What follows is a speech prepared to open officially the For Sale Project Exhibition 2012. Due to the hype around the exhibition at the evening of 1 August and the throng of people who responded to the opening I never gave this speech. Avoiding the heavy burden of history I instead improvised and picked up the most salient ideas around the exhibition and its aims. The speech as it is reproduced below serves to pay homage to my contemporaries in Pretoria/Tshwane within the visual arts who have been involved in this project over the last decade. It is reproduced herein for all to gain an understanding of our attempts to move visual art forward in the City of Tshwane.
Good evening ladies and gentleman. Artists. Thank you for joining us this evening as we open this year’s installment of the For Sale Project Exhibition. My name is Mmutle Arthur Kgokong, I am a Culture Officer for the City of Tshwane and I am responsible for Education and Development at the Pretoria Art Museum. I feel honored to share this evening with you. I shall not give a critical commentary on the work that is on show for I believe that criticism in itself is designated to individual speculation as to what art concepts work better than others or which artwork is successful in a given context. Tonight I let you, in your personal capacity to be the judge – to be the connoisseur of fine art.
However if I may be allowed the privilege to give a general commentary on creativity itself I would like to offer that the artist, the creative person whatever the vocation of creativity that they are grappling with, for them concentration is everything. For in their pursuit to reach the original artwork the artist must work hard ceaselessly. Then I believe that they will reach a state wherein there is a ceaseless stream of consciousness towards creative art production. It is in that state that the artist will produce remarkable work that can claim a place in visual art history. In the future students of the arts will come across their names and work. And this is the highest ideal that art energy should try and attain through the life of the artist. The artist can channel it only without compromising hard work.
Ten years ago a group of volunteers involved at the Pretoria Art Museum with guided tours and visual art making workshops which were presented to under privileged children from our neighbouring communities in this city approached the art museum’s professional personnel with a proposal to have an exhibition of their own work. This was in 2002. And that group of volunteers were students from this Institution. They were in fact the first wave of volunteers from this very institution for each year that followed there was always a number of Tshwane University of Technology Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts art students involved in the Pretoria Art Museum’s Education and Development Programme.
The first exhibition
With the art museum’s exhibition schedule always full for about two years in advance we were quite fortunate to have the exhibition at the Centurion Art Gallery in the spring of that year. And it proved hassle free, logistically speaking that is, as the gallery had just been acquired by the City of Tshwane and it became a satellite gallery to the Art Museum. The Education Assistants or EA’s as they are affectionately known titled that first exhibition Genesis II. The title in its dual allusion to religion and natural evolution was a radical stance as the young artists sought out to make their own mark in the art gallery space! Over the following years as of 2003 we subsequently renamed the exhibition the For Sale Project Exhibition and had follow up exhibitions at that Centurion Art Gallery under the same brand name.
In 2008, after the exhibition had run for four years, we had the opportunity to have the exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum. As much as this was a déjà vu to the museum’s professional staff for the artists have come back to claim their own stake in the museum space – that year’s instalment of the exhibition was a milestone in that some of the volunteers who have continuously been involved in the exhibitions mounted at the Centurion Art Gallery finally had the opportunity to have a museum show. We sub-titled that exhibition ‘Home Coming’.
During this period we began to develop another feature to the exhibition. We started involving those volunteers who were not interested in exhibiting but in curotorial administration, planning and construction of art exhibitions to curate the exhibitions. This proved to simplify matters so that we could allow artists to focus more on art production. Although this feature was there in the first place they were now centralized to an individual. In 2009 the exhibition returned to the Centurion Art Gallery now with a readdressed developmental leg that will see to it that those artists who will be involved in the exhibition in that year’s installment; those who showed care, focus, respect and concentration as well as stylistic evolution in terms of work execution will be selected for a follow up exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in the following year. This was the year we saw Nthabiseng R. Montshiwa, as an emerging curator curate The Rehearsal Exhibition working closely with co-curators Pfunzo Sidogi and Tanith McKenzie. From 2008 through to 2010 It is here that artists such as Tshepo Mosopa, now based in Johannesburg, Randy Marakalala and Philiswa Lila, to name only three, made their presence felt. In 2010 she went on to curate ‘Neo Emergence Exhibition’ as a response to her involvement in the Arts and Culture Germany-South Africa Bilateral project. She subsequently followed it up with an independent exhibition also at the Pretoria Art Museum titled ‘Tshwane Legends Exhibition’. This was an exhibition that explored and showed two of our most prominent black artists in Tshwane – Michael Mmutle and Johnny Ribeiro. Sadly these artists are no longer with us as I speak to you tonight. Michael Mmutle left us at the closure of 2010 and Johnny Ribeiro almost a year later in 2011. Tshwane Legends Exhibition gave Tshwane the opportunity to see the work of these artists whom, should our time have being bleak, we would’ve been denied the opportunity to witness their genius in the context of the contribution that they have made to our City as far as the visual arts are concerned.
Tonight it is with great pleasure to announce that this exhibition mounted in this Gallery is bringing the relationship that the City of Tshwane through the Pretoria Art Museum has had with Tshwane University of Technology Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts to full maturity – it cements our mutual commitment in supporting and developing artists. I congratulate all the artists on show for their hard work in producing works on exhibition: Tshegofatso Seoka, Seemole Eve Bodirwa, Simon Radebe, Noko Mello, Tshepang Maelangwe, Tumisang Mokgadi, Thabang Monoa and Thato Seboko. Most importantly I extend a high regard and respect to the curators: Eliz-Maré Schoonbee, Abongile Gwele, Maryka Potgieter, Batlile Ngcobo and Sabelo Morodi – for their curotorial team effort in bringing together these works into a thought provoking exhibition.
On behalf of the Education Assistants of the Pretoria Art Museum I will like to thank Professor Ingrid Muffin Stevens and Mr. Ritief Van Wyk and the staff of the TUT for giving us the opportunity to bring the For Sale Project Exhibition to yet another home – TUT Gallery.
Ladies and gentleman I would like to declare the exhibition open. Join us for light snacks and drinks. Have a good evening.
1 August 2012