for the public to see some of the gems of what is a very rich collection. It will also be a great resource for anyone from Grade 10 to 12 who is studying art. The emphasis will be on the art history component of the curriculum, but there will also be plenty of ideas for pupils’ own work.

Contemporary art will be shown in the foyer, while art that falls into the six themes on the curriculum will fill other spaces. The themes are: South African art; politics and resistance art; art and the spiritual realm; the search for an African identity in the emerging black voice; and craft and applied arts.

At school, the notes pupils are given often have nothing more than a black and white image; in the gallery they can come face to face with the real thing.

Only five government schools in the Pietermaritzburg area offer art as a matric subject, but the exhibition will also be relevant to private schools. The phasing out of art in Grade 9 in township schools is of concern to Venter and Makhaye, but they hope that, in the wake of the recent Edendale Excels exhibition, which highlighted the work and contribution of four artists from the Edendale area, this may encourage more to consider offering the subject. In the Durban area, more than 20 government schools offer art as a matric subject.

The Ceramics Room has a range of pieces, ranging from Linnware and studio ceramics, to work from Mary Stainbank, the Ardmore studios and pots from the celebrated Magwaza and Nala families — all of which are touched on in the curriculum.

“This part will be all about earth, water and fire — the elements that go into the most ancient art form,” says Makhaye, looking around the room.

And, say the curators, pots by Joel Sibisi of Rorke’s Drift and Ardmore offer fascinating examples of the way African and Western art have influenced each other. The Tatham Shop also has many examples of contemporary ceramics and other applied arts for the pupils to see.

The curators have created a series of “artist history files”, on subjects such as the Nala family, for pupils to come in and study. They will contain information on the artists and photographs.

“But we’ve left them so they have to do the research themselves, and arrange it. We are offering copies of primary documents,” explains Venter.

Research sessions can be booked with Makhaye or Venter, and walk-abouts can also be arranged. The curators want to involve teachers and, while there will be no official opening of the exhibition, they will arrange an art teachers’ lunch at which Jannie van Heerden, the deputy chief education specialist for visual art who was responsible for a lot of the curriculum, will speak.

The exhibition runs from July 24 to September 14. For more information or to book research sessions and walkabouts, phone Makhaye or Venter at 033 392 2801.

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