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FNB Joburg Art Fair- Africa’s rendezvous

“PAINTING IS not made to decorate apartments – it’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy”, the 20th century’s foremost visual exponent, Pablo Picasso was quoted next to his 1962 lithograph titled, Portrait de Famille – inside the White House Gallery’s space at the 11th FNB Joburg Art Fair, at the Sandton Convention Center.

FNB Joburg Art Fair- Africa’s rendezvous

The 2018 FNB Joburg Art Fair’s featured artist, Billie Zangewa. All images Jacob MAWELA.

The Cubist maestro’s assertion was definitely something to reckon with – considering what one of controversy-inclined artist, Ayanda Mabulu’s installations at the fair entailed.

His depiction of South African national icon, Nelson Mandela effecting a Nazi salute against the backdrop of a swastika banner immediately drew a backlash from the late statesman’s foundation where they released a media statement indicating their consideration of options available unto them, in terms of further action against the artist.

Claiming to have no expertise in the arts whilst accepting that freedom of expression gave artists a creative licence which at times would result in work which is more or less disturbing, the foundation made the point in its statement that: there are limits!  Not surprising, Mabulu’s “weapon’s” place within the fair’s apartment walls became short-lived – as it was no sooner taken down!

Yet beyond Mabulu’s par for course provocation, the 11th instalment of the African continent’s rendezvous of aficionados had gotten off to a glitzy, albeit exclusive genesis with a Thursday evening gala do.

But it was the Friday opening which would set the tone for a weekend of eye-lolly for sundry visitors and meaningful transactions for both stalls residents and collectors.

A media launch walkabout hosted by the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios’, Dr Makgati Molebatsi, set the wheels of what was to prove to be a worthwhile experience, in motion – immediately after a curious horde of members of the fourth estate had had their caffeine fill at a barista’s station, and had been briefly addressed by the fair’s director, Mandla Sibeko, who thanked them for their support and expressed hope that they enjoy the walkabout.

With the first stop situated coincidentally at the entrance to the fair’s floor space, Molebatsi led the procession of the media corps into a dark room with drawn black curtains covering the rectangular structure’s four walls.

Having an eerie ring to it, except for a lone light at the entrance, they had been transported within Cape Town-born artist [and recently, 2018 FNB Art Prize winner] Haroon Gunn-Salie’s booth where their ears became subjected to sounds reminding them of that fateful day on the 16 August of 2012, when the Marikana massacre unfolded.

Titled Senzenina, it is a soundscape part of a multidisciplinary approach which also features headless figures arranged in a squatting formation and in its sonic rendition, Gunn-Salie raises questions of multinational and police complicity surrounding the massacre.

“The life of a black person in Africa is cheap!”, a voice can clearly be heard overhead within the acoustic confine, whilst simultaneously competing sounds of humming; the sound of “madumelana” [concrete drill]; cowbells and shepherds and helicopter hovering account for a cacophonous  miasma which culminated into the firing of live ammunition upon mineworkers!

In garnering what is considered a coveted award, Gunn-Salie joined the ranks of previous winners such as Portia Zvavahera, and Turiya Magadlela – to mention but a few.

Artist, Lesego Moncho (hat and dreadlocked) engaged with Pretoria High School for Girls’ students at the 11th FNB Joburg Art Fair, at the Sandton Convention Center.

At the entrance to the ‘Senzenina’ reflection space a bowl of water is placed intentionally, with Molebatsi explaining to the mainly white media practitioners its symbolism in African culture of utilization in the ritual of cleansing.

Immediately after that, she led the curious group through green plants emerging into a space whose walls were adorned with aesthetic silk fabric tapestries.  Molebatsi deduced that after the harrowing sounds within the ‘Senzenina’ booth, the calming effect of a garden was a much-welcome relief.

She was philosophising within the art fair’s featured artist, Billie Zangewa’s domain. The easy-on-the-eye Malawi national, wasn’t around but her work most certainly announced her presence at Africa’s richest square mile!

Blantyre-born but Johannesburg-based, the elegant Zangewa mainly features herself in her found raw silk off-cuts, tapestries which depict the humdrum pattern of life a woman goes through.

With a resume which in the 10’s of the 21st century has seen her making herself present from Harlem, Cape Town, Bilbao, and London to Joburg – Billie’s intricate hand-stitched collages have been enough to force the hand of this year’s fair’s organizers, to present a large-scale work of hers to the Joburg audience.

