Annual Reports 2013/14 & 2012/13
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS In what is becoming a tradition for ASAI, we present here two annual reports as one ‘double edition’, this time for 2012-2014. As with previous reports, these consist principally of the texts presented by our managing director to members at annual general meetings. In other words, this report has not been compiled by our marketing department, we do not have a marketing department! Readers who are not members of ASAI should expect to find candid assessments of our performance, along with comments on challenges facing the organisation. Looking back on these two years, we can observe much continuity and growth with ASAI’s projects, despite modest resources. We have high points to celebrate, but are still facing serious challenges. Mostly, these centre on the scarce funding accessible for the kind of projects we do. Consequently, there is a critical need to increase our capacity through the participation of members and in partnerships with fraternal organisations. It is hoped that through the distribution of this report we can consolidate and develop existing relationships, but also that this report acts as an introduction for those who are not familiar with our work.
Donovan Ward Chairperson November 2014
Cover image: Nirveda Alleck. A Breath of Life. 2008. Site specific installation, Okombahe, Namibia, 2 x 3 x 4.5 m (photo courtesy the artist)
Design & Layout: Scott Eric Williams
MANAGING DIRECTORâ€™S REPORT for the period 1 March 2013-28 February 2014, presented at the 56th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of ASAI, 2 August 2014 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: HIGHS AND LOWS A few years back, at one of the low financial points that we are uncomfortably familiar with, the ASAI Board of Directors took a decision to scale down activity on most of our projects and to focus attention on Third Text Africa (TTA) and Against the Grain. At the time, we had taken a decision to reposition TTA from its original brief of making archival material (from the journal Third Text) accessible to African audiences to its current focus on producing new material as a peer-reviewed online journal. The Against the Grain exhibition had succeeded in getting approval from the Iziko South African National Gallery (ISANG) but had attracted no funding at all. In fact, it had been declined by several donors. Against that background, where we were proceeding with little financial certainty but with a sense of greater focus, it gives me great pleasure to report that these projects finally came to light last year and were clearly the highlights of what was once again a year with mixed results â€” some highs, some lows and a whole lot in-between. No year would be complete without some unanticipated hurdle, but who would have guessed that this would come in the form of the new website we had launched barely a year earlier? The problems we experienced with the web developers who are best left nameless have been reported earlier, but were in fact not over. From May, we began to experience problems in publishing new content. Initially, we thought that the problems were due to new staff being unfamiliar with the particular programme (Joomla) on which the website had been built. However, it was subsequently established that the database had become corrupted and that it was impossible to upgrade to the new version of Joomla. This meant, once again, having to rebuild a new website, a process that led to the new site going live on 26 February 2014. Frustrating as this setback was, we used the time constructively to research and prepare new content for publication and were able to add new content to a temporary site from the end of January. I should also add that the new site, built with Wordpress by Dinesh Copoosamy of Social Mint Consulting, has introduced some new functionalities as well as improved the design.
The interlocutors: Juliette Leeb du Toit, Anitra Nettleton, Sipho Ndabambi and Mario Pissarra, Against the Grain panel discussion, Iziko South African National Gallery, 2013 (photo courtesy SAVAH)
AGAINST THE GRAIN Against the Grain opened at the ISANG on 14 August 2013 and ran till 7 November. The ISANG exhibition featured 25 sculptures, four paintings, three wall panels, two drawings and five photographic portraits of the featured artists. Our member Lize van Robbroeck (wearing her University of Stellenbosch hat) opened the exhibition, with almost 200 in attendance. A large banner, bigger than some of the offices we have occupied in the past, hung outside the ISANG. As the curator, I gave three walkabouts — for the ISANG guides, Friends of the ISANG, and a group of postgraduate University of Cape Town (UCT) students (from Centre for African Studies (CAS) and the Centre for Curating the Archive (CCA)). In addition, a panel discussion, held in association with the South African Visual Art Historians (SAVAH) Conference, took place at the ISANG. It was chaired by Anitra Nettleton (Wits Art Museum) and the speakers were curator Sipho Ndabambi, Juliette Leeb du Toit (University of KwaZulu Natal) and myself. Against the Grain sculptors Ishmael Thyssen, Shepherd Mbanya and Thami Kiti were also in attendance. A workshop for school children, run by these artists, was organized by Iziko’s Education Department. The exhibition moved to Sanlam, where it opened on 3 December 2014. The guest speaker was Sandra Klopper, Deputy Vice Chancellor of UCT, and a noted art historian. Approximately 100 persons attended the opening. The exhibition included an additional seven works and closed on 7 February 2014. Sanlam purchased one of Mbanya’s works for its permanent collection; his first sale to a corporate collection. Stefan Hundt of Sanlam deserves special mention for his immensely supportive contribution to Against the Grain.
The artists: Ishmael Thyssen, Thami Kiti and Shepherd Mbanya, Against the Grain panel discussion, ISANG, 2013 (photo courtesy SAVAH)
One of the successes of Against the Grain was that we published a 64-page, fully illustrated catalogue with detailed essays on the individual artists. Here, we must acknowledge Carina Beyer of Iziko, who photographed most of the works, and Christoff van Wyk, who designed the catalogue. The role of Siona O’Connell, our Chairperson who secured financial support from CCA to pay for the catalogue design, is also gratefully acknowledged. Thanks to funding from Sanlam and the Provincial Government of the Western Cape, 800 copies were printed by Hansa Press. Of these, 65 were distributed by Iziko as part of its library exchange programme, 130 copies are being distributed to African libraries by the Smithsonian Institution and 30 copies were distributed to art galleries exhibiting at the Cape Town Art Fair. Approximately 100 have been sold and another 200 are earmarked for sale and are being placed on consignment in selected bookstores and galleries. The remaining copies are being used by ASAI and the artists as promotional material. The other lasting legacy of the exhibition was in the substantive publication of material on the five artists and the project itself (including the exhibitions and workshops). Isaac Makeleni and Timothy Mafenuka (both sadly deceased) had been featured on our website since its inception in November 2005 and had their pages updated. In particular, Makeleni’s Gallery and CV were greatly expanded. Galleries and CVs were published for the other three featured artists — Thyssen, Kiti and Mbanya. Documentary images were also added to the respective artists’ pages. While more work needs to be done in developing these pages, there is no doubt that we have produced the most accurate and comprehensive accounts of these artists ever published. While the achievements of Against the Grain are numerous, it has to be noted that it was perhaps to be expected that media coverage was pretty dismal. There were several superficial references online and some interest by community newspapers with perhaps the most significant coverage being a full page in South African Art Times. However, none of the coverage can be considered ‘serious’. there were no comprehensive reviews or critical analyses of the exhibition, and it will be left to history to determine whether Against the Grain receives belated recognition for its representation of the artists it features, as well as for challenging trends in South African art history and international curating.
