WEBINAR BRINGS TOGETHER SADC CURATORS TO FOSTER CONSTRUCTIVE RELATIONS AND DEVELOP VISUAL ARTS FIELD IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
17 October 2023
The Fine Art Department at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) recently hosted a successful webinar under the Visual Arts Forum of Educators of Southern Africa (VAFESA) initiative. The event, titled “Conversation with SADC Curators’ Flagship Projects 2021-2023,” aimed to foster a formal and constructive relationship with the visual arts’ academic community, contributing to the development of the visual arts field in Southern Africa through both practice and research.
Mr. Mashaole Makwela, a Senior Lecturer at VUT and VAFESA research coordinator, organized the event, highlighting the significance of hearing from the visual arts community outside the academic sphere amid post-COVID-19 recovery efforts. Planning for this international event spanned four months.
Three SADC curators, Mr. Siyakudumisa-Madala-Sotsu from Margate Art Museum in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, Ms. Neelo Lentebanye, founder, and curator at the 1966 Art Gallery in Botswana (now based in Italy), and Ms. Doris Kamupira, an assistant curator at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, responded to the call to share their flagship projects. These projects addressed critical national issues in their respective countries from 2021 to 2023. The discussion was expertly moderated by Mr. Souza Malebo, an art educator in Botswana.
The topics covered the challenges faced by government and private institutions in the creative and cultural industry in their respective countries. They also explored the potential for developing sustainable creative arts for the rural, township, national, and global markets. Mr. Sotsu emphasised the reliance of many artists and cultural workers on freelance and project-based work, particularly in areas where towns are surrounded by villages.
Ms. Kamupira discussed the expansion of public programs to previously unexplored regions and provinces, especially in the Matebeleland area. Ms. Lentebanye raised concerns about the insufficient galleries and museums in Botswana dedicated to documenting and promoting the arts.
Challenges such as the lack of professional practice and art education in rural areas were acknowledged. These issues were addressed through outreach programs, policy engagement, and skills transfer by institutions like the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the Margate Art Museum.
The webinar provided valuable insights into industry trends in the SADC region post-COVID-19, benefiting both staff and students. Mr. Gilbert Maepa, a postgraduate student, expressed the need for institutions to incorporate the idea of sustainable development into the curriculum. He highlighted that parental support for pursuing arts-related careers could be enhanced through this approach, suggesting a potential area for research and curriculum development for art educators in the region.
Moreover, it became evident that curators in government institutions have expanded their roles beyond curating art exhibitions to encompass education and management functions, reinforcing their pivotal role in the cultural landscape.