CityLife Arts

Artists and Aspire collaborate to save FUNDA Centre in Soweto from demise

This is the biggest ever collaboration by artists in South Africa for a charity cause as Aspire Art Auctions will host the auction online from 13 – 20 April 2021.

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

It started off as a rumour in arts circles in the past few years, with the rumours swirling steadily and gaining momentum, especially in the past two years. And quite clearly this is an embarrassing development in visual art to let such a legacy art institution that distinguished itself in offering quality alternative visual art education to those who could not be accommodated at formal arts education institutes such as universities, historically white universities. These are artists such as  the now celebrated Johannes Pokela, highly sought after and collectable artists Mbongeni Buthelezi and the late Xaba to name bust just a few among its graduates who went on to do well in life.

What must be boggling the minds of many though is the official silence on this matter, especially given the fact that though the arts industry has been struggling for years to either get funded appropriately or the model itself, mainly of grants not well suited to an industry that clearly aims at building sustainability, money has been dished out for many years by mainly government agencies.

Sometimes marred in corruption, maladministration and in chaos, public funds have been made available to the arts since the White Paper of 1996, which interestingly  and irritatingly to the arts sector, has been under endless revision in the past three years with no definite conclusion, to an extent that nobody knows where that revised paper is buried in government right now. 

However the agencies that have been involved  in disbursing funds to the arts over the years   include the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC), the currently beleaguered National Arts Council (NAC) over the chaotic way of handling a mere R300 million Presidential Economic  Stimulus Package aimed at the Covid-19 battered creative sector, the National Film and Video Foundation,  and the National Lotteries Commission also under a forensic investigation, the same fate facing the NAC over the disbursement of the PESP funds, for example.

Now here is an embarrassing situation developing in the arts sector –FUNDA Centre in Soweto, an institution that was started in 1984 in the wake of the 1976 Student Uprising, faces a real danger of closing down simply because there is no money available to run it.

Clearly a legacy project that still has a role to play in alternative arts education in the country, especially when universities are unable to accommodate everyone who dreams to pursue arts education. Ironically this arts education institute thrived during apartheid and now in a democracy, its existence is threatened. This is the paradox of our times: 27 years into democracy, a legacy arts education institute that responded to apartheid educational exclusion for people from the township by offering them opportunities in visual art, is threatened by closure in a free country aiming at redressing the inequalities of the past.

However prominent artists, in collaboration with leading contemporary art auction house Aspire Fine Art Auctions, are now at the centre of saving this legacy art institute from certain demise.

Initiated by Tumelo ‘Tumi’ Moloi, I AM FUNDA is a charity art auction to raise funds for the FUNDA Arts Centre. The initiative seeks to save and restore the iconic community arts centre, grow awareness, build its networks and encourage organisations to support arts education in townships as a deserving focus of social responsibility projects. Proceeds from the auction will directly benefit FUNDA and its participating artists. Aspire Art Auctions will host the auction online from 13 – 20 April 2021.

Established in 1984, the Soweto-based FUNDA Arts Centre rose in the wake of the 1976 student uprisings as a beacon of hope, education and empowerment for a number of young black students who refused to participate in the oppressive education systems of the apartheid government. Founded through private sector funding and donations from the Urban Foundation and IBM, FUNDA sought to provide access to arts education through its initial workshop programme. In time, the centre came to establish important ties with institutions of higher education, including the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of South Africa (UNISA). These links enabled aspiring artists to attain recognised qualifications.

In subsequent decades, the important non-profit centre has faced growing challenges. In spite of the losses and hardships caused by factors such as equipment theft and the lack of grants and funding, FUNDA and its committed staff have persevered against all odds. However, now more than ever, the centre finds itself in desperate need of help in order ensure its sustainability and to keep its mission alive.

Ruarc Peffers, Managing Director  of Aspire comments about these latest efforts : to save FUNDA. “Institutions like FUNDA have made such critically important contributions to our rich cultural history, without which we would all be perceptibly poorer. It is imperative that we do not allow consequential cultural spaces, such as this, to perish. Indeed, we must ensure that they survive and flourish and continue to do the amazing work they do in developing the wealth of artistic practice that informs our national cultural legacy. Aspire is proud to be a small part of that process.

The generous donations and support of artists have made this auction possible. The sale presents a unique opportunity to bid on artworks by leading artists including: Nandipha Mntambo, Sam Nhlengethwa, Kemang  Wa Lehulere, Tracey Rose, William Kentridge, Penny Siopis, Esther Mahlangu, Deborah Bell, Clive van den Berg, Bambo Sibiya, Karel Nel, Mohau Modisakeng and Zemba Luzamba, amongst others.”

CITYLIFE/ARTS here publishes the complete list of artists participating in this charity auction:

  1. William Kentridge,

2.       Robert Hodgins,

3.       Dr Esther Mahlangu,

4.       Tracey Rose,

5.       Ayanda Mabulu,

6.       Bambo Sibiya,

7.       Kemang Wa Lehurele,

8.       Penny Siopis,

9.        Julie Mehretu,

10.   Mohau Modisakeng,

11.   Deborah Bell

12.   Pat Mautloa,

13.   Sam Nhlengethwa,

14.   Clive Van Den Berg,

15.   Kim Berman,

16.   Zemba Luzamba,

17.   Tom Cullberg,

18.   Sharlene Khan,

19.   Percy Maimela,

20.    Lehlogonolo Mashaba,

21.    Johannes Phokela,

22.   Vincent Baloyi,

23.    Vusi Mfupi

24.   , Stompie Sebile,

25.   Gordon Froud,

26.    Usha Seejarim,

27.   Nandipha Mntambo,

28.   Patrick Seruwu,

29.    Lehlogonolo Mashaba ,

30.    Dominic Tshabangu ,

31.    Mongezi Ncombo

32.   , Siyabonga Mlambi,

33.    Ennock Mlangeni,

34.   Julia Mentjies,

35.   Daria  Tchapanova,

36.   Zakes Msane,

37.   Shakes Meshack Tembani,

38.   Jabulani Dhlamini,

39.    Ras Sila Motse,

40.   Karel Nel,

41.    Ben Nhlanhla Nsuntsha ,

42.   Velaphi Mzimba

43.   , Charles Nkosi

44.   Happy Dhlame

Visit to view the I AM FUNDA auction and register to bid. Select works will be on view at Aspire’s gallery in Johannesburg from Tuesday, 6 April 2021.

For enquiries please contact Aspire Art Auctions on +27 11 243 5243 or email

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