Isaac Makeleni’s widow, grandchildren and great grandchild pose in front of his portrait at the exhibition opening of Against the Grain, ISANG, 2013 (photo J. Erasmus)
Isaac Makeleni. The Fall of Nyanga Bush. 1991. Oil on canvas on board, 97.5 x 50 cm. Private collection. (photo C. Beyer, ÂŠ Iziko PMuseums)
ONLINE RESEARCH PLATFORM THIRD TEXT AFRICA After circulating calls for submissions on the theme of ‘Localities’, we received approximately 25 submissions. Of these, 11 were accepted for publication. These included contributions from emerging and established writers, academics, curators and artists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Chile and the Netherlands. ASAI Members, van Robbroeck and myself, both also members of the editorial collective of the journal, were among the contributors whose work was favourably assessed by reviewers. Both of these papers dealt with projects that ASAI has been involved with: the publication of Visual Century (van Robbroeck) and the archives of the Community Arts Project (Pissarra). It is fair to acknowledge that the production of the ‘Localities’ edition was challenging and experienced many delays. Apart from the problems with the website, highlighted in the introduction, it was only when we appointed an editor, Natasha Himmelman, that we had the capacity to follow through the edition. The ‘Mozambique’ edition of TTA, originally planned for 2013, had to be postponed to the following year. This was due to the fact that while we received enough material to publish, not enough of this was of a sufficiently high quality. A key challenge has been in receiving sufficient material from Mozambique-based writers. We have renewed our search for new material and remain committed to publishing this edition. As a consequence of the decision to postpone the ‘Mozambique’ issue, we brought forward the date of publication for the ‘East/ern Africa’ edition. However, when it became apparent that we were having problems with the website, we realized that it would only be possible to publish one edition of TTA in 2013. Accordingly, the ‘East/ern Africa’ issue is now scheduled for 2014, as originally envisaged. I am pleased to report that preparation for it is at an advanced stage, and we are delighted with the responses we have been getting from the region, especially Uganda and Kenya.
Gabrielle Goliath. Ek is ‘n Kimberley Coloured.2007. Pigment ink on cotton Baryta, 48 x 78 cm (photo courtesy the artist)
ENHANCING VISIBILITY The profiling of artists on our website has always been an important part of the work we do and has developed in stops and starts. In the last year, we added seven South African artists (Gabrielle Goliath, Victoria Wigzell, Mduduzi Xakaza, Paul Molete, Thami Kiti, Shepherd Mbanya and Ishmael Thyssen), one Mauritian artist (Nirveda Alleck) and one collective (Burning Museum). This modest expansion of the number of artists featured on the site gives little sense of the work that went into this project. In summary, we emailed and/or phoned 22 South African artists. Of these, we received responses from nine, with eight submitting material. Two of these were declined by our selection committee. Five of the six selected artists supplied enough satisfactory material to be published, although in one case we are still awaiting biographical information (Molete). We were less successful in adding new artists from other African countries. We identified and attempted to contact 29 artists (six in Zimbabwe, 14 in Mozambique, four in Namibia, one in Botswana, three in Mauritius and one in Tanzania). In many instances, we had to work through galleries who were reluctant to give us contact details. We managed to have direct contact with six artists (four in Mozambique, one in Botswana, one in Mauritius); four sent us information. Of these, only one artist supplied enough suitable material and was published. Clearly, we have two main challenges in adding more artists from other African countries. The first concerns making direct contact with identified artists, the second is to source sufficient, suitable documentary information. Ideally, budgets should allow for photographers resident in the relevant countries to be commissioned to photograph artistsâ€™ works. We also made efforts to update the information on artists already featured on our site. We sourced new material on 14 of these. Approximately half of the information had been entered by the end of February.
SOUTH AFRICAN ARTISTS INDEX & BIBLIOGRAPHY The bibliography was not updated during this period and is now receiving attention. All data from publications that is listed in the bibliography as ‘not yet entered’ has been captured and is now ready to be published online. The Pan-African index was quietly terminated. Increasingly, African artists are featured in international exhibitions and publications, and it is now becoming problematic deciding who to include and exclude as ‘African’, unlike the earlier surveys where one could simply work with the artists featured in self-defined African events.
