Friday, 21 October 2016

iThemba Tower combines art, recycling and community

Each of the recycled bottles which forms part of the iThemba Tower in Troyeville, Johannesburg contains a coloured light and a message of hope contributed by members of the community. (Image: iThemba Tower Tumblr blog )
By Lindiwe Sibanyoni

Officially opened in July 2016, the iThemba Tower is a community art project made with over 7 000 recycled plastic drinks bottles decorating a decommissioned 20m high cellular tower.
The tower is situated in the garden of the Spaza Art Gallery in Troyeville, Johannesburg. The repurposed tower has become a point of pride for people living and working in the area.

The project is the brainchild of renowned local street artist r1, conceived as a way to collaborate with the community in creating distinctive urban art. The artist specialises in taking lifeless urban landscapes and adding colourful, eye-catching African flourishes using various mediums.

Speaking to Graffiti South Africa, r1 says Johannesburg is his canvas, and its people his collaborators. "Every city has its beauty but Johannesburg [has] a special kind. There is a sense of freedom in the inner city that I don’t experience anywhere else. It is quite unique. People are open for engagement and I get fascinating opinions from very diverse backgrounds. [It’s] so rich culturally but still somehow a hidden treasure.

View image on Twitter 

The iThemba Tower's plastic bottles – bought from the city's informal waste collectors – each contain a light and a written message by members of the community, including learners from local schools. At night the tower lights up with a multitude of colours.

Taking the isiZulu word for hope, 'ithemba', the messages inside each bottle represent the dreams of each contributor. Speaking to blogger Heather Mason of, r1 describes the artwork as a "symbolic communication tower around which a diversity of people can share their collective hopes".

More important, the installation is also an opportunity to draw attention to the importance of recycling and the informal collectors who recycle the city's waste as a means to survive.

While the tower itself is the main attraction, it forms part of an online multimedia project incorporating video, crowdsourcing and blog posts, which all highlight the installation's journey from idea to reality. It also tells the stories of the community contributors to the project, including the waste collectors.

"Even though my work is to be seen out in the street, it is also important to cater for those that spend most of their time in front of a screen," r1 says, adding that "good documentation helps re-adapting the work to the viewer’s means and expectations. The final work is not only the end product, but also the entire narrative towards its completion."

Through online crowdsourcing and visitor contributions, the project has raised over R40 000 for improving the livelihood of informal waste collectors and strengthening the community of Troyeville.
Read more about iThemba Tower, the Spaza Art Gallery and how city residents can contribute to this ongoing project.
Source: iThemba Tower Tumblr blog and reporter
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Esther Mahlangu Keeping Ndebele Painting Alive

A leading South  is on a mission to raise awareness of her culture and encourage young people around the world to embrace art.

By Lindiwe Sibanyoni

Esther Mahlangu, 80, was born in a remote area of northern South Africa and is part of the Ndebele tribe. She was taught to paint aged 10 by her grandmother and mother.

To keep with tradition, she only ever paints her designs with chicken feathers or sticks and uses pigments from her surroundings, such as black from river mud. Speaking before her work is shown in a major exhibition of South African art at the British Museum, Mahlangu said that she was proud to help promote her culture and her tribe.

She said: “Most people have never experienced Ndebele culture. My life’s work is showing people my culture. [It is] my small gesture of protecting Ndebele from dying out.” The artist said she hoped her work would inspire the next generation of artists. “I want to give to children so they have the passion about art that I have and the process continues.”

“I always watched my mother and grandmother when they were decorating the house,” says Mahlangu of her start in painting. “The original patterns that were painted on the houses in the past were part of a ritual of Ndebele people to announce events like a birth, death, wedding, or when a boy goes off to the initiation school. I started painting on canvas and board as I realized not everybody will be able to see the Ndebele painting in Mpumalanga where I live, and I felt I need to take it to them to see. This is how my work started to be exhibited in museums and galleries around the world.”

While Mahlangu’s artistic foundation is in the centuries-long tradition of Ndebele craft, she has developed a visual lexicon and color palette that is specific to her. “In the old days, the decoration on the houses was always done with natural pigment and cow dung as that was the only material available,” she remembers. “We were very limited with colors and used monochromatic yellow, white, ochre, black, and red clay. Then acrylic paint in lots of colors was introduced, which was more durable in the rainy season and it was adopted by the younger generation of painters like myself.” For her breakout exhibition, in the group show “Magicians of the Earth,” at the Centre Pompidou in 1989, Mahlangu used acrylic paint.

