Three Galleries, Three Impressions

We started off the day by visiting the Goodman Gallery to see the Post-African Futures Exhibition. This exhibition was a bit troubling to navigate. Had it not been for the thorough tour we were given, I don’t think I would have been able to understand any of it. Without labels explaining the context of the pieces or information about the artists, it was difficult to decipher many of the pieces. Most were so abstract, that even after they were explained I still felt clueless as to how these themes were being expressed. The Legend of Disruptor X was one such piece. This installation was meant to be a recreation of a German anti-opera by the same name, and while the general plot was explained in text on the wall, the installation seemed to be a compilation of random items. It looked more like a stage, except none of the pieces actually made sense next to each other. There were two mannequins with costumes, I suppose were meant to represent the disruptor (rebel hackers) and the Agency (bad guys), but it was not clear which was which. There were many other pieces that were meant to speak to some possible future African nations might experience, but they seemed to be randomly arranged. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy my experience there.

The Origins Centre at the University of Witwatersrand was next on the list. This museum presents some of the latest research in archaeology about the origins of mankind, namely that life began in Southern Africa. The first gallery displays rock art in columns, each representing a different continent and organized by timeline showing which periods lacked human presence. The only continent with the earliest samples of rock art is Africa. The museum seems to possess a social significance as many blacks were told by the apartheid government that they had no history, and that Africa lacked culture. This is somewhat undone by the museum’s existence. Perhaps it cannot undo decades of social conditioning which made blacks believe that they possess no culture or sophistication, but it can help in disseminating this important information to the rest of society.

Our final visit was the Johannesburg Art Gallery, which seemed to be a ghostly figure. The galleries themselves felt abandoned and decaying. It appeared to be a colonial relic, which did not seem to be fighting for its place in the city centre. With some massive galleries and high ceilings it feels like there could be so much more on display. We later discovered that the museum was actually under restoration, but I read one of the visitors’ books and found that many people had been complaining about the quality of the exhibitions and the physical state of the museum.