Donovan Ward. Biko. 1997. Cement, paint flakes, acrylic, bone ash rust stains, perspex lichen, dust, décollage and photograph on masonite, 82 x 52 cm Private collection (photo courtesy the artist)
PEOPLE’S CULTURE In general, we made good progress with the People’s Culture project. Drawing on both personal and institutionallybased archives, we achieved best results where these relationships were fairly strong. In a few instances, such as with archives that are physically held in other provinces, resource constraints limited our success. We made good progress with expanding the Community Arts Project (CAP) archive, creating individual galleries for artists associated with CAP. We also contracted Lionel Davis, a key person in the history of CAP, to write captions for many of the unlabelled photographs we have published, and these captions are due to be published shortly. A modest Imvaba archive was developed, drawing largely on material we sourced from Judy Seidman, as well as from former members of Imvaba (Michael Barry and Louise Almon). We are still trying to source images from the University of the Western Cape, which we expect to publish soon. The Vakalisa archives have been published, drawing mainly on material supplied by former member Mervyn Davids. Lionel Davis, also a former member of Vakalisa, is assisting us with captions. Visual Arts Group (VAG) images from my personal collection have been published, and we are working with UCT Libraries (Special Collections) to publish further VAG material. A modest Dakawa Art Centre archive was published. Despite numerous efforts to solicit material from various persons associated with Dakawa, very little has been forthcoming, a fact we attribute to the troubled history of the project. Nonetheless, we were able to identify several disparate resources online and to collate these into a modest ‘portal’ for Dakawa. We also identified the African National Congress archives at the University of Fort Hare as an important repository for Dakawa documents (from the exile period), but as they have not catalogued this material and we do not have the resources to visit the archives this work will hopefully continue later. Culture and Working Life Project (CWLP) photographs were provided by former CWLP member Ari Sitas and published online. The CWLP archives are located at the Killie Campbell Library at UKZN, and we hope to work more closely with them in publishing more material from the CWLP archive.
Vakalisa. 1992 calendar. Collection M. Davids
WORD VIEW We published 13 articles in Word View. Of these, one was on the pioneering Nigerian modernist (and ASAI patron) Uche Okeke (simultaneously published in Art South Africa). Five were satirical critiques of Iziko Museums, which were also published on Facebook. Seven articles were reprints of earlier Third Text Africa editorials, republished to help draw attention to the ‘new’ TTA. The cross publishing and re-publishing (in new format) is in part a response to the rapidly changing demands of online publishing, notable since we began publishing material on Word View (then called Forum) in 2005. The rise of social media, along with the increasing number of blogs has created expectations of ‘rapid communication’, unlike the ‘old’ days when our often lengthy posts would attract numerous, considered responses. While there is an argument for both short and long posts, we now find it more necessary to post across media and sites in order to attract attention to articles. One change that has emerged is that we are now placing more emphasis on visual material as a source of debate, and it is likely that some future posts will be increasingly visual in character, introducing a new slant to the concept of ‘word view’.
ASAI. From Our Public Institutions Need Intervention or Not (OPINION). 2013
ASAI. From OPINION. 2014
Ishmael Thyssen. American 9/11. 2013. Acrylic on wood relief, 58.5 x 56 cm. Artist’s collection (photo courtesy The Framery Gallery)
UNREALIZED PROJECTS THE LOVE PAVILION (the project that wasn’t) One of the outcomes of Against the Grain was a series of efforts being made to secure workspace for sculptors Shepherd Mbanya and Thami Kiti. These efforts centred on Lookout Hill, a longtime under-utilized centre in Khayelitsha, which is where these artists live. The Manager of the City’s Arts & Culture Unit has been broadly sympathetic but the centre falls under Tourism. He initially advised that a proposal for the whole centre was more likely to be favourably considered than a small, piecemeal request. As a result of this advice, consultations were held with Isibane, an organisation representing artists in Khayelitsha that is in need of revival, as well as Ibhabhathane Teacher Training Project, Greatmore Art Studios and the Michaelis School of Fine Art. These discussions went alongside consultations with representatives of the World Design Capital (WDC) project, as it was felt that if we could get their support, we would have some leverage in influencing the City’s Tourism Department. The proposal made provision for open studios occupied by local artists (run by Isibane), accompanied by workshops led by the above-named arts organisations, as well as others who could be drawn in. The proposal, titled Look Out Visual Entrepreneur (LOVE) Pavilion, was approved by WDC as an ‘official’ project and a meeting was held with the senior officials in the Tourism Department, where it was argued that the City could benefit from recognising the range and quality of art production being produced in Khayelitsha. Moreover, supporting local artists would not only benefit these individuals and their families, but also help promote a positive image of Khayelitsha, boosting efforts to promote Cape Town as a cultural centre. At this meeting we learned that our proposal was ‘two years late’, as tenders had been allocated and the centre was now ‘oversubscribed’. The offer of a remote, unsecured venue was made, as was the possibility of leasing units that would still need to be installed at Lookout Hill, but nothing was forthcoming that was really viable. While the project bombed before it began, the problem of space for the sculptors remains, despite the obvious benefits accommodating them would present to the City.
Burning Museum. The Boys 2. 2013. Site specific wheatpaste, Woodstock, Cape Town (photo courtesy the artists)
PARTNERSHIPS (and people who made them possible) This was a year that we benefitted from several partnerships, mostly centred on Against the Grain. We are grateful to Stephen Inggs (Michaelis) for kindly waiving rental in exchange for acknowledgment of the art school as a partner in the Against the Grain project. Siona O’Connell (ASAI Chairperson) facilitated the support of CCA, covering the design of the catalogue and the filming of the interview with artists. The support of Riason Naidoo and Hayden Proud at the ISANG was important in securing Iziko Museums of South Africa as an important partner for Against the Grain, providing us with gallery space and technical support for installation, as well as covering the costs of photographing works for the catalogue. Iziko’s support in marketing the exhibition should also be acknowledged, although it is only honest to note that this relationship was the source of some friction between us. Stefan Hundt at Sanlam proved to be much more than a funder, providing invaluable advice and assisting us in overcoming several challenges. Annemi Conradie of the South African Visual Arts Historians also deserves special mention for initiating the panel discussion at ISANG. This event ensured that many of our finest art historians, especially those living in other parts of the country, not only saw the exhibition but were drawn into critical discussion about it. Outside of Against the Grain, it was a pretty insular year with little time spent networking or collaborating with other organisations. The LOVE Pavilion presented several possibilities and it is hoped that in time, links with the organisations we tried to partner with will be realized. Mention should also be made of South African History Online’s (SAHO) Omar Badsha (also a featured artist on our site). SAHO advised us on web development and put us in contact with Dinesh Copoosamy. SAHO also initiated a conversation with us about ways of sharing content and collaborating on projects.