Her first car followed a lineage that includes Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and many other well-known male artists of the Western canon. “We opened our plant in Rosslyn, South Africa, in 1986 and have had a big presence there ever since,” explains Girst of the decision to work with Mahlangu. “And Nelson Mandela was freed from prison [in 1990]. So 1991 was the year that the commitment was made to do something for the art scene there.

That was embodied in the commission of Esther Mahlangu. I’m proud of that heritage as well as her becoming the first woman artist to tackle the project.”
 “I would think that no art is being created in a vacuum,” says Girst. “It’s somewhat problematic when looking at South African art and Western art—with mostly Western art taking and African art giving. The way that African art was appropriated is more of a taker’s attitude. I want to see the art history written that pays as much tribute to the originality of this South African heritage that we also see in Mahlangu’s art as to Keith Haring.”

Mahlangu herself points out the influence of African art on Western culture. “There has always been a fascination, demand, and admiration for art from Africa,” she says, “and the Ndebele style is one of the most significant styles of painting that still resembles original shapes and forms. It is colorful and abstract and lends itself to incorporation into modern design.”

But she also sees the importance of inserting Ndebele painting into the Western art canon in order to preserve its history. “Sadly there are very few traditional Ndebele painters left, as girls no longer stay home,” she says. “Everybody works in big cities and all the houses are now brick houses and not the traditional mud houses of the past. A long time ago, if you drove through the areas where Ndebele people settled, you would see lots of decorated houses. Now there are fewer and fewer. I am very scared that one day the only Ndebele mural or painting that you will see will be a picture in a book or in a museum.” Mahlangu cannot stop the changes taking place in her culture, but she can be part of its amplification.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Song of Nongoma at South African State Theatre

                The Queen with Nagai and
                Ntsimu on stage.

Photograph by Ayanda Zungu

The South African State Theatre in association with Afrikan Freedom Station proudly presents Song of Nongoma on 21 October 2016.

A tale of an African queen told through musical instruments inherited from the gods for future generations. Written and directed by Dr Steve Kwena Mokwena and Dr Kgafela oa Magogodi. These two combined, they produce a composition of jazz featuring drama, poetry and film for theatre.

Song of Nongoma is a musical that tells a story of a music goddess, Nongoma and her battle with Nagai, the evil god of greed and hate. Nagai’s soul thieves go head to head against Nongoma’s sound warriors in this otherworldly story about life and music inspired by the magical writings of Isanusi (high sangoma) Credo Mutwa. Song of Nongoma is a free jazz operetta and a futuristic fable about the origins, death and rebirth of true music.

Steve Kwena Mokwena is a historian, filmmaker and cultural activist. He is the founder of Xivumbeko Media and the Afrikan Freedom Station, an afrocentric multi-media gallery. He has produced and directed numerous films, including A Blues for Tiro (2007), Our Father Who Art in Memory (2008), Biko’s Trail (2008) and Driving with Fanon (2009). Mokwena describes the musical piece as “a spiritual modern African story that is entertaining, educating for the entire family. This is an African mythology in the present tense.”

One of the directors and writers of the musical, Kgafela, brings to the show an element of poetry. Known for his mysterious writings, still today he cannot be figured out. He’s described as “something of an enigma in the arts world- Abdul Milazi of Sunday World.” He wrote his first book, Thy Condom Come, in 2000 and followed it up with Outspoken in 2004. Both books received rave reviews locally and abroad, leading to his work being translated into German, Dutch, French and Catalan. He wrote and directed the spoken-word films I Mike What I Like and Itchy City.

Song of Nongoma will premiere at the South African State Theatre on 21 October and it will run till 29 October 2016. When greed, hatred and evil meet beauty, make sure you are on the front rows of the Opera theatre to witness this tale as it unfolds. It will be a saga to tell your children’s children.

Even true stories are fairytales. Life is a muddle, as intricate as a Gordian knot. We do the same with world history, shaping the details into a consistent story.
Song of Nongoma is a musical that tells the story of the goddess of music, Nongoma and her battle with Nagai the evil god of greed and hate. Nagais’s soul thieves go head to head against Nongoma’s sound warriors in this otherworldly story about life and music inspired by the magical writings of isanusi (high sangoma) Credo Mutwa. Song of Nongoma is a free jazz operetta and a futuristic fable about the origins, death and rebirth of true music.

