The Soweto Art Project: Beyond Covid-19 exhibition opens December 9

Posted on 6 December 2020

The Soweto Art Project: Beyond Covid-19 aims to elevate Sowetan artists, using the appropriate theme of recovery from the virus that has changed the world.

Street art in Soweto. Picture: Getaway Gallery

Street artists like Ras Silas Motse and Senzo Nhlapo are best-known in their neighbourhoods for their murals that colour the streets and parts of the nation, and by corporate sponsors looking for vibrant and original messaging.

And that master of the etch, Lehlohonolo ‘Hloni’ Mkhasibe, who from his private yard in Emdeni cuts chairs, hats, coffee tables and life-size drawings from rubber tyres, which he calls “imbatata mdwebo”. The blade drawing blood in the process, says Hloni. ‘I feel no pain, for I love it, it is my art’.

These three masters of their craft are creating a compelling township product for the exhibition. It will be a canvas mural that intends to stimulate entrepreneurship amongst artists, contributing to collaboration between various creative fields (art, craft, graphic design and product design), and supporting, as a by-product, the township economy through providing market-access platform.

Funded by the National Arts Council, the project selected the three artists at various stages of their careers. Driven by Africa!gnite, the creative process is directed by well-established artist and project fulcrum Senzeni Marasela, who also came up with the idea that Silas, Senzo and Hloni collaborate with local crafters to create unique craft pieces based on the art that they created.

Silas calls on his earliest days in the eastern Free State Drakensberg as an early influence on his work, hearing birds and coming into contact with textures like wood and stone. He speaks of his mother as the influence for his best-known work. Senzo, who works on frame art, wall murals, photo montages, installations and live performances, speaks of his street murals reflecting global issues, ‘putting everyone in one pot’.

The artwork is a large canvas mural, from which six crafters, under the guidance of director Senzeni Marasela, are creating twelve beautifully styled tote bags.

The mural will be on display and for sale, while the bags will be promoted for replication and sale through various local and international sales platforms, under the curation of Africa!Ignite and working in partnership with Soweto Tourism and artist Senzeni.

During the exhibition, information will be shared about each of the artists, the craft group and the creative process.

Paying it forward

This exhibition carries with it significant benefits and spins-off, for artists, community and industry. Local crafters will gain both exposure for their work and an opportunity to earn income from possible sales.

In the long term the aim is to replicate the creative process and build momentum towards the Project becoming a stand-alone, self-sustaining business for Soweto, with proceeds from sales of artworks ploughed back into the project.

This will arm it with compelling content going forward, linking it to tourism and providing new content for local tour guides leading local and international tourists on art tours through Soweto. The Project will further work to increase collaboration with other creatives, among them interior designers, fashion designer, sculptors and film-makers.

In under two weeks, the Soweto Art Project: Beyond Covid, will reveal the craft beneath Soweto’s skin.

The decommissioned Orlando Power Station is now a bungee jump site.


Picture: Unsplash

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