George Hallett. Man in Dark Waters, Overberg. 1993 (photo courtesy the artist)
INTERNAL MATTERS MEETINGS The 5th Annual General Meeting was held on 13 May 2013 at UCT. It was the best attended AGM yet and provided a space for reflection on progress. No new directors were elected, as the term of the current board runs until the next AGM. The Board of Directors met quarterly, providing a useful space to dialogue with and support me in my capacity as Managing Director.
ASAI members and associated artists fresh from the 2013 AGM
STAFFING During this period we employed the following staff, all part-time: Vanessa Anaya (website coordinator); Andre Barnard (finance administrator, also HR & IT); Jarrett Erasmus (researcher & digital archivist); Natasha Himmelman (senior researcher & editor); Jade Nair (research assistant); Loyiso Qanya (researcher & digital archivist); Mario Pissarra (director, also active as researcher, writer & editor); Ernestine White (researcher & digital archivist); and Scott Williams (researcher & digital archivist) We also employed the following artists to perform specific, short-term research briefs: Lizette Chirrime (ad-hoc researcher, Enhancing Visibility); Davis (ad-hoc researcher, Peopleâ€™s Culture); Sipho Hlati (ad-hoc researcher, SA Artists Index) Gratitude is due to all the above-named staff, without whom, little would have been possible. It can be noted that there was a relatively high staff turnover. In three cases this had to do with staff leaving Cape Town or finding other employment. We ended the financial year with the following staff members employed: Barnard, Himmelman, Pissarra, White and Williams. My own postgraduate studies continued for a 3rd year, and I succeeded in submitting 2 draft chapters. I also received a National Research Foundation (NRF) grant, for a third (final year). A condition of this grant is that I only work 12 hours a week for ASAI. 15
COMMUNICATION External communication, never our strong point, was assisted by the production of marketing material for Against the Grain. We also made more use of Facebook to promote related activities, although social media junkies will certainly find our use of the new technologies as falling far below what could be done.
Mzuzile Mduduzi Xakaza. Landscape with Isinyonyana Hill, Maphumulo. 2003. Oil on masonite board (photo courtesy the artist)
FUNDING With us entering the first of a three-year funding cycle with the National Arts Council (NAC), as well as a grant from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives (FfAI) for Third Text Africa and Peopleâ€™s Culture, we entered the year with an unprecedented degree of stability, at least by our standards. This was fortunate as being stretched to our limits with projects there was little time to put into fundraising. We continued to be unsuccessful in raising funds from the National Lottery Board (NLB), which mysteriously requested a revised budget and then proceeded to apparently do nothing with it. A decent grant from Sanlam for Against the Grain managed to unlock a modest grant from Business Arts South Africa (BASA) for marketing the exhibition. We had also carried over funding from the Western Cape Government for Against the Grain, and this was also a big help.
Funding report 2014
Oupa Nkosi. Water Poverty, Diatshwana village, Mafikeng, North West Province, South Africa. 2009 (photo courtesy the artist)
Madi Phala. Death Lurks Amongst Us. 2004.
CONCLUSION This has been a good year for ASAI, notwithstanding the challenges faced by having to rebuild our website. In some cases, we exceeded our targets (Against the Grain and Word View). With most other projects, it can be argued that we fell slightly short of our targets, but in all these cases, we still made very good progress, and some of our results (such as with Third Text Africa) are undisputedly excellent. With so many ambitious projects and limited capacity, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed, even despondent. However, there is much to be proud of. No other South African visual arts organization is publishing an open-access, peer-reviewed journal, nor are any of them developing substantive, accessible archives on artists, more especially those ignored by the commercial galleries. No one else is researching and publishing the history of South African community arts organizations, and no one else publishes a comprehensive listing of South African artists with information identifying publications featuring these artists. No one else has consistently questioned and challenged the limits of transformation of our critically important ISANG. Not least, we remain the one South African visual arts organization most committed to facilitating the integration of South African art and artists into an international, Africa-centred discourse and network. Now if we could employ people full-time, strengthen collaboration and communications, we could really make a major impact.
Mario Pissarra for ASAI July 2014
ASAI. From OPINION. 2013
MANAGING DIRECTORâ€™S REPORT for the period 1 March 2012-28 February 2013, presented at the 5TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of ASAI, 8 June 2013 The last report highlighted the precarious position of ASAI. I noted the imbalance between positive feedback and drastic underfunding, and argued that the signs were that our situation would improve. This last year has tested our resilience, yielding modest results and concluding with concrete promises of a healthier year ahead.
PROJECTS ONLINE RESEARCH PLATFORM LAUNCH OF THE NEW WEBSITE After the drawn out saga of the inept performance of the web development company whose name is best forgotten, the new website went live late in March 2012. ASAI is particularly appreciative of the contribution of Tambudzai Ndlovu, who successfully completed the task of migrating content from the old website. Generally, comments on the new site have been positive, but for those of us who were involved in its development we know that we had to settle for many compromises in the interests of closing a chapter and moving on. However, we did reach a reasonable standard that can now be improved both in terms of navigation and design. One of the positive outcomes was that we held a public launch of the new website. This took the form of a lunchtime lecture on the website at the Michaelis School of Fine Art and a panel discussion at the Centre for African Studies (CAS) both at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Attendance was modest, with about 60 persons attending the combined events, and discussion at CAS was lively. The panel discussion put into practice one of our objectives, namely to bring practicing artists and academics into conversation, as well as to interrogate the ongoing premise of ASAI, namely that an African-centred art project remains relevant in the current globalised environment. We are grateful to Andrew Lamprecht, who made the lunchtime lecture possible, and Rael Salley, whose programme the names we give served as an ideal platform for the discussion. We are also grateful to the panellists: the late Colin Richards, who supported ASAI in various ways in the past; our members, Lize van Robbroeck and Garth Erasmus; and Maurice Mbikayi, a featured artist on our site. If the launch was our first formal public discussion, it was also the first time we produced some marketing material, in the form of a banner, poster, bookmark and annual report. For this, we are especially grateful to the artists whose images we used, particularly Kim Berman, Maurice Mbikayi and Witney Rasaka, whose works appeared prominently in the bookmark, poster, and banner.