The musical will feature singers Ayanda Nhlangothi, Sebone Rangata, Sandile Makhoba and Lebogang Inno. With Khaya Mahlangu on saxophone and flute, Feya Faku on trumpet, Marcus Wyatt on trumpet, Thebe Lipere on percussions, Pule Pheto on piano, Tumi Mogorosi on drums, Mandla  Mlangeni on trumpet, Ariel Zamonsky on contrabass, Gerrit Strydom on guitar, Thandi Ntuli on keyboards, Oscar Rachabane on saxophone and pennywhistle and Siya Makhuzeni on vocals/trombone. Makhuzeni is the Standard Bank Young Artist Award recipient (jazz) for 2015.

For more information, please visit South African State Theatre.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

2017 Call for proposals


By Lindiwe Sibanyoni

The 2017 National Arts Festival intends presenting an artistic programme of bold, courageous work that engages with the curatorial themes for the 2017 National Arts Festival that will focus on the relationship between art and disruption: art as a disruptor of mainstream ways of thinking, and art in response to disruptions to the status quo.

Consideration will be given to proposals submitted by south African artists/ companies I they engage with South Africa's sociopolitical a economic and historical context; and are likely to challenge and spark lively discussion and reflection by contest in the negative legacies that South Africa has inherited, and the challenges that the country faces today.

The curatorial focus invites works that; 

• are inspired by a reflection to borders of any and all kinds;
• engage with the '#feesmustfall' and '#mustrise' movements;
• wrestle with the past to understand the present.

In short, they are looking for compelling, innovative and high-quality performances, exhibitions and  cross-disciplinary works that serve as catalysts for debate and transformation.

Proposals for performances submitted by non-South African artists / companies should demonstrate a track record of excellence. The productions should be able to offer new inspirations, innovative directions, critical or reflective narratives that can connect South African audiences with global experiences.

The National Arts Festival's Main programme is informed by the following SEVEN major programming criteria:

• Premiere of new work
The National Arts Festival presents premieres of productions and exhibitions by established and well-known South African and non-South African artists. Productions by South African artists of South African premieres that will not be presented at any South African venue for at least six months prior to the festival will be considered. Productions by non-South African artists / companies of works which have benn staged with acclaim at non-South African festivals and theatres will be considered on the proviso that the South African premiere of the work is presented at the National Arts Festival...

• Cutting Edge Work
The National Arts Festival present exciting new, cutting edge and provocative productions and exhibitions that can generate an active dialogue both in terms of its content and form.

• Collaboration & co-production of new work
The National Arts Festival will consider proposals for collaborations with South African and non-South African artists and managements and / or festivals to co-producce work that may require more than one partner for the effective funding of productions with the proviso that such productions have strong artistic merit and will have its South African premiere in Graham's town. Consideration will be given to work that explore the African continent in terms of collaborations/ themes/ texts; and advance intercontinental collaboration through cross-border engagement and / or a broad engagement with foreign national creative resident and working in South Africa.

• Multidisciplinary presentations
The National Arts Festival recognises that an increasing number of South African artists are creating work that interfaces across genres and also with different forms of media. The festival welcomes work that incorporate  cross-disciplinary collaborations and / or explore new forms of making art and / or boldly or innovatively blur the lines between genres and particularly in the way they reflect changing trends in arts practice and also in the way that such productions and/ or exhibitions will appeal to a new generation of audiences.

• Diversity
The National Arts Festival presents work that reflects the broad demographic of South African arts practice. The festival's audiences are as diverse as its artists. The festival embraces the spirit that a successful national cultural event has a responsibility to serve its audiences and artists in equal measure and to ensure that each event contributes to growing a more progressive, tolerant, and cohesive society.

• Development
The National Arts Festival creates special opportunities and platforms for newly emerging artists and historically marginalised performing arts companies to participate and grow through the festival's various incubator programmes.

• Accessibility
The National Arts Festival recognises that taking the arts into nontraditional spaces and outdoor public forums will provise audinces with "unexpected encounters with art". Artists are encouraged to think beyond the conventions of formal theatre spaces and to explore site-specific interventions that will engage with and / or challenge the historical, social, and / or cultural boundaries of Grahamstown.

• Revivals
The Festival presents a limited number of revivals or works that have been previously staged in South Africa. Strong motivation for why such work should be revived or presented at the Festival needs to be submitted in proposals. In the case of classics, preference is given to fresh takes of these works.

Proposals for any production that has been presented at the National Arts Festival (including the fringe) during the past five years will not be considered.
Proposals can be submitted to

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Monster in truth

Reality is the monster for all
                     Art piece: Angie    

By Lindiwe Sibanyoni

This art was created by Angie, she was given a lifetime by an underground artist by the name of Jay One all the way from Zimbabwe. Not only he's an artist but a poet too! Who thought his time had arrived at the young age. Little did he know that the game was a lot bigger than he thought he knew.

