ASAI Annual Report 2010

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Isaac Makeleni


Vision To implement visual arts projects that are relevant to African contexts.

Mission To create quality resources on art in Africa for educational and professional contexts; to provide a platform for debate and polemics in art and art history; and to be a point of contact between scholars and art practitioners.

Values Accessibility: ensuring that our projects are accessible to all constituents and create opportunities for meaningful participation. Relevance: ensuring that our work is relevant for African and developing contexts. Innovation: promoting a culture of imagination, resourcefulness and collaboration. Inclusive Africanism: promoting critical engagement with what it means to be African in the contemporary, postcolonial, globalised context.

Patrons Dr Rasheed Araeen, Prof Chabani Manganyi, Ms Barbara Murray, Prof Nkiru Nzegwu, Prof Sylvester Ogbechie, Prof Uche Okeke, Mr Steven Sack.


Chairperson’s report to the 2nd Annual General Meeting, 15 May 2010.

Zemba Luzamba

Mario Pissarra started ASAI with an immense amount of enthusiasm and determination. He hand picked each and every member and lobbied potential members to take up positions on the board. It was a pleasure for me to meet fellow board members: Garth Erasmus, Tracey Saunders, Gill Cowan, Tony Mhayi and Dathini Mzayiya. Initially, the board met monthly then quarterly as systems were put in place and the first audited financial statements were produced along with the annual report – this is available for downloading on our website ( > Word View > Reports). In a year where donors were allocating funds more cautiously Mario soldiered on where lesser mortals might have thrown in the towel. The successes slowly but surely began to be ticked off. These included: upgrading of the website; the partnership with Third Text Africa; the conclusion of project managing Gavin Jantjes’ impressive Visual Century: South African art in context 1907-2007, which was coupled to funding from the American Centre Foundation (now known as the Foundation for Arts Initiatives). Funding was also received from 3

the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. The cherry on top, which will be reflected in next year’s report, was the funding and recognition received from the National Arts Council, with ASAI identified as a NAC flagship project. This has resulted in us being able to employ three new people in the following posts: projects coordinator, project assistant and administrative assistant, which will considerably ease capacity constraints in the short term. Furthermore, the NAC funding allows for consolidation and expansion not only of the organisation but also of its various projects.

Lizette Chirrime

From inception ASAI was expressly concerned with contributing to the growing discourse in contemporary African art. A key part was the development of accessible resources, and the creation of a platform for debate. The website has given expression to these aims, particularly through generating resources on artists, and facilitating debates on relevant issues. The publication of selected articles from 4

the archives of Third Text, which ASAI makes freely available online to readers on the African continent was a significant addition to our other projects. Titled Third Text Africa this partnership was made possible through the agency of one of our patrons, Rasheed Araeen, who is the founding editor of Third Text, and who subsequently appointed Mario to the advisory council of Third Text, the only South African to currently serve in this capacity. Several other patrons have also contributed directly to ASAI, mostly in advising and supporting our fundraising efforts, as well as advising on future projects. We are immensely grateful to all our patrons for the contributions that they make to ASAI. It is a privilege to present the annual report. I would like to take this opportunity of wishing the new board and staff every success. The quality and diversity of the free resources available on the ASAI website will ensure that this organisation goes from strength to strength.

Athena Sotomi, Acting Chairperson


Managing Director’s report From the present vantage point, where ASAI is in a comparatively good health, it is perhaps easy to forget that last year was a very challenging one. During 2009 fundraising was prioritised, with little success. Visual Century was scheduled to go to print but final editing consumed more attention than anticipated. Consequently it was a year in which comparatively little content was added to the website. It was also a year that ended with an unanticipated move of office, albeit in the same building.

Ayesha Price

Notwithstanding this grim sketch it was also a year in which progress was made. Most notably, Third Text Africa came to fruition with four editions published online. Modest but significant changes were made to the website, and are still underway. Partnerships with third parties have slowly taken shape and are evolving steadily. Funding remains a feasible prospect, with several proposals currently being considered.


