Monday, June 1, 2020

Teacher-artist scores major gig in Cape Town

An award-winning Motswana artist has been selected to participate in a prestigious visiting artist programme in Woodstock, Cape Town.

The artist, Uhuru Kgope, began his residency at Greatmore Studios last Monday in a programme that will end on November 30 this year. An art teacher at Naledi Senior Secondary School in Gaborone, Kgope was the Thapong Visual Artist of the Year in 2009.

“This is a big opportunity for me as an artist. Our visual arts in Botswana are not advanced – we don’t even have curators of international standard. This is an opportunity for me to get more exposure as I will be working with artists from different backgrounds,” Kgope told Sunday Standard a day before jetting out to South Africa.

Greatmore’s three-month residencies attract interest from around the globe. This year alone, the studios have hosted artists from Norway, Barbados, Israel, Malawi and Iran. Kgope will be working and learning alongside four other artists from Mexico, Spain, Germany and South Africa. The Cape Town gig come just one year after Kgope, a graduate of the University of Johannesburg graduate, spent 10 days in Zimbabwe for the Harare International Festival of the Arts, one of Africa’s largest such events, and had his work featured at the National Gallery in Harare. His work has also been part of group exhibitions in South Africa, United Kingdom and Belgium.

One important requirement of the Greatmore programme is that artists participate in a one-week outreach programme in and around Cape Town in order “to promote awareness and understanding of the visual arts in the broader community.” Greatmore’s website adds with regard to the latter: “Artists are encouraged to share their skills with people in communities, in particular children and youth.

Through their work, artists provide ways of integrating image making and the visual arts, in all its forms, into everyday life. The artists may initiate their own programmes or participate in existing programmes run by Greatmore. Outreach programmes which take the form of art workshops for children and adults, interventions, research projects, video or digital presentations, exhibitions, lectures and discussion groups. These events are held at schools and tertiary institutions or at Greatmore Studios, where a communal workshop space and a gallery can be used for outreach activities.”

To that end, Kgope says that he has submitted a proposal to work with students in disadvantaged communities in the Cape Town area. Thereafter, the visiting artists will develop a concept for a two-week group exhibition that will close out the programme.

Kgope’s residency comes at a time that his students at Naledi are preparing for final and end-of-year examinations and naturally there will be anxiety about whether this is the right time for him to be thousands of kilometres away. His response is that when he has to undertake assignments of this nature, suitable substitute teacher stand in for. He adds that his students also stand to benefit a great deal from what he will learn in Cape Town.

“They are not exposed to different art processes because of the level of art development in Botswana and I will pass on to them what I learn in Cape Town,” says Kgope, noting further that the unorthodox theories and styles he encourages his students to use have yielded excellent results.

On its website, Greatmore says that the aim of its visiting artist programme “is to facilitate cultural exchange and creative dialogue by bringing together international and local artists in a stimulating and supportive environment.” The full visiting residency package includes accommodation, studio space artists labour at to create a new body of work, per diem, outreach and materials budget as well as an exhibition in Greatmore’s Gallery space. The studio’s sponsors include South Africa’s National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund; the National Arts Council of South Africa; HiVOS, an NGO-funder based in the Netherlands; the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport of the Western Cape Province; the Swiss Arts Council; and, the South African Arts Trust in the UK.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.