Phendu Kuta

last updated Thu, May 11, 2023 2:48 PM

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New international galleries programme bringing African creativity under one roof

By Phendu Kuta
| Updated 14:48 11/05/2023
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African and diaspora artists, collectives and galleries will be hosted by Latitudes, one of the largest online markets for African art, at the RMB Latitudes art fair, a pioneering, artist-forward exhibition celebrating contemporary African art and creativity, according to the event's curator, Nkhensani Mkhari.

The exhibition includes a dynamic roster of artists, from recent graduates to emerging artists and mid-career artists. 

The indoor-outdoor art experience's second instalment will be held at the baroque-style three-acre Shepstone Gardens in Johannesburg from the 26th to the 28th of May. 

"The art fair's overarching theme is co-emergence," says Mkhari, referring to artistic concepts developed from the experience of thinking and experiencing at the same time.

"Co-emergence is the concept of the absolute and its relationship to form and non-being in the African and Diasporic context," explained Mkhari. 

"Co-emergence also explores the idea of what it means to coexist; it is about relational practices and how we relate to each other. Thus the exhibition will foster the coexistence of dynamic facets of creativity, sculpture, visual art, sound pieces, and design," Mkhari added.

Furthermore, Mkhari envisions the art fair as a space for collectors and audience members to discover new artists and to provide entry points for first-time collectors.

"I want to encourage young collectors to be in a space that allows them to actually start collecting art." 

RMB Latitudes is Mkhari's first curatorial undertaking with Latitudes Online. 

The platform was created as a physical event in 2019 by co-founders Roberta Coci and Lucy MacGarry. However, it swiftly transitioned online during the pandemic, becoming South Africa's biggest online art marketplace. 

The venue's multi-level baroque architecture will be divided into diverse art hubs, which will create space for various African artists to coexist. 

The art fair's central section, titled INDEX, an acronym for Independent Artist's Exhibition, will showcase independent artists in a group exhibition. 

Mkhari has curated INDEX according to three sub-themes; Reflections, Rest and Dream. 

'Reflections' - which explores figuration and portraiture, features contemporary photography and figurative paintings by artists such as Terrence Maluleke, Jody Brand, Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo, Bahati Simoens, Ketumile Malesa, and Samurai Farai, amongst others. 

The second theme, 'Rest', explores the dialect between space and rest and features contemporary sculptural pieces by Warren Maroon, Bulumko Mbete, Cazlynne Peffer, Gaelen Pinnock, Alexandra Naledi Holtman, Raees Saieet, and a host of hybrid 3D works by Tzung-Hui Lauren Lee, as well as an art installation by Mankebe Seakgoe. 

The third, Dream, is devoted to various contemporary painting styles, featuring work by Thokozani Mthiyane, Yonela Makoba, Mankebe Seakgoe, Maja Maljevic, Lerato Lodi, and Benjamin Salvatore, among others. 

Mkhari has a unique vantage point, in being both an independent artist and a curator, whereas most African curators focus on curating and African artists primarily focus on creating art. 

"I've been privileged enough to exist and cultivate knowledge in both spaces, which creates a relational factor between me and artists", Mkhari, who uses they/them as pronouns, said. 

Although Mkhari's academic background is in Design and Cinema, it was whilst working as a web designer for Johannesburg-based gallery BKhz that they received their first curatorial opportunity in 2019. 

"Gallery founder Banele Khoza invited me to curate their first show, Metamorphosis, a group exhibition exploring human anatomy's transformation through art photography. This introduction to curation led to working as a full-time curator, and after two-and-a-half years at BKhz, I then evolved into curating special projects for NPO A4 Arts Foundation," said Mkhari. 

Along their curatorial journey, Mkhari has furthered their proficiency by studying through a fellowship with Akademie Schloss Solitude. They have since curated numerous local and international shows. 

The art fair's talk programme will include insightful discussions created in collaboration with auction house Strauss & Co as part of their Strauss Education programme. 

And the International Galleries Programme, a new model for Latitudes, also curated by Mkhari alongside project advisory committee members Azu Nwagbogu, Valerie Kabov, and Lucy MacGarry, is a sustainable way for galleries and artists on the continent and the diaspora to show in South Africa. 

The curator and advisory committee have invited several galleries, six from the continent and two European galleries. The lifestyle art fair will include a design store featuring craft and interior designers such as Lalela, L'MAD Collection x Guillotine, Marigold Beads, Kevin Collins, SAD by SMAC Gallery, Something Good Studio and Waldman Studios. 


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