ASAI members after the Annual General Meeting, 2014 (photo S. Williams)
DEVELOPMENT OF NEW CONTENT With limited staffing capacity, comparatively little new content was added to the site. However, some highlights are worth noting.
Notable content included the further expansion of the Community Arts Project (CAP) digital archive. While attention still needs to be paid to the organisation of material in the CAP archive, there is no doubt that some of the archival documents we have published, such as the newsletters and press clips, provide not only an insight into CAP but also into the cultural politics and practice of the time. Reading them today unsettles many of the reductive narratives that are being produced about ‘resistance art’ and ‘community arts centres’. Here we acknowledge the cooperation of Lesley Hart of Special Collections, UCT Libraries, where much of this material is housed.
Newsletters and press clips from the Community Arts Project archives (Special Collections, UCT libraries, BC1195)
WORD VIEW Word View, which hit an all-time low in the previous year, showed its promise once again, along with a reminder of the difficulties of sustaining momentum. Nine postings, all related to the shameless ousting of Rasheed Araeen from Third Text by their Board of Trustees reactivated Word View as an important platform for addressing critical issues not being addressed in the public media. The postings took the form of two strongly worded open letters to the Trustees of Black Umbrella (the legal entity that oversees the journal Third Text) written by the editors (Lize van Robbroeck and myself) of Third Text Africa (TTA), and a call for an independent enquiry by the majority members of the former editorial board of Third Text, whose resignation had been suppressed as public knowledge by Black Umbrella, and whose resignation letter we made public. These postings were followed by an open letter from Third Text advisory council members, associates and supporters, along with two â€˜supplementsâ€™ from this same network where the threat of mass resignation and a call to boycott was made. Several of these postings also received online comments. Black Umbrella, which until this point had responded only with a whispering campaign was finally forced to issue a public statement, which we also published. As their response fell far short of expectations and did nothing to redeem their damaged credibility, it was followed by the mass resignation of most members of the Advisory Council, and an open letter from Araeen.
Zemba Luzamba. First Lady. 2011. Oil on board, 22 x 22 cm (photo courtesy the artist) While Word View remains an accessible and flexible platform that can respond quickly to issues, it has been clear for some time that without support to commission regular contributions, it will continue to perform erratically.
Muziwakhe Nhlabatsi. Cover illustration for Staffrider, 1979 (photo courtesy the artist)
THIRD TEXT AFRICA Third Text Africa has always been conceived of as autonomous, neither reliant on editorial direction or funding from Third Text. However, there is no doubt that a lot of uncertainty about the future of Third Text Africa (TTA) was generated by the Third Text debacle, with hundreds of emails exchanged behind the scenes in consultation on appropriate action. Certainly, one could argue that this energy could have been better spent on the publication of TTA. However, there was no way that one could continue ‘business as usual’. TTA, like Third Text, owes its very existence to the visionary activism of Rasheed Araeen, and it was necessary to take a clear position. This we did by reaffirming our commitment to the integrity and standards of the ‘original’ Third Text and distancing ourselves from the current regime. TTA began issuing calls in March/April on the theme ‘Localities’, with Tambudzai Ndlovu as Acting Editor, thanks to funding from the British Council. We also issued a second Call for Papers (CFP) for a special edition on Mozambique. Both CFPs received responses, and we began circulating articles for peer review. Unfortunately, cash flow problems intervened and we could not retain Ndlovu. I stepped into the gap but struggled due to my other commitments. Fortunately, we subsequently secured funding from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives (FfAI) for an editor and the year ended with the recruitment of one in progress.
EXHIBITIONS AGAINST THE GRAIN Against the Grain has been another project with a prolonged gestation period, as the two previous Annual Reports can confirm. Progress in researching artists (Isaac Makeleni, Ishmael Thyssen, Shepherd Mbanya, Timothy Mafenuka and Thami Kiti) and locating artworks, few of which are in public collections, has been a slow process. Less than a year before the exhibition was due to open (August 2013) at the Iziko South African National Gallery (ISANG), funding from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs & Sport (DCAS) provided a significant boost for the project. A fiveday workshop for Thyssen, Mbanya and Kiti was organised at Michaelis, UCT. Materials and tools were provided. No pressure was put on the artists to complete work, as the emphasis was on creating a space for them to interact and learn from each other. While the workshop fell short of the original plans for a month-long residency with structured discussions and an open day, it was very successful in many respects. Firstly, it provided a temporary respite from the usual working conditions of these artists â€“ typically cramped, often with inadequate tools and mostly alone. It provided a space for the artists to get to know each other better and helped nurture a sense of community as wood sculptors. Secondly, the project highlighted how institutions with sophisticated resources can, at little inconvenience to themselves, support artists who, for historical reasons, have limited contact with such institutions. Here, we must acknowledge the support of Jane Alexander and Stephen Inggs, both of whom enthusiastically supported our request for the workshop. The potential to extend such a project is self-evident.