The media walkabout eventually made its last stop at jewellery house, Cartier lounge where the excitable journalists, photographers and television crews were treated to chilled champers, mini macaroons and finger titbits.

With waiters working their space and between the quaffing of bubbly and munching of palate delights, they also got to interact with a duo of artists from the Artist Proof Studio in downtown Johannesburg – who were giving free demonstrations of fabric printing.

One of them, Hillbrow-based Hlelo Molefe, proudly pointed out that the couch covers they were seated on inside the lounge – were a result of their handicraft!

The art fair’s floor space was sheer wonderland.  At a Cape Town stall named Clarke’s Bookshop, bookworms would fish treasure troves such as late Simon’s Town master, Peter Clarke’s Listening to Distant Thunder; President Cyril Ramaphosa’s delightful tome featuring the photography of Daniel Naude, titled, Cattle of the Ages [an microscope on the long horned Ankole cattle breed] – a collector’s item the incumbent statesman dedicated in memory of who he referred to as two cattlemen of the ages, viz- a-viz, his father, Mundzhedzi Ramaphosa and father-in-law, Augustine Butana Chaane Motsepe; Paul Duncan’s South African Artists at Home [featuring Sam Nhlengethwa]; Sandra Klopper’s Irma Stern – Are you still alive?; Polly Street – The story of an art centre [showing pictures of artist, Sydney Khumalo’s design of the Saint Martin de Porres church’s ceiling in Orlando West] …

Around one of the floor layout’s corners, 18 year-old American International School of Johannesburg grade 12 student, Chanel Isaacs, was keenly taking in the sights and views with a schoolmate of hers.  Asked what her sojourn to the fair was in the main all about, she responded that it was to “get a look and be inspired by African art!”

Picasso, Kentridge, Goldblatt, champagne, macaroons, sophisticates seated on Barcelona chairs, erudite types taking swigs on wine glasses going for around R95 a fill – this was the kind and sort of set within the ground floor of the Sandton Convention Center and still more kindred was filtering in through the doors!

The fair catalogue detailed this year’s edition as featuring categories under special projects, contemporary, solo, limited edition prints and art platforms.

Whilst the fair guide listed familiar figures such as the Standard Bank Gallery’s Dr Same Mdluli, the University of Johannesburg’s Executive Dean, Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Professor Federico Freschi and the chief curator of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Khwezi Gule – amongst illustrative others – as scheduled to partake in exercises such as artist’s talks, guided tours and panel discussions!

Round and about curious named spaces such as Cape Town’s contemporary platform, WHATIFTHEWORLD, Johannesburg-based, Limited Edition Prints-categorized, The White House Gallery, appeared to cater for the collector with a sultan’s purse strings.

Exhibiting artist, Mr Brainwash’s Einstein [a 2018 silkscreen, stencil, paint, collage and spray-paint on paper] was on offer for R340 000.  Elsewhere at the Department of Small Business Development’s South African Art Collective brand [established to support emerging artists who would otherwise not have platforms such as the Joburg Art Fair], Pretoria High School for Girls students milled around participating artist, Lesego Moncho, curiously bombarding him with questions!

Further along the exhibition hall, a queue had formed at artist, Mary Sibande’s purple-themed installation, A Crescendo of Ecstasy.  A glimpse of happenings within the walls revealed a schoolgirl, with a mask in the image of Sibande, covering her own face for the purpose of being transported into an extrasensory realm!

The FNB Joburg Art Fair essentially being a continental affair, abundantly represented stands from southern to West Africa.

A photographic installation depicting scenes captured after Robert Mugabe’s resignation from the Zimbabwean presidency, neighbours Nigeria’s Red Door Gallery, which featured some of an artist named Cyril Oma’s works.  An accompanying catalogue portrays his work as being in the possession of a select group of faithful collectors – one of whom happens to be King of Morocco.

Easily the most impressive section at the event was within the contemporary segment whereat Mark Read was spotted conversing over the phone [probably transactional matters] surrounded by towering bronze sculptures, on display courtesy of his twin Everard Read and Circa galleries.

Thereat, works by leading luminaries such as Lionel Smit, Deborah Bell, Marco Cianfanelli, Colbert Mashile, and Nelson Makamo – to mention but a few –  wreaked sight wonderment!  The internationally recognized art house claim to inhabit a golden era of South African sculpture.

In the fair catalogue, FNB chief marketing officer, Faye Mfikwe, broke down art – in the view of her entity – as a powerful influencer of human potential whose capacity to uplift and inspire greatness, First National Bank values.