Fundraising A model to attract corporate sponsorship was developed and presented to a corporate organisation offering exclusive branding rights for the South African Artists Index but our request was declined. Applications to the Department of Arts & Culture, Pro Helvetia, the National Arts Council (for company as well as for project funding) and the Zimbabwean office of Hivos were all unsuccessful. Where we were more successful was in being awarded R50,000.00 by the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport to document artists in the Western Cape. Despite the struggle to raise funds the year ended on an optimistic note with the National Arts Council inviting us to apply for flagship funding, which as we now know, we were subsequently awarded.

George Hallett

Visual Century The publication of Visual Century, a four-volume series of books covering one hundred years of South African visual arts, was originally scheduled for publication in 2009. From the outset the publishers cautioned against our expectations that a project of this scope – over 30 writers and five editors are involved - could be completed within this schedule, and they have been proved correct. 7

From the position of project manager and editor-in-chief I can acknowledge that the single most demanding factor in the management of this project has been the failure of many writers, and to some extent editors, including myself, to meet deadlines and to fully complete their tasks. Several ‘drop-outs’ cost us precious time, as did numerous loose ends that were ultimately left to the editor-inchief to complete. A tight budget and limited administrative capacity to support the management of this project has not only impeded progress on this project, but also effectively impacted on ASAI’s other projects. Notwithstanding such challenges, it has been hugely rewarding to see the pieces coming together and the project remains on course for publication. Enhancing Visibility: documenting African artists

Brendhan Dickerson

The previous AGM noted the need to expand beyond the current emphasis on artists from the Western Cape. However, as indicated in the report on fundraising, the inverse has taken place, with an additional 10 artists from the Western Cape being added, of which two are nationals from other African countries. Where we have complied with the AGM is in beginning to address the gender imbalance and we have also made some progress in developing a 8

more inclusive profile by identifying artists from ‘minority’ groups. The range of media has also been broadened. Funds from the NAC will enable us to add more artists from other parts of the country. The next stage will be to add artists from other African countries. What has become increasingly urgent is to update the profiles on existing artists on our website. Hopefully the new facility for artists to update their own pages (which will initially be tested by extending it to members who are featured as artists on our website), will lighten the administrative load of maintaining these pages, as well as provide a practical way for more direct participation in ASAI projects.

Sonya Rademeyer

Several featured artists have generated sales or earned commissions after their work was seen on the website, and some have been identified for international residencies. Thus, while it is very clear that we are not primarily a commercial project, the prospect for earning income for artists as well as for ASAI remains a largely untapped possibility, awaiting the right person to develop this opportunity. Linked to this is the promotion of public events featuring members and artists represented on the website. Of late the events section has been almost dormant, but is being revamped so as to include documentation of events, including online catalogues. It thus presents 9

an inexpensive opportunity to document group exhibitions curated by members, particularly where budgets do not allow for print catalogues.

Lizza Littlewort

Word View Formerly known as Forum, Word View exemplifies the distinguishing element of ASAI: an independent, critical platform for debate. Word View has been re-organised to distinguish between different types of material. Further material has been sourced, but editorial capacity remains a challenge.


