By Lindiwe Dhlamini
The day started with laughter around the breakfast table, sharing a meal with Professor Sir Zanele Muholi, Lindeka Qampi, Bajabulile Dhlamini and my childhood friend Khabonina Makhoba. The plan was to go to Wits University Drama Department, where Muholi was supposed to have a meeting. However plans changed and we found ourselves doing gallery tours in Rosebank. We started at Futura, an agency that represents Caster Semenya to drop off a gift portrait of beaded art done by Qubeka, interpreting a photo taken by Prof. Muholi.
Next thing we know, we were touring from one gallery to the other. I was happy because not only was it a fun tour, it was also educational which yielded results of collaborations with David Krut, a gallery and bookstore owner.
Our first gallery visit was at David Krut Gallery where we had the pleasure of viewing the works of William Kentridge in collaboration with Jill Ross titled; The Making of That which I do not remember. The work was fascinating to say the least, and very confusing at first. Ross who was at the gallery at the time explained some of the pieces and what they meant. Through my eye, I could see abstracts of land mapping and landscapes with different shapes and sizes. The wooden art piece was most fascinating to me, I like how they were carved and displayed they had something storytelling about them.
We then moved on to Goodman Gallery which was across the road, Prof. Muholi bought some art books and we saw beautiful artworks by Gerhard Marx titled; Ecstatic Archive / 2019. I noticed a common theme from the previous gallery where maps were also used for the work showing at the Goodman Gallery. I loved how Marx used something that was familiar to my youth; a geographical book; Atlas which we used in primary school. The cut-offs from that book made me a bit uncomfortable, but art is what the artist makes it out to be.
By the time we moved to Lizamore & Associates I was wondering whether we will ever see artworks by Black artists, and I started feeling a bit sad of how inaccessible gallery spaces are for the majority of people in South Africa. The gaze from the people who work in these galleries is a lot to handle and the comment by the two white women was a reminder that art viewing was designed as an act reserved only for white people, ours is to serve. Their first thoughts were that we were there to visit a receptionist, instead of being there to view the work being put up on the walls. The gaps in the spatial use and attendance of galleries still reflect the remnants of Apartheid and its laws of segregation. The works that were being installed was by Black artists; Linda Zwane, Sizwe Khoza, and Jan Tshikhuthula but still we did not fit the identity of the expected viewer of art in galleries.
The show opened on the 7th of March till 21st April 2019. Despite the hostile comment at Lizamore &Associates, I saw people who looked like me and it got me very excited and happy. For a moment I felt like the universe was seeing my heart earlier when I questioned if I will see the works of Black artists on the walls. I loved that work more, not because it was done by Black artists, but because I could see myself in it. That granny with a Doek on a canvass looked like a Gogo who raised me. Though beautiful and smiling you can see the pain in her eyes and the lines of tears that have fallen off her cheeks. I felt connected to her as if I could hug her, but the environment and the stares caused a conflict in my soul and I was ready to get out of there.
Our last stop became the place where we spent most of our time, at the David Krut Bookstore, here the vibe was different. Started off a bit tense but people relaxed when they noticed that David knew Prof. Muholi. He was polite, came to greet us and he and Muholi had a long conversation about art, book translation to indigenous languages, collaborations, training and so forth. Their interaction had positive results and seems to be a relationship worth exploring and keeping. By the time we were preparing our next plan, which was to go to the bank, the rain in Johannesburg was starting and it became so strong. There was hail for a while making the drive home somewhat difficult due to traffic. Luckily we were not far from home. Overall, the day was productive and I learned a lot about art and awareness of self and spaces I occupy.