Mfikwe went on to declare that the FNB Joburg Art Fair would continue to highlight the creative excellence the African continent continues to offer to the world.

Select visitors to the art fair travelled in style, with first time partner, German automobile brand, Bayerische Motoren Werke [BMW] ensuring truly modern mobility around the Sandown central business district.

The Cubist maestro’s assertion was definitely something to reckon with – considering what one of controversy-inclined artist, Ayanda Mabulu’s installations at the fair entailed.

His depiction of South African national icon, Nelson Mandela effecting a Nazi salute against the backdrop of a swastika banner immediately drew a backlash from the late statesman’s foundation where they released a media statement indicating their consideration of options available unto them, in terms of further action against the artist.

Claiming to have no expertise in the arts whilst accepting that freedom of expression gave artists a creative licence which at times would result in work which is more or less disturbing, the foundation made the point in its statement that: there are limits!  Not surprising, Mabulu’s “weapon’s” place within the fair’s apartment walls became short-lived – as it was no sooner taken down!

Yet beyond Mabulu’s par for course provocation, the 11th instalment of the African continent’s rendezvous of aficionados had gotten off to a glitzy, albeit exclusive genesis with a Thursday evening gala do.

But it was the Friday opening which would set the tone for a weekend of eye-lolly for sundry visitors and meaningful transactions for both stalls residents and collectors.

A media launch walkabout hosted by the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios’, Dr Makgati Molebatsi, set the wheels of what was to prove to be a worthwhile experience, in motion – immediately after a curious horde of members of the fourth estate had had their caffeine fill at a barista’s station, and had been briefly addressed by the fair’s director, Mandla Sibeko, who thanked them for their support and expressed hope that they enjoy the walkabout.

With the first stop situated coincidentally at the entrance to the fair’s floor space, Molebatsi led the procession of the media corps into a dark room with drawn black curtains covering the rectangular structure’s four walls.

Having an eerie ring to it, except for a lone light at the entrance, they had been transported within Cape Town-born artist [and recently, 2018 FNB Art Prize winner] Haroon Gunn-Salie’s booth where their ears became subjected to sounds reminding them of that fateful day on the 16 August of 2012, when the Marikana massacre unfolded.

Titled Senzenina, it is a soundscape part of a multidisciplinary approach which also features headless figures arranged in a squatting formation and in its sonic rendition, Gunn-Salie raises questions of multinational and police complicity surrounding the massacre.

“The life of a black person in Africa is cheap!”, a voice can clearly be heard overhead within the acoustic confine, whilst simultaneously competing sounds of humming; the sound of “madumelana” [concrete drill]; cowbells and shepherds and helicopter hovering account for a cacophonous  miasma which culminated into the firing of live ammunition upon mineworkers!

In garnering what is considered a coveted award, Gunn-Salie joined the ranks of previous winners such as Portia Zvavahera, and Turiya Magadlela – to mention but a few.

At the entrance to the ‘Senzenina’ reflection space a bowl of water is placed intentionally, with Molebatsi explaining to the mainly white media practitioners its symbolism in African culture of utilization in the ritual of cleansing.

Immediately after that, she led the curious group through green plants emerging into a space whose walls were adorned with aesthetic silk fabric tapestries.  Molebatsi deduced that after the harrowing sounds within the ‘Senzenina’ booth, the calming effect of a garden was a much-welcome relief.

She was philosophising within the art fair’s featured artist, Billie Zangewa’s domain. The easy-on-the-eye Malawi national, wasn’t around but her work most certainly announced her presence at Africa’s richest square mile!

Blantyre-born but Johannesburg-based, the elegant Zangewa mainly features herself in her found raw silk off-cuts, tapestries which depict the humdrum pattern of life a woman goes through.

With a resume which in the 10’s of the 21st century has seen her making herself present from Harlem, Cape Town, Bilbao, and London to Joburg – Billie’s intricate hand-stitched collages have been enough to force the hand of this year’s fair’s organizers, to present a large-scale work of hers to the Joburg audience.

The media walkabout eventually made its last stop at jewellery house, Cartier lounge where the excitable journalists, photographers and television crews were treated to chilled champers, mini macaroons and finger titbits.

With waiters working their space and between the quaffing of bubbly and munching of palate delights, they also got to interact with a duo of artists from the Artist Proof Studio in downtown Johannesburg – who were giving free demonstrations of fabric printing.

