Province to sponsor exhibitions in bid to boost local artists

22 June 2009

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EMERGING artists in “Far South” communities such as Simon’s Town, Fish Hoek, Masiphumilele and Ocean View have been given a chance to track the giant footprints of some of the greats of the area – thanks to ongoing efforts by the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism to promote art through job creation.

Last week, the Department sent out a special message to the province’s steadily expanding palette of budding artists: “Contact us for some good news!”

“We know that many of our up-and-coming painters and sculptors are producing work that deserves to be seen – and appreciated – by a wider audience than what they have perhaps been accustomed to,” said Labeeqah Schuurman, the Department’s Chief Director of Tourism, Arts and Entertainment.

“And we believe that we can help them get the exposure they need.”

Aspirant painters and sculptors from the “Far South” have some excellent role models from which to draw inspiration….

The talents – as poet, painter and illustrator – of the close to 80-years-of-age Peter Clarke, who during the apartheid years was “relocated” by Group Areas legislation from Simon’s Town to Ocean View, appear limitless. Sculptor Frank Brown was considered good enough to lecture American students. Georgia Papageorge is regarded as one of South Africa’s foremost proponents of “earth art”. Arthur Adams, who attended Arsenal Road Primary School in Simon’s Town before setting off on a long journey in which art, political activism and exile were key elements, was an expressionist painter who bequeathed all his work to the Iziko South African National Gallery.

The Department hopes to encourage new artists via a series of province-wide art exhibitions over the next few weeks. To this end, it is inviting painters and sculptors who live in the Western Cape to submit examples of their work for consideration as exhibits.

“The project will follow a similar format to the one launched in 2005, in which artists were invited to capture ‘The World of Work in the Western Cape’. Artists depicted typical day-in-the-life scenes of survivalist enterprises, small businesses and people working in formal organisations,” said Schuurman.

The Department will narrow down the submissions to 30, to form part of the exhibitions, which at this point is scheduled to be held in public spaces in the Golden Acre, Cape Town (Cape Metropole); Hermanus (Overberg District Municipality); Mossel Bay, George and Knysna (Eden District Municipality); Vredendal and Vredenburg (West Coast District Municipality); Paarl and Worcester (Cape Winelands District Municipality) and Beaufort West (Central Karoo District Municipality).

The theme of the works of art will reflect the Department’s vision – the creation and ongoing promotion of a shared, sustainable, growing, labour-absorbing and globally-competitive economy.

In recent years, the Department has also given a “first break” (or a mid-career gee-up) to a number of new, as well as more established, talents – by commissioning them to produce work to illustrate departmental publications. The most recent examples have been a collection of posters and a set of postcard-size brochures illustrating the dangers of alcohol abuse (to complement written material publicising new liquor legislation in the Western Cape). At the very least, it is an innovative job-creation project. But, of course, it goes deeper than that….

“Over the past decades, our province has produced some of South Africa’s top artists, including Clarke, Brown, Papageorge, artist Sipho Hlati, painter and sculptor Ishmael Thyssen, painter and sculptor Donovan Ward and artist Maggie Laubser, among many others,” said Schuurman.

“Sure, there is a job creation aspect to what we’re doing. But I am convinced that the encouragement that we have given relative newcomers such as Richard Rhode, in nearby Steenberg, and Sheneez Benting and Ighsaan Adams of Bonteheuwel, will not only encourage emerging talents to follow their dreams, but also provide the spark that will eventually lead to the emergence of a new generation of great artists,” she added.

Schuurman said the project was open to everyone who complied with the simple “household” requirements of the project – a one-page profile of his or her achievements as an artist, a head-and-shoulder photograph and a photograph of at least one item of work (to reach the organisers by the deadline of Friday, 10 July 2009).

“The exhibitions, which I’m sure will be as well supported in the Far South as in other parts of the province, will serve as an excellent ‘business card’ for the artists, who will also be commissioned to produce new work,” she said.


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