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Curator's Trip
South Africa

© Courtesy of Ken Kato

Meet the Curator: Erin Endres

Since earning her Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design from Inscape Design College in South Africa in 2013, Erin has devoted her career to luxury interior design.

 

At Artelier, her expertise is overseeing the entire artistic journey, from conceptualisation and detailed design to the creation of technical drawings. Erin is also skilled at collaborating closely with fellow artists, nurturing in-house art concepts, fostering artistic growth, and continuously discovering new talent within the curatorial landscape.

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A Discussion on the South African Contemporary Art Scene

Stellenbosch Cape Town South Africa

Why did you choose South Africa for an art research trip?

I was born in South Africa and lived there until two years ago when I relocated to Bristol. I was excited to go back and have a look at the art scene through the lens of my experience as an art curator, with the aim of discovering a new perspective.

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© Thokozani Mthiyane via Art Eye Gallery 

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Which galleries, museums and exhibitions did you visit and why?

Everard Read and Circa Galleries in Joburg, and Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town. These are arguably the two main creative hubs in South Africa where a lot of the big exhibitions and shows happen regularly. 

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Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town

'Immanent' by Angus Taylor

© Courtesy of Tsn92 

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Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town

'Prayer for Peace (Monumental)' by Speelman Mahlangu

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Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town

'Deduct Series' by Angus Taylor

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Zeitz MOCAA

© Courtesy of Werner Bayer

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Zeitz MOCAA

© Courtesy of Martyn Smith

Zeitz MOCAA

©  Courtesy of Esther Westerveld

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 'Figure le moment qui precede' (2021) & 'Comme sur le point de devenir' (2021) by Mame-Diarra Niang

Did you identify any thematic tones, styles or narratives that were evident throughout the art?

The concept of identity came through strongly in all three locations I visited. Artists asking questions about who they are according to whom, taking ownership of their unique global perspective and lived experiences. 

 

Athi-Patra's 'Over the Rainbow' (2016-17), a nine-minute film exploring xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia in Africa, was a really shining example of this in particular.

 

Alternatively, Nyancho NwaNri's video art series 'Here' (2021) which delves deeply into African history, indigenous spiritual traditions, and languages. This exploration is portrayed through evocative black and white footage, providing an intimate perspective.

 

Another common theme was reaction to the colonial past and the legacy of Apartheid, which is understandably and rightly still a huge part of South African identity. 

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  'Adversarial Interop' (2024) by Michael Macgarry

Athi-Patra Ruga, Above the rainbow , 2016-2017. Single-channel HD video, edition 1 of 10 +

Over the Rainbow (2016-17) by Athi-Patra Ruga

© Courtesy of WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery

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Which artists or artworks are you still thinking about most after your trip? 

Robin Rhode

The eeriness of Robin Rhode’s Pan’s Opticon Studies have stayed with me, questioning the way in which visual perception influences thought.

 

The series is a play on the concept of the panopticon, a circular prison building conceived by the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century that allows constant surveillance of the prisoners from a central location without them knowing if they are being watched or not.

 

Rhode’s photogravures evoke discomfort, the subject faces away from the camera with architectural instruments protruding from the eyes. I often find myself drawn to the uncanny and this trip was no exception. 

Stills of 'Here' (2021) by Nyancho Nwanri

© Courtesy of Chris Rycroft 

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 'Pan's Opticon Studies' (2009) by Robin Rhodes

© Mutual Art

Fumane Maluleke

Fumane Maluleke’s paintings on grass mats grabbed my attention immediately as well. These became even more interesting when I learned about his intentions behind the work as a reappropriation of a simple but vital object that is common in South African homes.
 
Fumane learned after already working with the medium for some time that he was actually born onto a similar mat. I find that extremely powerful

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 'i hlekani (During the day 3)' (2023) by Fumani Maluleke

© Artsy

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'Nceka Wa Majavula' (2024) by Fumani Maluleke

© Artsy

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'Nhlahlu (Reeds)' (2024) by Fumani Maluleke

© Artsy

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  'Nunchuckz' (2020) by Michael Macgarry

© Courtesy of Everard Read

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 'Mighty Man, Issue 17' (2024) by Michael Macgarry

© Courtesy of Everard Read

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 'Beyond the Chrysanthemum' (2024) by Michael Macgarry

© Courtesy of Everard Read

Did any aspect of the trip take you by surprise? 

Michael MacGarry

I was surprised that I would have known which city I was in from the exhibitions alone.

The first exhibition I attended in Joburg was Michael MacGarry’s The System Absorbs All Opposition, a commentary on capitalism which feels appropriate in the economic hub of South Africa.  

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Exhibition 'Self as a Forgotten Monument' (2023-24) by Mame-Diarra Niang at Zeitz MOCAA

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'Morphologie du rêve' (2021) by Mame-Diarra Niang

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'Mokete wa Thabiso le Tshepiso' (2017-18) by Neo Matloga

"SALA" at Zeitz MOCAA

In Cape Town, the permanent exhibit at the Zeitz MOCAA is called Sala (meaning 'stay'). While the building itself is incredible, it invites you to move slowly through the space, be in touch with your responses: to linger and immerse yourself. 


This idea embodies how South Africans know Cape Town to be, lovingly dubbed Slaap Stad ('Sleepy Town'), the pace is much slower, the sentiment more liberal than in Joburg (although I think this is changing).

I was also pleased to see the focus that Zeitz MOCAA is putting on African female and LGBTQ+ voices, especially artist and photographer Mame-Diarra Niang or performance artist Tracey Rose.

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“We welcome you to sit with us and with your senses – stay and be within your own bodies. Sala invites you to linger, to experience things with slowness. It offers multiple entry points for you to explore, to question and to challenge.”

Curatorial Statement for exhibition 'Sala' (15 December 2023 - 12 April 2026), Zeitz MOCAA 

'San Pedro V The Wall' (2005) by Tracey Rose

© Courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA

Why would you recommend South Africa as a destination for people interested in art? 

For the unique perspectives that haven’t been part of the global artistic conversation for very long due to oppressive colonial legacies.

 

Innovation and creativity are part of daily life for most South Africans as they navigate the socio-economic landscape, and the art scene is incredibly vibrant as a result.

 

The wealth of artistic insight is really exciting, and I hope it continues to explode at an international level! 

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'Ophiophillia' (2014) by Frances Goodman

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'Landscape' (2013) by Michele Mathison

'Landscape' (2013) & 'Bushveld' (2014) by Michele Mathison

Selection of Artworks

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