There is also the question of whether Word View should continue to serve as a catch-all space for written material, or take a more strategic approach to generating discussion. With this in mind a special project, Visual Voices, was developed. Visual Voices will see writers, and ideally editors, from across SADC being commissioned to discuss the state of the visual arts in southern Africa. While Visual Voices will become a specific section of Word View, there is still the question of how to best stimulate discussion on a wide range of critical issues. With this in mind, funding proposals have included provision for ASAI to contract one or two columnists, who, it is envisaged, would be persons who could advance critical arguments and stimulate public comment. While creating an accessible platform for public debate is a critical objective of ASAI, the question as to how to attract more contributions from academics is an important one. The key barrier here is that academics are pressured to publish in peer reviewed journals, and certainly the very premise of ASAI: to provide a nonelitist intellectual space rules out the prospects of turning Word View into a peer reviewed online journal. However, should we consider establishing a section on the website, possibly as a semi-autonomous section within Word View where we institute a peer review process and apply for accreditation from the Department of Education? There are precedents for this in the form of peer reviewed online journals. The questions concern whether this would add value to the website, by building a bridge between academic and popular discourse. It is also a process that would require a fair amount of work- do we have the interest and capacity to pursue this? Clearly the potential of Word View has not been fully realised, and the establishment of a reference or advisory structure to support its development should be considered. This could comprise both members and non-members, but ideally, at this stage of ASAI’s development, this should be driven by someone with a clear understanding of what it is that sets us apart from other organisations and websites. Third Text Africa During 2009 we successfully published four editions of Third Text Africa. These editions comprise selected archival material grouped into themes, and complemented with an original editorial.


Four more issues of Third Text Africa will be published during 2010. The prospect of extending this project has been raised with Third Text, and they have agreed to discuss this with their publisher, Routledge. Since this section does not function in the same way as Word View, i.e. readers do not comment on articles, it has been difficult to assess what its impact has been on visitors to the website, although general feedback has been positive. The Artists Indexes & Bibliographies The South African and Pan-African Artists Indexes and Bibliographies are increasingly in need of updating. Yet they remain relatively high on google searches, comprising as they do a substantive amount of data. The scope of data captured will be broadened, to include places and dates of birth and residence or death, as well as gender. This enables a more useful research purpose: not only is it a list of artists and a guide to publications on these artists, but they can also be used to identify and interpret patterns of migration, location, age, and gender, as well as publication, across decades. In developing targets for adding data as part of the process of developing proposals it has also been identified that these Indexes can potentially generate a substantial amount of work for researchers and research assistants.


Omar Badsha

Community Archives for Visual Arts There has been some progress, notably in developing frameworks for cooperation with the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape and the Department of Manuscripts and Archives at the University of Cape Town, both of which hold some of the material that will feature in this project. This forthcoming year will see visible progress, although it remains necessary to raise additional funds. Several members expressed interest in working on this project, and it will be necessary to look at how members can contribute in practical terms.


Networking and partnerships In a year when work has overwhelmed capacity it has not been possible to actively pursue links with many other organisations. Where these relationships have begun to take shape these have largely been linked to specific projects. Of those not already mentioned above, it is worth noting that we contributed towards a study on digitisation projects undertaken by the National Research Foundation, and I attended an NRF stakeholder workshop in Pretoria in March 2009.

Manfred Zylla

In December 2009 I was invited to a meeting of Africa.Cont a new multi-disciplinary arts centre in Lisbon, where I represented ASAI and contributed to one of the panel discussions. An article arising from this meeting was published in Art South Africa, and my contribution to the panel discussion was published on our website. A meeting was held with the Africa Centre, where the prospects of cooperation were discussed, and which led to them kindly partnering our application to the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, as we were not established enough to have the required two audits behind us. This coming year, we will extend the number of artists on our website. This will provide a good opportunity to develop our relationships with various artists organisations and galleries, some of which we have good informal links with, and to address the sometimes unspoken concerns of others who are ‘protective’ of ‘their’ artists and eye us warily as an unwelcome predator rather than as an ally. The extent to which we can contribute towards a vibrant visual arts sector by building sound relationships without compromising our ability to articulate critical perspectives on the art industry as a whole remains to be tested. 14

Garth Erasmus

Perhaps the most critical relationship that needs to be addressed is that with the Department of Historical Studies, and more broadly, the University of Cape Town. The precise nature of our relationship lacks definition. We are temporarily housed there, and I am a research associate within the department, and Michael Godby, Professor of Art History within the department, is also a member of ASAI.