Shepherd Mbanya and Ishmael Thyssen, Against the Grain workshop, UCT, 2012 The workshop was also important as a space for research and documentation. Here we must acknowledge the support of the Centre for Curating the Archive, facilitated by Siona Oâ€™Connell (who wears both CCA and ASAI caps). Clare McNulty, for the CCA, filmed a 90-minute interview I conducted with the artists at the workshop. The CCA also undertook to pay for a designer for the catalogue. Early in the new year, Sanlam, through Stefan Hundt, curator of their art collection, stepped in with further funding for Against the Grain. This not only allowed us to consider a bigger print-run for the catalogue but also provided muchneeded support for the research, writing and editing of the catalogue. Increasing the print run from the original plan for 500 copies had become essential after Janet Stanley, Librarian at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, kindly offered to mail 125 copies to African libraries as part of an Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA) book distribution programme. Sanlam also undertook to exhibit Against the Grain at the Sanlam Art Gallery, and to cover all the expenses for this leg of the exhibition. This means that Against the Grain will be on view for nearly six months. Riason Naidoo and Hayden Proud at ISANG have also been supportive, and Carina Beyer of Iziko Museums photographed works for the catalogue. Further support from Iziko pertains mostly to the installation of the exhibition, 24 the exact details of which remain to be negotiated.
Thami Kiti. Goat Woman. c. 2011. Industrial pine, 32 x 15 x 20 cm. Private collection (photo courtesy The Cape Gallery)
SPECIAL PROJECTS VISUAL CENTURY Various opportunities to promote Visual Century came up. These included an invitation to Dakâ€™Art where curator Christine Eyene (TTA Editorial Board) invited me to talk about Visual Century. I was also interviewed by Philip Todres for Fine Music Radio. Visual Century editor, Lize van Robbroeck, joined Visual Century project director Gavin Jantjes for a discussion of the publication at an event convened to complement the exhibition Mixing the Colours of the Rainbow at the Sculptuur Instituut, Den Haag, Netherlands. While Wits Press has expressed satisfaction with the performance of Visual Century, I know that most of us are disappointed by its low visibility in bookstores, as well as by the generally superficial reviews that have been forthcoming.
PARTNERSHIPS & NETWORKING Partnerships, we all agree, are both desirable and necessary. This section of my report highlights our relationship with several strategic players. None of these relationships can be said to be strong and well defined. Indeed, some are precarious, even barely existent. Through this discussion, I hope to provoke critical responses to the central question: How and with whom should we be building productive partnerships?
Lizette Chirrime. The Couple. 2006. Mixed media, 135 x 73 cm (photo courtesy the artist)
UNIVERSITIES ASAI founding members were drawn from a range of institutions, of which universities were well represented but not dominant. This was a deliberate act to ensure that ASAI’s membership was broad based with artists, curators, educators, academics and cultural activists all represented. Within the ranks of membership, care was taken to invite individuals from all four universities in the Western Cape. The intention was to facilitate exchange across universities, as well as between universities and the broader public. To date, our links with the University of Stellenbosch’s Department of Visual Arts have centred on Visual Century and TTA, mostly through the agency of Lize van Robbroeck. Our links with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) are weaker. Attempts to partner with UWC’s Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) in working on a CAP archive have been frustrating with limited success. Hopefully, this will improve. On the other hand, we have not yet found common cause to work with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. While we have tried to avoid being seen as particularly associated with a single university, it is clear that there has been a steady development of a partnership with the UCT, where we have been housed since 2008.
UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN The commentary early in this report on the launch of the new website, People’s Culture and Against the Grain all demonstrate practical ways in which we have collaborated with UCT, particularly the Michaelis School of Fine Art, CCA and UCT Libraries. Several meetings were also held, with a view to clarifying the nature of our partnership. These included one meeting with Stephen Inggs (Michaelis) to discuss the terms of our occupation on the Hiddingh Hall campus, followed by a brief presentation to staff at Michaelis. Meetings were also held with Lesley Hart of UCT Libraries, who has been instrumental in facilitating access to the CAP archives; and with Robert Morrell of the Research Office, who has expressed keen interest in supporting our work. In general, there is a growing awareness across UCT of our work and there is more collaboration than ever before. In particular, the links with Michaelis and CCA suggest that the move from the main to the town campus has been a beneficial one.
On the downside, we have made no real progress in drawing up an MOU with UCT. Also, the British Council grant was channelled through UCT, and over half was retained towards rental costs. While paying cost recovery has always been part of our agreement with UCT, in this instance we were hit hard as the funds had been specifically earmarked for editing of TTA, and we would have completed the ‘Localities’ issue if we had received the full amount. The question whether the value our collaboration with UCT brings to the Institution exceeds the benefits of administering cost recovery has to be addressed directly, as part of a mutually beneficial agreement.
Efforts were also made to extend the nature of our relationship with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport from that of occasional funder to a more substantial partnership. This was initiated by Lizahn Claasen, Principal Cultural Officer for the Visual Arts, who consulted us on Province’s efforts to implement aspects of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)/Visual Arts Network South Africa (VANSA) report on the visual arts. As a consequence of this conversation, we decided to register as a service provider on the Province’s database. We were subsequently invited to give feedback on the Province’s Genre Development Framework. At this stage, it would be premature to herald these interactions as evidence of a significant partnership, but they do acknowledge (from both parties) a growing awareness of the need to build the relationship between Province and ASAI.
If our relationship with the City and Province are marginal, the same applies to national government (Department of Arts & Culture (DAC)). Apart from funding for Visual Century, which was raised by Jantjes, previous attempts to get DAC support for projects have come to nothing. Imagine then my surprise, on the day of the controversial ‘visual arts indaba’ convened by the DAC, to find myself listed on the DAC website as being on the first panel of speakers… only problem was that I was at my desk in Cape Town and the conference was in Johannesburg! While an old email address took the blame, this lost opportunity to engage nationally did not say much about any real interest or effort on the part of the DAC in involving ASAI, given that our contact details are freely available on our website. The Indaba led to the establishment of a Visual Arts Task Team (of which little has since been heard).
