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THE SOUL OF AFRICA (article first published : 2008-02-23)

The Development Bank of Southern Africa is hosting and sponsoring an arts exhibition called The Soul of Africa with “art as a cornerstone for development” as the central theme. The exhibition is aimed at creating opportunities for young and talented artists from previously disadvantaged groups, and it will also showcase the works of those already established in their fields.

The Bank has adopted a five-pronged strategy to co-deliver social and economic infrastructure; build human and institutional capacity; promote broad-based economic growth, job creation, cooperation, integration and prosperity to serve as a centre of excellence for development financing, effectiveness and good governance, and to engender sustainability, externally and internally.

The exhibition will showcase the richness of creativity and diversity that exists in the SADC region in both modern and traditional art and craft. It will also consider and explore the economic viability and sustainability of art and crafts in the region.

DBSA’s CEO, Paul Baloyi, says that art in any community is closely linked to the soul and heartbeat of the people. “It reflects the spirit of time and reveals the inner currents of culture, tradition and consciousness. The general well being (or lack thereof) of a nation (or an individual) is portrayed through art.”

Baloyi says that art is not only a cornerstone of culture, but also a way of sharing visions, feelings and emotions. “It is a universal language and can heal and build understanding between people and nations. Art reveals the truth of people and its creative roots show a vision for a life that goes beyond mere existence. By showcasing a broad spectrum of the art and crafts of Africa, we aim to stimulate development and improve quality of life of the people.”

The intention is to rotate countries and provinces so that all regions are showcased over time. The bank previously held the Soul of Africa art exhibition in 2003 with artists from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces as well as Namibia and Mozambique. In 2005 artists from North-West, Free State, Northern Cape and Botswana participated. Some of the works at this exhibition were acquired by the DBSA and pieces can be seen on the walls of the DBSA headquarters.

For the 2008 exhibition, the selection committee chose accessible areas where a DBSA investment or interest was already established. Two countries outside of South Africa - Angola and Madagascar - and two provinces within SA - Western Cape and Gauteng - were identified for the selection of the works to be displayed.

After an initial screening process in each country and province, evaluation teams visited these areas to consider the selected artworks and meet the artists. Artworks are assessed on criteria such as expertise and sound craftsmanship; originality, creativity and initiative; environmental consciousness; conceptualisation and visual communication; expression of unique culture, lifestyle and perceptions; and contextualisation.

The DBSA arranged as an empowerment initiative for the artists, a visiting artist programme in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture. Two artists from each of these countries and provinces have been invited to spend a few days at the exhibition, to be held at DBSA headquarters in Midrand, Gauteng. A total of three days will be spend in Gauteng and three days in Cape Town to visit local galleries and the Funda Art Centre in Soweto and Greatmore Studios in Woodstock. A discussion forum in Gauteng will be led by Professor Pitika Ntuli.

Categories on display include contemporary African Art from self-taught and university graduates artists in media as diverse as painting, sculpture, mixed media and new media. The craft category includes weaving, basketry, grass work, embroidery, pottery and carving.




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