There are undeniably benefits to being located at UCT, but this is not the place to go into such detail. The question of our relationship to UCT, and universities in general, is not only a question of convenience – it goes to the heart of what kind of organisation are we building? Are we best served being located in an academic environment, or would, for example, location alongside other arts or community organisations serve us better? This is a critical question that needs to be addressed within the context of our long-term vision, and not simply left to fate to determine. Enhancing capacity through exercising ownership The above questions of strategic partnerships bring to the fore a multitude of challenges and opportunities faced by ASAI. Ultimately fulfilling our potential will depend on our capacity, which in part is contingent on funding, and bringing in contract staff particularly writers, researchers, editors, and assistants. Arguably, even more than capacity to implement, ASAI requires greater critical capacity in the form of imaginative and strategic thinking, and this should come from the heart of our organisation, its members. I say this mindful that all members are already oversubscribed with their own commitments. Nonetheless it is essential that members engage in critical selfreflection, specifically around what exactly they expect of and can bring to ASAI. Perhaps members can begin to identify where their particular interests and skills overlap with ASAI’s vision and mission, and values? In this case making specific contributions to ASAI may well serve to complement existing projects. Let me identify some glaring gaps in our work where such opportunities for strategic participation can be identified. i) Currently the use of our resources by educators is a ‘happy consequence’ of our work, rather than a deliberate outcome. As an organisation with a strong core of art educators who are mindful of the challenges facing art education in our country we have the capacity to develop a coherent strategy that links our central purpose: i.e. the generation of resources, to specific educational contexts. While this would have to be specific to the South African context, in order to find application in schools, it could hopefully also contribute to addressing the needs of other developing countries.


Jeannette Unite


ii) As an organisation well resourced with artists and curators we should have a coherent policy on how “generating resources’ links to exhibitions, and a programme for exhibitions, both online and in real time. iii) As an organisation blessed with writers and intellectuals we should have a coherent strategy on publications, and on generating research and debate, both online as well as in the form of print publications, seminars, and other interventions. iv) As an organisation rich with the collective organisational experience of our members, the strategic questions of relationships, networks and identity represent another level of intellectual engagement that is urgently required. We have the capacity to clarify where we are going, and how we will get there, rather than ambling along. Whereas the examples given above highlight that we do have this capacity to draw on from membership, there are also areas where we have gaps with little to fill them at present. i) We lack capacity in matters of IT, particularly web-design and development. We are not yet at the stage where we can employ staff with these skills, and have to outsource this work. Recruiting members with these skills who can advise and guide us in these areas would definitely be helpful. ii) We also lack capacity in legal support. Advice regarding intellectual property rights as well as agreements with third parties is sometimes needed, and having this expertise would defiinitely add value. These gaps need to be addressed. The Board represents one level where members can participate in capacitating ASAI. Certainly we need a strong Board of Directors. But we should not repeat the mistakes of countless organisations where the Directors (or sometimes a few of them) are totally overextended whereas members not on the Board have no insight, access or way to contribute to ASAI. Members can make specific contributions that draw on their individual expertise and interests and are aligned to particular projects. Even if such contributions are not frequent or grand, if considered and timely they can make a huge difference.


This year will mark the 5th birthday of our website. Will it also mark the year that members begin to take effective ownership of the organisation? And can the next year’s report begin: This has been an exciting and fruitful year for ASAI?

Mario Pissarra Managing Director

Some members at the AGM, 2010: (back) Glen Arendse (newly elected director), David Hlongwane, Tony Mhayi (project assistant, former director), Mario Pissarra (managing director), Gill Cowan (former director), Tracey Saunders (treasurer), Athena Sotomi (former director) (front) Jill Williams (projects coordinator), Farzanah Badsha (newly elected director), Liesl Hartman (newly elected director).





Department of Historical Studies, BG5 Beattie Building, University of Cape Town Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa Tel: +27 (0)21 650 3581/ 3267, Fax: +27 (0)21 689 7581 Email:, Website: Registered with CIPRO as a Section 21 company: 2008/004687/08 Registered with SARS as a Public Benefit Organisation: 930 027 865