Is it possible to have a world where race doesn’t matter?

by french photographer, Marco Vanrenterghem.
Photograph by Marco Vanrenterghem

As Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
I boldly, emphatically proclaim on top of the Table Mountain that it is possible and it is attainable.
Yes, but each and every individual needs to put in the work, or at least acknowledge multiracialism. South Africa is a beautiful diverse country, in its cultures, its people, the languages, its plantations and at most its creativity.

Mzansi is full of talented beings whose creative

Lekau Matsena ... SAtaxiart
Artistic works by Lekau Matsena

flare skips from visual and performing artists, to functional and abstract art or being Music to the film industry. Art needs to be given the creative space and freedom to grow. It has the potential to elevate poverty, create the much needed employment without too much investment; it is the most used recreation that bridges all social, class and racial lines.

There are no blurred lines about art. Artists are society’s voice of reason, a medium of protest. During apartheid; artists were the carriers of the South African message to the world. The industry has been growing steadily in the last couple of years with a number of galleries opening, music festivals hosted and walls for graffiti made available to paint, all to give access to creative spaces.

Joburg east Express
Joburg Taxi with some of Lekau Matsena’s work. photograph ny Joburg East Express.

An initiative I think gives young people a chance to showcase their talents is the South African taxi foundation art awards, a project that has found a way to make art accessible to the majority of citizens, collaboration between art and taxis. Using taxis as canvases to showcase and promote art to the broader society, as well as an opportunity for artists to win fortunes of up to R50 000, including exhibiting showpieces at a gallery. Meaning anyone with a creative flare entering the competition stands to benefit, because it’s not winner takes all. These are the type of developments needed to stimulate creativity and innovation to diversify the country’s fortunes.

Advocating for no particular art form, but my main focus in this piece is visual art, because it is the most underrated form in the country, the most neglected in the black community. Even the affluent ones are not yet on par with their white counterparts in investing on township art and artists. Other forms like Film, photography, Music and Dance, they are better known in society.

Award winning directors like Khalo Matabane, Gavin Hood, Tebogo Mahlatsi, Hlomla Dandala, and Tony Kgoroge have all changed the film creative world and lately John Trengrove has ruffled the feathers in the Xhosa community with his offering The Wound ( Inxeba) .
In Mzansi there are still untapped mines, rare gems waiting to be extracted for beneficiation,  polished, and a chance to grow the economy. Take Eastern Cape for an example, the music industry is dominated by musicians from the province, but none are based in it. They’ve all had to relocate to other provinces specifically Gauteng in order to be recognized all because of Gauteng Broadcasting Corporation AKA SABC.

It has not been all that glorious for all, some fall on the wayside owed to undue influence from record label executives, addiction to drugs and many challenges of being in a big city like Jozi. Lack of knowledge and understanding of the music industry adds salt to the wound.
Eastern Cape has an enormous chance to rule the country economically by focusing on arts, investing, and fostering the creative industry, as the landscapes and rich culture of the region allows it to arrest its economic decline.

Across the world the industry has created opportunities for entrepreneurs to flourish in bad economic times. But EC is happy to watch the creative brain drain and bad education results year in and year out, its sad to say the least.

Should EC eventually decide to invest in its youth creativity, the province would see multiple benefits in its youth; becoming natural ambassadors, property developments, new business ventures flourishing, enhancing the value of the overall province for more investment in other industries.
As an artist, an art lover with a deep vested interest in development, this passion gave birth to Paarl Music and Art Festival. Tell you a secret, first and foremost i’ll not lie to you, it’s to entertain myself. Watching creative souls and their works is the most fulfilling and enjoyable thing beyond self-pleasure. But beyond that it was after seeing a need for such an initiative in a valley where the divide is both physical and geographical. The Berg river divides people along racial lines that has led to an psychological separation as well.

The festival is a social cohesion program aimed at creating a creative space where we can close the gap between races; by opening up spaces where people can interact, network also create platforms where new talents can discovered. A space where artists can exhibit their craftsmanship’s, showcase their visions to a wider society that would not necessarily go to galleries and museums.

In its debut year, we discovered many artists with crafts hidden from the public, because of fewer galleries in the valley, musicians singing only for their churches. Dance groups that are recognized outside the boundaries of Drakenstein. The aim is to promote contemporary art as well as stimulate the art tourism. To use art to bridge the racial divide.

Artists have welcome the opportunity to showcase their artistic works, the chance for the wider community to see what they’ve been doing inside their dudgeons and studios. At the festival we exhibited works by Selwyn Pekeur, Kevin Cupido, Jeffrey Appolis, Randall Philander, Thembinkosi Khohli and more.
The valley has many artists, with few to no opportunities for them to see returns in their investments.

mzansi booklet coverThe festival is sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture’s Mzansi Golden Economy. A fund created to look into the funding of art projects across the country.

Their overview says; The 2011 National Consultative Summit provided a revised strategy and plan to:

 Reinforce the arts, culture and Heritage sector as an economic growth sector;                 Introduce programs that contribute to large-scale employment.
The government is doing something on the creative industry but it’s not enough. It’s evident on the budget allocation that the department receives from treasury.

Art is not prioritized as a job creator, seen as a catalyst for entrepreneurship. The department aims to enhance skills development, production and creation of new business opportunities. But art among a majority black youth is not seen as a viable career due to all the starving artists in the community.

Young people need to see serious investment in the industry from government.
There are a number of artists that I find their work to be very stimulating.
Sarah Walters the fine art graduate, pottery artist based in Franschhoek has made a name for herself with her porcelain pieces.
Madoda Fani the Joburg born artist known for his carved ceramic pots, has managed to change his fortune with his gifted hands. It’s alleged that an American buyer that commissioned two pieces from the potter cried when one of the pots broke. Knowing that the artist is extremely busy with commissions from galleries across the globe, as well as the time it takes to make a piece that has capital appreciation.

BWM AG, 1991
A 1991 7 series BMW with gogo Esther Mahlangu, Photograph by BMW AG

The eldertist, 81 year old Mam Esther Mahlangu, the first African and woman to be invited by BMW to design their cars. A feat only enjoyed by the most exclusive in the world of art from Andy Warhol to Roy Lichtenstein. The Ndebele artist whose work is culturally inspired by the Ndebele colours and form, changed her life through arts; she is now a world renowned granny for her talents. She has been getting endorsements from companies around the globe, like the Swedish sneaker EYTYS, where she
designed their sneakers.

Creative arts at its best, visual meets performing excelence, Gog’u Esther Mahlangu, and global Icon music sensation John Legend with a bottle of Belvedere that she deigned. Photograph by Webster Molaudi.

30 year old UCT graduate Mohau Modisakeng the winner of the 2016 standard bank young artist award for visual art, the winning funds alone will change the man’s life; the publicity will give him access to galleries and international art buyers. The Soweto born is into sculptures, film and large-scale photographic prints.

The South African society and government needs to embrace youth’s talents amid high unemployment stats, their strengths and energies. As global demand for African art is now the most sort after valuable pieces. South African youths are now exhibiting all over the world as
they come to grips with their creativity and identity.
Art should be inculcated into the school curricula. Music, Photography, sculptures, Film, composers, painting, pottery, Fashion, and many other forms that have shown us that they can change people’s fortunes also fostering social tolerance, where your creativity and talents will determine your success not your race . Poverty can be eliminated with releasing people’s creative fluids, by opening creative spaces we can unlock the country’s economic power.

All that is needed is investment in festivals, artists, galleries, artistic works, and most importantly in art schools.



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