STELLENBOSCH TRIENNALE 2020
Tomorrow There Will Be More of Us
Story: Petra Mason
Photos.Thekiso Mokhele @obscure_studio
The Stellenbosch Triennale — the first of its kind for the Cape — staged a two and a half month take-over of the historic town opening to the public on February 11th and ending April 30th. While the pan-African arts festival showcases a myriad of mediums sculpture takes center stage.
Described by chief curator Khanyisile Mbongwa as a ‘intergenerational conversation’ set in an intersectional, ancestral time-zone’ the aptly titled ‘Tomorrow there will be more of us” features, as described by Mbongwa ‘The Curator’s Exhibition’ talks from the present time zone, ‘On the Cusp’ talks to the future and ‘From the Vault’ talks to the past‘.
Selecting from ‘The Curators Exhibition’ (curated by Khanyisile Mbongwa and Dr. Bernard Akoi-Jackson) Mbongwa includes Ghanain art star Ibrahim Mahama ‘Strangers to Lines II’ — giant coffins that lean ominously along the pavilion walls made out of locally sourced reclaimed wood. Congolese artist Patrick Bongoy’s skillfully woven construction ‘Rubber Man’ and Mozambique born Euridice Getulio Kala’s outdoor piece titled: ‘Untitled: Still we are … ancestral people’ through which the artist honours how nomadic peoples occupy space — round in shape, with democratic points of view. Curator of ‘From the Vault’ Mike Tigere Mavura observes its functionality: ‘Euridice’s sculpture is meant to be used, It can be a church, I have used it for a lecture, it fits more people than you expect, it tracks time using the sun and is cooler inside than outside. Inside you ‘feel’ something” further expounding “Public space allows for sculptural works of scale and in public space sculpture often has a “presence” that requires if not demands some form of engagement from the public; you either have to enter or walk around, look up, smell, touch or just question “what is that?” as you walk past sculpture in public spaces. It grabs your attention somehow. Most of the sculpture at the Triennale is interactive and multi-sensory.’
This ‘interactivity’ reflected in Patrick’s Bongoy’s ‘Across The Currents’ as Mavura points out: ‘You have to ‘walk’ into Patrick Bongoy’s sculpture, you ‘listen’ to Franco and T.P.O.K Jazz band’s “Likambo Ya Ngana”, you ‘smell’ the rubber, you ‘read’ the words flapping in the wind.
Dr. Bernard Akoi-Jackson curated the ‘On the Cusp’ — an exhibition representing eight African countries including ‘Asafo Black Collective’ with a sculpture by artist Aaron Samuel Mulenga that greets you as you enter – multiple black featured faces cast in white with fists emerging from dark African soil.
Mavura believes ‘Sculpture in public spaces matters because often such sculpture is made to a scale that allows us to interact and experience new ideas or to upend the ways in which we perceive the things we think we know. Public sculpture gives concrete form in public to ideas that either compliment or challenge the ones we have about various subject matter’.
Over at the recently opened ‘From the Vault’ exhibition (co-curated by Mavuma and Gcotyelwa Mashiqa) — the exhibit offers a dialogue between contrasting archives buried deep in museum collections from Stellenbosch and Fort Hare that include a rare Helen Sebidi sculpture and a powerful Sidney Khumalo. The works on display at ‘From the Vault’ Mavura believes give concrete form to memory, nostalgia, myths, totems, rituals and animals of cultural significance which can be experienced particularly in the “From the Vault” exhibition at the Stellenbosch Museum.”
A non-commercial arts festival of this kind in today’s hyper commercial art world offers an intergenerational conversation that speaks clearly and hopefully about the future.
“the art that is going to
happen in the future in
South Africa is going to be
a figurative kind of art.”