One of them, Hillbrow-based Hlelo Molefe, proudly pointed out that the couch covers they were seated on inside the lounge – were a result of their handicraft!

The art fair’s floor space was sheer wonderland.  At a Cape Town stall named Clarke’s Bookshop, bookworms would fish treasure troves such as late Simon’s Town master, Peter Clarke’s Listening to Distant Thunder; President Cyril Ramaphosa’s delightful tome featuring the photography of Daniel Naude, titled, Cattle of the Ages [an microscope on the long horned Ankole cattle breed] – a collector’s item the incumbent statesman dedicated in memory of who he referred to as two cattlemen of the ages, viz- a-viz, his father, Mundzhedzi Ramaphosa and father-in-law, Augustine Butana Chaane Motsepe; Paul Duncan’s South African Artists at Home [featuring Sam Nhlengethwa]; Sandra Klopper’s Irma Stern – Are you still alive?; Polly Street – The story of an art centre [showing pictures of artist, Sydney Khumalo’s design of the Saint Martin de Porres church’s ceiling in Orlando West] …

Around one of the floor layout’s corners, 18 year-old American International School of Johannesburg grade 12 student, Chanel Isaacs, was keenly taking in the sights and views with a schoolmate of hers.  Asked what her sojourn to the fair was in the main all about, she responded that it was to “get a look and be inspired by African art!”

Picasso, Kentridge, Goldblatt, champagne, macaroons, sophisticates seated on Barcelona chairs, erudite types taking swigs on wine glasses going for around R95 a fill – this was the kind and sort of set within the ground floor of the Sandton Convention Center and still more kindred was filtering in through the doors!

The fair catalogue detailed this year’s edition as featuring categories under special projects, contemporary, solo, limited edition prints and art platforms.

Whilst the fair guide listed familiar figures such as the Standard Bank Gallery’s Dr Same Mdluli, the University of Johannesburg’s Executive Dean, Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Professor Federico Freschi and the chief curator of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Khwezi Gule – amongst illustrative others – as scheduled to partake in exercises such as artist’s talks, guided tours and panel discussions!

Round and about curious named spaces such as Cape Town’s contemporary platform, WHATIFTHEWORLD, Johannesburg-based, Limited Edition Prints-categorized, The White House Gallery, appeared to cater for the collector with a sultan’s purse strings.

Exhibiting artist, Mr Brainwash’s Einstein [a 2018 silkscreen, stencil, paint, collage and spray-paint on paper] was on offer for R340 000.  Elsewhere at the Department of Small Business Development’s South African Art Collective brand [established to support emerging artists who would otherwise not have platforms such as the Joburg Art Fair], Pretoria High School for Girls students milled around participating artist, Lesego Moncho, curiously bombarding him with questions!

Further along the exhibition hall, a queue had formed at artist, Mary Sibande’s purple-themed installation, A Crescendo of Ecstasy.  A glimpse of happenings within the walls revealed a schoolgirl, with a mask in the image of Sibande, covering her own face for the purpose of being transported into an extrasensory realm!

The FNB Joburg Art Fair essentially being a continental affair, abundantly represented stands from southern to West Africa.

A photographic installation depicting scenes captured after Robert Mugabe’s resignation from the Zimbabwean presidency, neighbours Nigeria’s Red Door Gallery, which featured some of an artist named Cyril Oma’s works.  An accompanying catalogue portrays his work as being in the possession of a select group of faithful collectors – one of whom happens to be King of Morocco.

Easily the most impressive section at the event was within the contemporary segment whereat Mark Read was spotted conversing over the phone [probably transactional matters] surrounded by towering bronze sculptures, on display courtesy of his twin Everard Read and Circa galleries.

Thereat, works by leading luminaries such as Lionel Smit, Deborah Bell, Marco Cianfanelli, Colbert Mashile, and Nelson Makamo – to mention but a few –  wreaked sight wonderment!  The internationally recognized art house claim to inhabit a golden era of South African sculpture.

In the fair catalogue, FNB chief marketing officer, Faye Mfikwe, broke down art – in the view of her entity – as a powerful influencer of human potential whose capacity to uplift and inspire greatness, First National Bank values.

Mfikwe went on to declare that the FNB Joburg Art Fair would continue to highlight the creative excellence the African continent continues to offer to the world.

Select visitors to the art fair travelled in style, with first time partner, German automobile brand, Bayerische Motoren Werke [BMW] ensuring truly modern mobility around the Sandown central business district.

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