CityLife Arts

Ivy Rihlampfu, a young curator from Soweto with big dreams

By Edward Tsumele

She could be somewhere between 22 and 25, but could not ask her age out of the experience I gained interviewing women artists over the years.

They could be as young as your teenage daughter or as old as your grandmother who has since gone into the World Beyond, but there is one thing that inexplicably and curiously unites the old women and the young ones, and that is to keep their age secret.  Asking for a woman’s age is a line. especially a man should never cross. And so I never crossed that line during this interview with emerging curator and artist Ivy Rihlampfu.

We met on Thursday, July 16, at Bertrand, that quack and beautiful space in Maboneng, that in level 3 of the Coronavirus lockdown is serving coffee, and meals observing all the health protocols. And off course I had I heard about the young artist’s curatorial activities around Johannesburg, including her time at Goethe Institut where she had spent six months on a programme on entrepreneurship for creatives in 2018, after which she was given an opportunity to organize exhibitions in one of the spaces there for a whole year in 2019.

And I even attended a few shows she had curated at Goethe, putting up art works that spoke to the spirit and the ambience of the space, complete with in-depth discussions touching on art and the artists’ art practices.

According to her account, and based on my own observations during the run of that programme in 2019, it was a success. “The aim was to try and make art and art spaces, especially exhibition spaces less intimidating by making people who visited the exhibitions there feel comfortable, and be able to mingle and interact with artists as ease.

“My issue is art, as opposed to say books, is still seen as something intimidating that only people who understand its aesthetics can enjoy, and yet it that is not true. Art exhibitions are just like a story one reads in a book and later goes on to tell that story to friends in as simple a way as possible. There is no difference, and the talks and the kind of exhibitions we organise through my company Basilie Art and Projects is trying to demystify the idea of art as something that is only the preserve of those that can articulate the aesthetics of art,” she argues.

Although Rihlampfu had a university qualification in art when she took her project to Goethe to be considered for their programme in entrepreneurship for creatives when the call went out in 2018, she never thought she was going to be considered.

“That time I had taken a break from proceeding with my art studies at the Vaal University of Technology after graduating with a diploma, before proceeding for an honours degree (which she registered and completed in 2019).

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“And when my project of Basile Art was accepted into the entrepreneurship programme at Goethe, I was ecstatic. I was able to turn this idea into a business through this programme which came complete with business coaching. The thing is I had no background in business, even though I knew that I could make a business out of curating shows.

I just had no idea how. The fact that at the time I was on that programme at Goethe, I was also doing my honours degree in fine art at Vaal University of Technology, the skills I was learning as a student curator in my final year became handy when I proposed to put up shows at Goethe, a programme that ran at the space for the whole on 2019. I had proposed to run the same programme this year, and my proposal was accepted, but then comes COVID-`19, which disrupted everything,” says Rihlampfu.

In fact the Covid-19 disruption for the young artist and curator did not end there with the disruption of the planned second curatorial opportunity at Goethe.

“I had also a curatorial assignment at Artisan space in Maboneng (housed in former Museum of African Design building), a residency as a curator for the space that was supposed to run for two months, February and March, but then Covid-19 came when I had run a success few exhibition in February, and therefore could not complete the residency because lockdown was announced in March,” she says.

But the Covid-19 disruptions did not end there. Another residency that she had at the Business Clinic, another business incubation space in Newtown, at the Media Mills building also mate the same fate. There she ran a very successful exhibition programme that saw art enthusiasts taken on a guided art tour that followed a similar model as that she had done at Goethe in 2019.

And when a raft of Covid-19 funds for artists were announced by various government departments, to help especially artists like her to navigate the difficulties posed by the arrival of the disruptive and deadly coronavirus, the young curator’s hopes, just like those of other artists in the country, were raised.

“I figured out that these were funds meant to help people like me, and I also noticed that I qualified with regards to the requirements. But guess what. I neither got any money nor feedback. For me this is puzzling because according to the requirements I qualify. I never got not even a response when I sent emails to the National Youth Development Agency, the National Arts Council and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to enquire about my applications. Nothing,” she says in despair.

However disappointed by these government agencies she might be, but Rihlampfu has big dreams, and those dreams are to make art appreciated in every household in communities no matter their material circumstances by making paintings easy to understand and appreciated by organizing interactive and accessible exhibitions. She is determined to see those dreams come to fruition, funding or no funding.

“I am excited that the Artisan Weekly people have asked me again to organize art exhibitions now that lockdown regulations have been relaxed by government. But those exhibitions we will record and exhibit them on social media platforms, complete with a catalogue, text and a video interview with the artists we will exhibit. Art lovers will be able to interact and buy art that way during this time of social distancing. I am excited about that opportunity, and we will put up a group show in a few weeks’ time to start with,” she says.

And there you have it folks. Watch the space.

You can interact with the curator on the following social media platforms:

Facebook:Basile Art and Projects

Instagram:Basileart_Sa

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