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10 YEARS 100 ARTISTS (article first published : 2004-12-13)

Edited by Sophie Perryer, 10 years 100 artists – Art in a democratic South Africa celebrates a decade of democracy and honours artists who in the last decade have made inroads in the South African visual arts domain.

Perryer is the editor of SA’s only relevant arts magazine Art South Africa and former editor of online Art-Throb. This experience has put her into contact with artists and curators and her idea of choosing 15 curators to each select seven or eight artists has worked well and made for inclusion of some of the generally lesser known (black) artists, while the big names certainly have not been omitted.

The 100 artists were chosen by a select group, who all already had a voice either as artists or writers or curators. It’s their input into 10 Years 100 Artists that dictates the content and context. They are Emma Bedford, David Brodie, Thembinkosi Goniwe, Khwezi Gule, Sharlene Kahn, David Koloane, Andrew Lamprecht, Moleleki Frank Ledimo, Virginia Mackenny, Sipho Mdanda, Tumelo Mosaka, Tracy Murinik, Colin Richards, Kathryn Smith and Sue Williamson.

Over the last three decades the role of the curator has become most empowering. It’s no longer the artists who decide what and where to exhibit. The input given by curators and gallerists has played an enormous - and often, beneficial - role and in many instances has dictated the South African art scene. But this is a global trend, followed through in South Africa, where it certainly has contributed enormously to transformation, which must and is taking place.

I find the personal choices of the curators interesting and even somewhat intriguing. Living in KZN it’s pleasing to see that some of our KZN artists are represented – mainly due to Khwezi Gule who chose Sfiso kaMakame, Langa Magwa and Thando Mama, all three very aware of their backgrounds and culture.

“Understanding your environment is an important part of coming to grips with the many things that delineate our identity,” writes Khwezi Gule. These three artists are preoccupied with individual concerns relating to themselves – their genders and their culture.

The book is solely the brainchild of Sophie Perryer, who writes in her introduction: “The past decade has seen artists freed from the imperative to make work in response to the socio-political conditions of apartheid South Africa, and the emergence of concerns with complex issues often relating to individual identity. The same period has seen the international art world giving increasing visibility to the non-Western artist and a proliferation of biennales and other major exhibitions addressing themes of globalization. Many South African have benefited from this international exposure, but at the same time persistent inequities at home reveal a continuing need for transformation.”

10 Years, 100 Artists aims to reveal these developments and succeeds in many ways. Let’s hope it opens doors for those artists not yet adopted by the global world. It’s a fine selection with texts that are readable and not too difficult to absorb. It’s not a definitive book, yet it deserves its place in the history of South African art. Beautifully produced by Bell-Roberts Publishing, it retails at R375 - Marianne Meijer




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