This multi-disciplinary exhibition which opens on Thursday in Mpumalanga art works in the medium of beading, weaving, woodcarving, wirework, glass, ceramics, fabric, jewellery design and re cycled materials
By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
Tomorrow, March 10, 2022, is when all the beautiful people who love beautiful things will start arriving at the picturesque Graskop Gorge in Mpumalanga to attend the opening of Beautiful Things Exhibition. This exhibition which features products in diverse mediums, features 90 artists selected from all the country’s nine provinces, following an open call issued out by the curators last month. The response to the call was huge, attracting thousands of entries, but the exhibition could only accommodate 90.
This suggests that those selected are some of the best the country has, working in the different art medium specified in the call, but others equally good were inevitably unfortunately left out as the number of participants was restricted to the 90.
The exhibition is supported by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, in association with Graskop Gorge Lift Company, and is aimed at creating jobs and providing a platform for creators to sell their products to tourists and locals alike, looking forward to collecting beautiful things.
““We are happy that Beautiful Things 2022 will not only provide work and exposure to the 90 craft producers whose works are being exhibited but will also give direct employment opportunities to at least 65 more people such as curators, performers, security personnel, caterers and delivery services, as well as those offering marketing, publicity and technical support to the event,” says the Sport, Arts and Culture Director-General, Vusumuzi Mkhize.
CITYLIFE/ARTS on the eve of the opening of the exhibition, interviews the two curators for Beautiful Things Exhibition2022, John-Anthony Boerma from Art Aid and co-curator Mandla Hlophe of Malengs Holdings, .to take us though the process that has culminated in this exhibition.
CITYLIFE/ARTS: The process of selecting participants for The Beautiful Things Exhibition must have been hard, especially because you drew participants from all the country’s nine provinces .Any comment on the process?
John & Mandla: The process involved a call for submission sent via social media helping us to reach new crafters as well as established artists from every corner in South Africa.
CITYLIFE/ARTS: . Seeing that the call for submission received an overwhelming response running into thousands of people interested in participating, how did you come to the 90 that you have selected?
John & Mandla: The exhibition is taking place within a challenging environment and this played an important role in our selection process. We looked specifically at skills, new ideas and the importance of including all of our country’s beautiful cultures
CITYLIFE/ARTS: What was the main criteria for selecting participants?
John & Mandla: We looked specifically at excellence in skill and originality, this resulting in the choice of a beautiful object reflecting Mzansi and its people, cultures and environments.
CITYLIFE/ARTS.: The character of the exhibition itself, is multi-disciplinary, even though it leans more towards the medium of craft. How did you strike the balance in your curation, making sure that all the media are represented fairly?
John & Mandla: In our call for submissions we requested beautiful things from all mediums within the craft sector including mixed media. This resulted in us receiving works that span beading, weaving, woodcarving, wirework, glass, ceramics, fabric, jewellery design and re cycled materials.
CITYLIFE/ARTS: With regards to the entries, what would you say was the dominant medium?
John & Mandla:: Beadwork from various cultural groups in South Africa.
CITYLIFE/ARTS: . What are the insights you got from the entries and the interest in the exhibition?
John & Mandla: There was a great interest from young people producing contemporary work but deeply rooted in their personal culture and history.
CITYLIFE/ARTS: . I also notice that some provinces are predominantly represented, while others have scant representation, such as Free State, what does this tell us?
John & Mandla:: Many forms of craft respond to cultural heritage where young people are exposed to skill from a young age. In many instances this practice does not exist and thus results in less awareness of this cultural tradition
CITYLIFE/ARTS .Overall what is the curatorial objective of Beautiful Things Exhibition? In other words, besides the economic benefit to participants, creating market access for their beautiful things, what is the aesthetic objective of the exhibition, relating to developing art practice in general in the country?
John & Mandla:: We invite you, as you are inspired, moved and energised by the works exhibited in this Beautiful Things Exhibition, to let go and to lose yourself in your dreams. We challenge you to extend the boundaries not only of your thoughts and interpretations of the works you see and experience, but to allow your mind to be exercised and stretched so that you leave with even greater ideas and loftier thoughts of what, in the past, may have seemed mundane and restricted.
The hybrid exhibition comprises both a physical and a virtual component, for maximum reach and exposure. For those who are unable to attend the exhibition in person, please like and follow @beautifulthingscraft on Instagram and Facebook for updates on how to access the exhibition and the catalogue virtually.