CITY With the appointment of Zayd Minty as Head of the Arts & Culture Department of the City of Cape Town, many observers began to regain some faith in the City for the first time since the mid to late 1990s. That was when, for a brief period, the City actively involved civil society in developing and implementing policy. Public meetings called by the Arts & Culture Department signalled a renewed willingness to engage with community organisations. However, it appears that the binary perpetuated between ‘professional’ organisations who host large ‘world class’ events and ‘amateurs’ who use the arts to address social challenges at local level remains firmly in place, with only the former having a place in the City’s thinking. Indeed, exclusive meetings were held with ‘professional’ bodies (we were not invited) and the rest of us were invited through a notice in the community newspapers. For ASAI, which is neither a festival or orchestra, nor a campaign to address gangsterism or child abuse, the City’s elitist paradigm presents some challenges if we are to find a meaningful way to engage with it.
Shepherd Mbanya. Working for Peace (II). C. 2005. Jarrah (railway sleeper), 195 x 30 cm. Collection Sanlam Art Collection (photo C. Beyer, © Iziko Museums)
I detail our marginal relationship with the three levels of government partly because the question of how we should relate to government bodies has never been properly discussed, but also because considering the three levels of government highlights possible confusion about the geographic range and scope of our projects. At one end, despite the international character of some of our projects (notably TTA, also Word View), we have been largely unsuccessful in attracting international funding (the FfAI grant being a notable and recent exception). ‘Africa South’ is commonly read as ‘South Africa’. The slow progress in expanding projects, such as Enhancing Visibility, to become fully Pan-African reveals the challenges faced here. As it stands, the featured artists on our website look like we are only or primarily interested in featuring South Africans. National agencies, such as the National Lottery Board (NLB) and the National Arts Council (NAC) (the former from whom we have to receive funding but for whom weeks, even months, have gone into writing and following up on proposals) pressure us to work not only nationally but especially in under-resourced provinces. This emphasis is pushed regardless that most art activities are centred in the major urban centres (Johannesburg, Cape Town and, to a lesser extent, Durban). While one understands the sentiment behind this (and certainly the idea of de-centring power extends beyond African cities), this pressure to work in under-resourced regions does not square with the fact that most artists have gravitated towards the major centres and no small arts project with once off funding is going to do anything to change that. Province also tends to favour ‘rural’ projects, which makes it difficult for us to design programmes that do not absorb disproportionate costs (from generally modest grants) on transport. City, as indicated above, appears to have gone the other way, with ‘international events’ receiving the lion’s share and ‘local’ projects being consigned to oblivion.
Timothy Mafenuka Miracle of the Universe. C. 2000. Wood, 210 x 48cm. Collection Iziko Museums of South Africa (photo C. Beyer, © Iziko Museums)
The point is perhaps not so much whether my analysis is correct (and I’m sure honourable members of government will disagree) but rather whether any of these relationships are worth pursuing? If we are to attend their ‘consultative’ meetings we have to ask what are we doing there? Not least because, as this report indicates, we have serious limitations regarding capacity. And, while I think we should be there, because I think it is incumbent on us to engage at multiple levels, is this an understanding shared by our members? And if engagement is necessary, how best to do this, by learning their language and conforming or by publicly critiquing the gap between their rhetoric and delivery?
ARTS NETWORKS ARTERIAL NETWORK (AN) Similar concerns come up with the Arterial Network (AN). After much deliberation whether to join, it has to be said that our membership of AN has meant nothing for us. Most of their meetings require a level of funding for international mobility that we do not have. There is also the matter of high registration fees for events. And even if we were to beg successfully, once inside would we really benefit from being there? For while focussing on the economic benefits of the arts may make strategic sense for the AN, being perhaps the one angle governments can best understand, this preoccupation with the creative economy promotes a commodification of the arts that is in itself a problem. To be fair, AN also campaigns on human rights, but at a level far removed from what, for example, we face in Cape Town where facilities such as Lookout Hill are left to become white elephants while local artists (of international standard !) go hungry because they have no space to produce, exhibit and sell their work. This is not say that an AN is not needed, 28 but do we need the AN?
INTERNAL MATTERS All of the above hinges on the capacity of ASAI. While collective ownership of ASAI has made some strides, our capacity to survive difficult periods has also been tested.
STAFFING AND STAFF DEVELOPMENT Having grown accustomed in recent years to having a modest but committed staff complement, this last year was very difficult. We began the year with only Andre Barnard, Tambu Ndlovu and myself employed, all part-time. We were fortunate that Ndlovu was able to adapt to a new role from Project Coordinator to Acting Editor for TTA, but we were unable to retain her after August when cash flow became critical. We hung on by a thin thread, with small grants for projects but little to pay staff. Fortunately, by February 2013, we were once again able to start recruiting new staff, thanks mainly to a generous grant from the FfAI. The financial year ended with the good news that we had secured a three-year grant from the NAC. From having shrunk back to levels last experienced in 2009, we are now in a comparatively strong position to employ staff and this will translate into much improved delivery.
