COACO: Perhaps to the river we will arrive

» Sometime in 2005 the exhibition Take Me To The River (TMTTR) took place at the Pretoria Art Museum¹. That exhibition featured a group of international artists amongst them South African artists, Nicholas Hlobo, Sharlene Khan and Churchill Madikida (now Songezile Madikida). At that time the Genesis II exhibition was at its infancy. I recall how at the opening of that exhibition on the evening of Wednesday 25 May Together with some of the Education Assistants (Museum Volunteers) of that time, Thami Msimango, Nthabiseng Rachel Montshiwa and Mxolisi Xaba, we looked at what the TMTTR as a project had achieved; which was the group exhibition as well as the incorporation of art made by learners from Gatang Secondary School. This left us with a satisfied feeling that the learners eventually when they arrived that evening to for the opening would see where art can take them and where it eventually belonged when an artists is established; when their work became heritage.

Up until then I was responsible for the Pretoria Art Museum’s Outreach Programme. Although it has been a staple that once I have worked with youth groups from the neighbouring communities such as Atteridgeville, Soshanguve, Mamelodi and so forth I would coordinate extended programs at the museum facilitated by art students followed by an exhibition.

What was different with Take Me To The River Exhibition (2005) was that the learners’ works were exhibited alongside those of professional artists when the show opened. It takes moments like these for one to actually see the edges of what is possible.


David Carlson is on to something universally (photo taken by a Member of the Encore Theater and Stage.)

Mr. David Carlson’s campaign resonates with me (Pictured here). After all these years of exposing privileged and underprivileged communities to the visual art there is another part of the industry that I feel not much has been done on. This is the development of an art market as a commodity. I do accept that perhaps my view might be narrow since I do not work on the financial aspects of the Visual Art Industry however we are now faced with a stalled if not under-developing art market by way of sales, few ‘ordinary’ people buy art. And the financial recession has to be taken into consideration as well in this dilemma that art practitioners finds themselves in.

It has never been clearer that the industry has to muscle its energy towards this aspects of developing the art market in ordinary people circles otherwise the art student who is entering into academia with a dream of turning professional will never make a living as an artist if one thing they might even end up regretting the decision to spend their money on training that they have received in our universities or colleges to become professional artists.

How we can turn the tide for the artists depends on our inhibition on how we see the visual art object (painting, sculpture, drawings etc). One thing for sure if we continue to see it as an object meant for the elite we would never consider that ordinary people occupy a space in the continuum that the visual art object has to travel as it changes hands in the universe of commoditization. If we can collapsed the state of affairs of the nature of the visual art object we will begin to see that once we start to speak to ordinary people about the value of the art object, about investing in it (either buying from the artist directly or at an art gallery) and the normalizing of the buying of art in our communities we would begin to deconstruct a construct that is not favorable to both the artist and the ordinary public at large.

Should the visual art object become exclusive it must enter that domain organically so that when it becomes an object that is simply out of reach of ordinary people it is simply because the appreciation of its value is not something mysterious but something we can all relate to and appreciate. It is a truly qua cultural cumulative value.  This then will lead our audience visiting art galleries or art museums for the first time should be inspired not to ask about the price of the work first but appreciate the narrative in front of them; they should be inspired to rather ask about what the work is made of (medium), method of production (technique), production time, theme dealt with or inherent in the work. We need to get here


1. Take Me To The River (2005) Exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum Featured work by David Carlson(USA), Ashraf Fouad (Egypt), David Chung (Korea), Billy Colbert (USA), Richard Dana (USA), Sherman Fleming (USA), Mansoora Hassan (Pakistan), Nicholas Hlobo (South Africa), Judy Jashinsky (USA) , Sharlene Khan (South Africa), Churchill Songezile Madikida (South Africa), Ivana Panizzi (Brazil), José Ruiz (Peru), Ruza Spak (Germany), Betsy Stewart (USA) and Andres E. Tremols (Cuba/USA).

TMTTR 2005
Take Me To The Rive (2005) at the Pretoria Art Museum, Albert Werth Hall. (See

*COACOA is an acronym for Chronicles of a Culture Officer


13 March

mmutle arthur kgokong 2019