CityLife Arts

Twenty-five young artists tackling contemporary issues at a Newtown pop-up gallery

By Edward Tsumele

The woman is bleeding, and there is a word rape written next to this figure of the woman in the nude. Next to this figure there is a figure of a child who must be five, surrounded by toys and the word play is also visibly written. This picture on the right side of this scene on the canvas is clearly an image of a child doing what children of that age normally do, and that is playing. The child is clearly innocent and clearly also enjoying that innocence. This is in sharp contrast to the figure of the bleeding woman in the nude on the left, who is everything else but displaying any sense of innocence or enjoying its presence in her current circumstances.

“This image of the woman in the nude, who is about 30, is a commentary on what young girls eventually face as they grow up surrounded by all the things that tend to take away that innocence as they face the world, especially these days with social media and  Gender Based Violence, which these days have increased in frequency and their violence.

The young girl, who is five years, is a young version of the older woman on the left, that is before she was scarred in life,” visual artist, a second year fine art student at Tshwane University of Pretoria Anu  Ayomidotun tells me. We were at the launch of a new exhibition at Newtown Junction shopping centre, featuring the works of especially young visual artists affected by lack of opportunities to exhibit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anu, who is originally from lagos, Nigeria,  is among 25 of these artists that have been given an opportunity by the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts,  Culture and Recreation through a new format of exhibition, a Pop-Up Gallery that the Gauteng Provincial Government is pivoting by giving an opportunity to artists who may be affected by the pandemic, to take their work to the market and hopefully earn a living.

“There was a call that we took out inviting artists based in Gauteng to send in their works for possible selection to be part of the Pop-Up Gallery. We will see how it is received from here, and that will inform the way forward. This actually is an example of how as policy makers we could work with the sector to find out how our policy formulation could be shaped by the needs of the industry,” said Shane Maja the acting Chief Director of Cultural Industries in the Gauteng Provincial Government.

The subjects on focus at this exhibition, which opened on March 10 and will run till April 10, 2021, are also diverse.

For example, Soweto young writer and visual artist Nomsa Motale’s two abstract pieces that, just like the exhibition itself, are not titled, deal with the issue of escaping from the burden of lockdown as a result of the pandemic.

“Essentially I am a writer and a budding visual artist who started painting while in hard lockdown last year. That was my way of escaping having to deal with the lockdown and the pandemic.  People when faced with a difficult situation react in different ways, Just as some sort of escapism, with some resorting to drinking and drugs. Instead , I decided to paint as escapism. And when I saw the call, I decided to enter and these two pieces were selected for this exhibition,” Motale told CITYLIFE/ARTS in an interview.

Another visual artist from Soweto, Mbalemnyama  Radebe is exhibiting pieces that deal with current political issues, such as the Marikana debacle that engulfed South Africa not so many years ago when police were implicated in shooting dead a number of striking mine workers. Her two art pieces dealing with the sensitive issue of Marikana are entitled Marikana through the Eyes of Children.  Another one deals with the ever illusive Joburg wealth that for years many a migrant worker from the rural areas of South Africa and neighbouring counties always believed lay underneath the earth waiting for them to scoop up.

Indeed this Pop Up Gallery has exciting works, and it is worth going there, especially for collectors looking for fresh talent that is not afraid of dealing with heavy contemporary issues. The art works are also well priced, and besides If you collect some of these pieces, you will be supporting the careers of young artists trying their best to express themselves under these difficult circumstances of the World pandemic.

.The Pop-Up Gallery exhibition is on at Newtown Junction Shopping centre till April 10, 2021.

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