Cape Town as a cultural hub

Cape Town as a cultural hub

ART in Cape Town 2019

While a buzzing Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2019 (ICTAF) has opened its doors in the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th of February 2019, providing a vibrant platform for galleries from South Africa, Africa and abroad (see list of galleries here) to engage with contemporary art lovers and art collectors from across the globe, Cape Town’s rather recent ‘centre for art and cultural expression, dedicated to the research and exhibition of 20th- and 21st-century visual art from South Africa and beyond’ – only a mere 30 km south of the mother city, in the Steenberg area, set against a mountain and vineyard landscape just below the Silvermine Mountain National Reserve – has invited to yet another exquisite exhibition not to be missed:

The NORVAL Foundation 

If you’re not yet familiar with this architectural gem, please click the link below. Envisioned by DHK Architects as a modern pavilion for art, the Norval Foundation is, from its generous lines to its  slightest detail, ‘a pure expression of form’. A place with an international flair, where every moment and each vista seem precious . . .

Allow me to share a few snapshot-impressions with you, at times accompanied by quotes from the NORVAL Foundation’s website :

Norval Foundation Atrium

Structural Response III by Serge Alain Nitegeka

“The theme of disrupted lives, disrupted work and disrupted spaces is, through his intervention within the Atrium, intended to enable a discussion about displacement.  His use of simple building materials such as pre-cut timber, references the aesthetics of temporary structures that forced migrants often construct.”

Structural Response III by Serge Alain Nitegeka


On the Mines – David Goldblatt

“Shown for the first time in its entirety, On the Mines: David Goldblatt is the last exhibition that the photographer personally helped conceptualise before his death in 2018. Goldblatt is revealed as the great chronicler and documenter of South Africa: the quiet observer of how the country, its peoples, its institutions and landscape have been inscribed by politics and power.”

David Goldblatt’s work was shown at the Documenta 11 and 12 in Kassel, Germany, as well as in the exhibition ILLUMInations at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.

“Goldblatt is the recipient of the 2006 Hasselblad award, the 2009 Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, the 2013 ICP Infinity Award and, in 2016, he was awarded the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France.”

On the Mines by David Goldblatt

The exhibition of his historic photographs is accompanied by the words of his lifelong friend, political activist Nadine Gordimer, recipient of the Booker Prize in 1974 and the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1991. The text of this courageous South African woman – who helped Nelson Mandela with his famous speech “I am prepared to die” at the Rivonia Trial on 20 April 1964 – is read by Brenda Goldblatt.

Nadine Gordimer - Nobel laureate and friend of David Goldblatt


Labour of Many – Ibrahim Mahama

As young artists and students of the ENSAAMA, Paris, we were highly impressed by Christo and Jeanne-Claude Javareff’s (brief: Christo’s) monumental installations and ‘wrappings’ – eg. the ‘Wrapped Reichstag’, ‘Pont Neuf’, ‘Valley Curtain’ and the pink ‘Surrounded Islands‘ – where the visual beauty and aesthetics were the driving force and a suitable material was decisive, not a deeper meaning, as the artists insisted. In the end, everything would disappear. Nothing would be left except the initial drawings, designs, technical data, exclusive photographs by Wolfgang Volz and documentaries by David and Albert Maysles (their film of Christo’s Valley Curtain was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short).

Significantly, Christo once famously said: “I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.” Which obviously gave rise to some philosophical discussion amongst us art students.

I couldn’t help thinking back when confronted with Ibrahim Mahama’s impressive, equally gigantic but – as the title already indicates: “Labour of Many” – meaning strongly socially engaged, 9 m high indoor installation.

Labour of Many by Ibrahim Mahama

Here, the  young artist from Ghana (born 1987) ‘deeper meaning’ is the origin and the result. Massive surfaces covered with hessian or jute sacks . . . “contrasting the humility of the materials with the monumentality of the space” . . . while still bearing the traces, signs, wounds, marks of previous owners . . . telling the story of their journeys between the Far East and the West . . . “histories that have conspired to create the present.”

abour of Many by Ibrahim Mahama

As Gabriela Salgado writes: “The fact that fabric constitutes a marker of identity as well as a sign of particular occasions in the African context turns these insertions into a kind of portraiture of the wearers. “

abour of Many by Ibrahim Mahama

“Wrapped around heaps of merchandise in the market place or embracing the contours of a museum building, the spreads of jute fibres become an oversized socio political inquiry of the origin of materials, referencing what is normally hidden for the sake of concept or form. Ibrahim Mahama denudes the transits and ownerships of jute sacks along their lives as porters of goods, rendering visible the mechanisms of trade which define the world’s economy. “

Labour of Many by Ibrahim Mahama

The way Mahama literally ‘conquered’ the largest gallery in the NORVAL Foundation within a dialog of space, present and past, is impressive to say the least! It is extremely tangible, if not tactile: those materials, are they still alive? Bearing witness to the fragrances of the places and spaces they had touched, being pulled, thrown, schlepped, or gently laid, scribbled upon and stamped. In the silence of that muted, black and ochre space resounded the echos of the pathways they had travelled along, from ancient ‘silk roads’ to ‘art roads’ to come. Simply AMAZING!

Mahama’s work was shown at the Documenta 14 in Kassel, Germany.


Trade Winds by Yinka Shonibare CBE

The exhibition “Trade Winds – Yinka Shonibare CBE” in Gallery 9 in the NORVAL Foundation shows a major library installation – ‘African Library’ – of about 4,900 books, plus sculptures, photos, and a series of artworks, all created between the years 2008 to 2018, and connected through their use of  Dutch Wax fabric.

Trade Winds: Yinka Shonibare CBE

“African Library broadens the initial concept of the artwork by celebrating the contributions that immigrant and non-immigrant Africans have made to the continent’s independence movements, science, arts and technological innovation, by emblazoning their names in gold on the spines of key books. African Library includes a reading area where biographical details of these notable Africans can be accessed along with archival footage of leaders of African independence movements.”


The entire exhibition is so well designed that one wonders as to what came first: the space or the content!

Time for a drink or a little lunch on the terrace of  The Skotnes Restaurant  while enjoying the views from underneath elegant ‘sun-sails’ or get a pre-packed picnic basket from the Kiosk, a take-away coffee or a sweet sin from the delectable range of Italian gelato to enjoy while exploring The Sculpture Garden and dreaming on . . .