In high school he was sitting one day in a maths class, and then the maths teacher asked every student a question: "what do you want to be when you grow up?"and many people answered: nurses, police. But he was quite different from others and he said 'I want to be a superstar, people should see me on television or any other media platforms.' And with God's favour, after writing writing his final matric exams he was seen on televisions and also radios.

As we know that money attracts or rather makes money makes the world go round... Well on this case he had a lots of money, he got it through fame, music and the good shows that paid him well. They provided him with drugs, ladies and liquor. When he got deep into the game, his trappers got him on the hook and he had no where to go, but to listen to their commands. And he denied. That's when he found himself on his way down. As we can see on the picture that  there's a scorpion - meaning that some people that you trust and expect they should be supportive, are the ones that sting in your life or shall I say in reality.

Then the snakes in your life are the closest friends or people - they are always hiding under the green grass. They only lifts their heads up when they spit Vernon to hurt you and they don't care about you. It's funny how the world is greedy and people are only concerned about themselves, people only loves you when you achieve your goals but then again pray for your downfalls. That's when you realise that you are left alone and it will be too late for you to change, therefore the world pushes to hide yourself, gives you pressure from your dreams because you have been bitten and stung and you end up not knowing where to go. So you pray to the Lord and ask for help and by then, the Lord's answers will be late for your goals.

Now let's get to the fox situation you're seeing on this art piece. Now the fox is basically the witch, the karma or rather a rubber band...because when a rubber or elastic band stretches to its maximum, it either breaks or comes back. And when it breaks, the half goes forward and the other half comes back; when it comes back it's called 'Karma' (what goes around comes around).

Now in conclusion, while he was  on his downfalls, no one offered help nor could even gve him advices on which step to take from there. Things became hard for him in a way that he ended up as a cleaner. So basically this art is all about an upcoming album. So, my advice to people, and I mean everywhere around the country; never look down on others simply because of your powers!

Check out some creativity on the following links:

Monday, 17 October 2016

Muluneh going places with her art

By Lindiwe Sibanyoni

Aida Muluneh received her BA in film, radio and television from Horward University in 2001. She has worked freelance since then, also founding DESTA (Developing and Educating Societies Through the Arts). Her work has been exhibited at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC.

She has expressed a preference for manual/analog photography: In this digital world, she think every photographer should get his or her hands dirty in the darkroom. She’s still having a hard time accepting digital photography and having 20, 000 images to edit every time she shoots, and monochrome images: Truth is, either black or white. Human elements are exhibited through it. Black and white is the foundation. Colour is tricky. But whatever she use, her focus is capturing light. One of her pieces was selected as the poster picture for ‘The Divine Comedy, Contemporary African Artists’ travelling exhibition.

On a blog she started to introduce DESTA, she explains what sparked her interest in photography. She remembered when she was a teenager she was so ashamed to tell people that she was an Ethiopian, that she wished she was South African! Regardless, the stigma of the ‘starving Ethiopian’ made it impossible for her to have any kind of pride in being Ethiopian. But it was at the end of high school that she realised how images could create or distort realities and so, at the age of sixteen she began exploring photography. The World is 9, an exhibition of new works was recently on view at David Krut Projects in New York. In the exhibition catalog, Muluneh says returning home after 28 years has been a lesson in humility. Since being back, she says, “An expression of my grandmother has stuck in my mind – she would say, ‘The World is 9, it is never complete and it’s never perfect.’” Hence the little of the exhibition.

The art piece below was chosen as a poster picture on the Marie Claire Magazine WWW.MARIECLAIRE.CO.ZA October 2016 issue, Page 121. This art piece shows how passionate and dedicated she is:

Fresh from showing a selection of her new body of work, The World is 9, at Joburg Art Fair, Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh talks to us about her creative process. She described her creative process as creating most of her work in her country and the inspiration comes from traditional body paintings from Ethiopia. She develops each image from a basic sketch then, working along with fashion designers, she creates the clothing for the shoot. Some of the face paintings are based on traditional body paintings from the southern region of Ethiopia – she wants to combine the various cultures of the country.

Her frequently feature women as the focal point in her work is to choose more often, female models because it offers her flexibility to tell her story. The body paintings on them are symbols of fading traditional cultures. The most important thing to her right now is balancing the global view on Africa and presenting our perspective that has often been overshadowed by the foreign gaze. Africa is a complex continent and there are more sides to our story.