Today was a pretty busy day that started with a visit to the Wits Art Museum which is apart of the University of the Witwatersrand. The museum was relatively small and had 3 current exhibitions. One that I found really interesting was in the lower level, and due to a cancellation of an artist, the staff were able to pick pieces from the collection, which has a vast amount of African art, both from South Africa and the rest of the continent. It was really nice to see African art being given a space to be seen as fine art, rather than being thrown into a category of “tourist art” that often happens because of the amount of power western culture has on the fine art world. A piece that especially hit this note for me were the two Zulu small beer pots on display. At one point in time western society deemed this style of pottery the most important fine art to come out of Africa, and then soon after demoting it to the likes of tourist art stripping it of all credibility, and value. It made me enthusiastic to see the WAM preserving this pottery style as an art form.
After a delicious and absurdly inexpensive lunch at the WAM cafe, we took a stroll down some of the streets of Joburg, making a stop at the Stevenson Gallery. The current exhibition The Knife Eats At Home, featured one artist Kemang Wa Lehulere. He seeks to speak on communal social experiences of the past, and an objects ability to go beyond it prescribed meaning. By using children school desks and turning them in to objects of play Kemang Wa Lehulere shows that historical events such as the 1976 Soweto uprisings do not loose value with time but remain important both metaphorically and personally. Aesthetically I really enjoyed his art work in its simplicity.
Our last stop of the day was the Origins Center. This museum, shows how the earliest human ancestors and humans themselves originated in South Africa. Originally Europeans decided that human life originated in Europe, with out any geologic proof. Later after this had be disproved it was decided without fact that human intelligence was not developed until they settled in Europe. Once again Europe was disproved when rock art and tool use dating farther back than ever before was found in South Africa. What I enjoyed most about the Origins Center was the sense of inclusion. It was heavily emphasized that because human existence started in Africa, we are all in essence African. We can all take pride in this and use it as a way to respect those who appear to be different than us.
Just kidding that wasn’t our last stop! Later that night we went to the Soweto Theatre to see Rhythm Color which I guess could be classified as a musical (It was a dance performance, with singing and musicians) It payed tribute to the Soweto youth uprisings, and was so extremely beautiful and moving. The performers were so talented and I even shed a tear or two. Although I wish I could have understood the words they were singing (difficult when South Africa has 11 official languages) music always has the power to convey such strong emotion without the use of word.
Like I said busy day.