Staff Members: Scott Williams, Jarrett Erasmus, Ernestine White and Sipho Hlati, 2014 As members are aware, my time was drastically cut in April 2011 to enable me to register as a doctoral student, in line with plans to boost our research capacity. I have been making steady progress, and submitted two draft chapters in 2012. I was fortunate, through funding from UCT and the British Council, to be able to conduct short research visits to Mozambique, London and Washington DC. I also presented a paper at the African Studies Association (ASA) annual conference in Philadelphia and a report on my work with the Harmon Foundation archives was published in the Archives & Public Culture Gazette. Generally, we have no funds with which to attend training workshops and free, useful ones seldom come our way. A copyright workshop run by VANSA made a welcome change, and was attended by Ndlovu and myself.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS 5 board meetings were held between April 2012 and February 2013. We had a change of governance at the AGM in May 2012. Tracey Saunders, who had been on the Board since registration in 2008 (and had served as both Treasurer and Chairperson) stepped down, as did Glen Arendse and Liesl Hartman, both elected in 2010. Siona O’Connell and Donald Parenzee were both elected as Directors, at the AGM, and Charl Bezuidenhout was elected as Director by the new board at its first meeting. Subsequently, O’Connell was elected Chairperson, and Bezuidenhout, Treasurer. Farzanah Badsha has continued to serve as Secretary. Ward has also remained on the Board. As Managing Director, I am the only Board Member who is appointed and not elected. Our Articles of Association only require one third of the Board to stand down every two years, so there is no need to hold elections this year. However, it can be noted that our Articles allow for an additional Director to be appointed. Registration of the new Board has been painfully slow, due to new legal protocols being introduced. Although all documentation was submitted in June 2012, at the end of the financial year, the resignations and new appointments were still not finalised. This has created some challenges (i.e. changing bank signatories). The beady-eyed reader may also pick up that the new financial statements list the ‘old’ board as directors. 29
MEMBERSHIP In the run up to the last AGM, the directors invited Bezuidenhout, O’Connell and Parenzee to join ASAI and, as indicated above, these new members were subsequently elected to the board. The question of membership remains a matter that needs more discussion. On one hand, there is the legal requirement for a quorum that has restricted membership to persons who can physically attend meetings. With new technology, along with rapidly changing legislation governing non-profit organisations, we may well be applying outmoded logic. When I embarked on the process of registering ASAI as a Section 21 company, I deliberately invited more members than was legally required. This was because I wanted ASAI to be an organisation in which there would be robust debates about strategic direction and performance. I specifically did not want an organisation where the Board becomes the organisation, as there is a critical role for members beyond governance. However, since time is precious and few people enjoy attending meetings, a special onus is placed on the AGM as a key platform for selfreflexivity and debate. While it has been a slow process to develop a sense of collective ownership, I think it is fair to say that most members have begun to find their niche in ASAI, beyond the option of serving on the board. This is either through contributing to specific projects or finding ways to support or inform our work. However, it is also fair to acknowledge that some members have barely engaged at all. This is a sensitive observation as all members are people of integrity who are evidently oversubscribed. But it does raise the question of whether dormant members add value to ASAI. Certainly dormant members introduce anxiety concerning the constitution of quorums at AGM’s, and I don’t think that this is very helpful.
Cedric Nunn. The community of Cornfields which was under threat of forced removals. Most successfully resisted removals, Estcourt, KwaZulu Natal. 1988 (photo courtesy the artist)
Based on this consideration, I am asking the AGM to adopt the position that absence at two consecutive AGM’s without submitting written apologies should be interpreted as a cessation of membership. If lapsed members wish to reactivate their membership, they should be able to do so simply by paying their fees and attending the next AGM. There is also a discrepancy between our Articles of Association that require members to be paid up to be in good standing. The truth is that, while fees are very welcome, we lack the administrative capacity to chase up members on nominal fees. It is therefore necessary to amend the necessary clause so that failure to pay fees should not constitute being out of ‘good standing’. This, of course, should not be interpreted as a waiving of membership fees, which if paid by all members, would be a significant help in covering administrative costs. A last point concerning membership needs to be raised. If we look back, we will recognise that we have selectively recruited new members at two specific points. In both cases, this was considered necessary for the performance of the organisation. However, we need to be clearer about how members are recruited or how interested persons can join. As I see it, we have two choices. One is to open membership up to everyone who supports our aims and who can commit to attendance of AGM’s. The other is to extend membership by invitation. There are arguments for and against both options. I think we need to clarify and develop the question of membership, as it is potentially a key element in the growth of the organisation’s capacity. However, it could also lead to a loss of direction, inquorate meetings and general dysfunctionality if not implemented carefully. 30
FUNDING At the last AGM, I highlighted how modest grants could go a long way in keeping us afloat, and that was certainly the case throughout 2012. We received the balance (R45,000) of a R100,000 NAC project grant for our online research platform, along with grants from the British Council for TTA (R40,000). Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) gave us R10,000 for the launch of our website as a supporting grant for the Ackerman Foundation’s contribution of R40,000 for web development. Pick n Pay also contributed R1,000 towards catering for the launch. The Western Cape DCAS gave us R60,000 for Against the Grain, breaking a cycle of failed applications for this project. Sanlam subsequently awarded us R60,000 for Against the Grain, making the project increasingly viable. The University of Stellenbosch contributed R15,000 towards TTA. The decision by the Foundation for Arts Initiatives to award us R265,000 for TTA and People’s Culture was extremely welcome, as was the decision by NAC to award us three-year funding for organisation support, which would be paid in the next financial year. The above narrative may read like smooth sailing, but a close reading will highlight how we had to be very thrifty to get results. And there were several disappointments along the way. Early in the year, we failed in our application for company funding from the NAC. Our bid for a tender from Province failed after technical issues delayed our registration on their database. The National Heritage Council (NHC) did not advise us to resubmit our application after they suspended the previous year’s call, so we missed the next round of applications. And we continue to wait on an outcome of our second NLB application, during which time we have submitted a third application… What is surprising to note, is that there were more successful applications than unsuccessful ones. If you go back to the previous reports, you will see that there has always been a much higher failure rate. What this apparent improvement does not say is that we are submitting fewer proposals because there are less funding opportunities to which we are eligible. Complacency is not an option!
CONCLUDING REMARKS All things considered, we achieved some respectable results. Our website has improved, and the new year promises much with TTA, People’s Culture and Against the Grain all set to make an impact. None of this could have been done without the help of many people who know who they are. Your contributions are much appreciated. Thank you very much indeed!
Mario Pissarra 7 June 2013
Mambakwedza Mutasa. Man in the Mirror. 2006. Wood and metal, 181 x 187 x 112 cm(photo courtesy the artist)
Financial Report 2013