Made in Africa: art for social change and more ...

Author:Jere, reGina Jane
Position:Arts and Culture: CONTEMPORARY ART

If you thought African art begins and ends with the words "ethnic" or "tribal" or that it is just some curio you buy at a street market as a souvenir, then think again. African art is transforming by leaps and bounds, writes reGina Jane Jere, who recently visited Africa's leading art fairs, Southern Guild and Design Indaba in Cape Town.

Last year was a good year for art and design lovers in South Africa and beyond as Cape Town celebrated being given the accolade of the World Design Capital 2014. It is, therefore, of little surprise that leading design creatives and curators in the country are capitalising on that high honour.

It is also probably why the South African tourism authorities are keen to draw the world's attention to the country's oldest city--attention that goes beyond Cape Town being a magnet for tourists, to it being a city that is using art and design as a tool to improve social, cultural and economic dynamics in South Africa. The city is also seeking to take South African design beyond its borders through collaborations with world-renowned names.

However, as a first-time visit to the Southern Guild art fair, which is receiving increasing acclaim worldwide, the 2015 exhibition, held at the Lookout V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, evoked mixed feelings.

On the one hand the Guild promotes groundbreaking high-end designs by Africans, some of which have found a home in the abodes of the rich and famous, in South Africa, Europe and even in Hollywood. On the other hand, from mingling with the art lovers and visitors to the Guild's 2015 fair, anyone would be forgiven for wondering if contemporary art, in places such as Cape Town, is pluralistically diverse and inclusive. Why did South Africa, if not Africa's foremost art fair attract so few black visitors? It is a question that the co-founder of the Southern Guild, Trevyn McGowan, agrees is fair: "With design soaring and interest in it growing monumentally, it is all a matter of education--we need to educate grassroots South Africans more on the importance of events like this and the value of high-end art and design. That is something we and our partners are working towards," she tells New African.

It's a view which Andile Dyalvane, who won the Icon Award at the 2015 Southern Guild Art Awards, supports: "It is a field that many black parents don't see as financially rewarding, like other traditional vocations. For the black and young in the last 21 years of our democracy, art and design...

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