Building cultural connections through African literature and art
On the 8th of October 2019, the ArtLit International Exhibition took place at the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley. An event that would bring two continents together, integrating and engaging on their art from different perspectives while celebrating visual art and literature. Each artist had to create art that was an interpretation of African Literature ranging from short stories, novels and poems by African writers.
The artists who took part in the exhibition include Clarakhay Johnson, Xolani Kitsi, Derrick Bell, Chris Basson, Bongani Pierre Cloete, Rochester Mafafo and Bonginkosi Mthalane. The artwork will be on display and for sale until first week of December 2019.
The ArtLit exhibition is an idea that was fostered when Jowhari Trahan met with author and curator of the Northern Cape Writers Festival, Sabata Mokae, while he was briefly living in the United States of America (USA). They engaged in conversations about having exhibitions in South Africa as a segment under the writer’s festival.
Dining over wine at Batsumi Guest House which is centred in the heart of the Kimberley location, Trahan talks about her background and how her love and passion for the arts started. She grew up in a single parent household in Oakland California (USA), and was raised by her mother who is a teacher. Her mother has a passion for the arts, but for performing arts in particular, “My life has always been centred on the arts, my mother always ensured that I was involved in art by exposing me to museums, galleries and all kinds of artistic platforms that pleased our eyes with art,” says Jowhari.
Trahan is an artistic director, directing various photo shoots as she owns an art gallery, ‘Zarif Soulye Art Gallery’ in her home town, which showcases raw talent and has hosted exhibitions such, Phaces by Rikki List who an artist from Amsterdam as well as NUE (Nude photo art exhibition) and fashion exhibitions by local and international designers.
According to the two curators Sabata and Jowhari, their aim is to create a gateway for collaborations, open markets for artists in both continents and to create a platform for artists to discuss new ideas and tackle challenges facing artists globally.
“Jowhari has an eye for exceptional art, she has great networking skills and as an arts manager and curator she can make things happen. Her artists are able to rely on her which is what any artist needs from their managers. We started having conversations about the development of the arts on a Pan-African level in an effort to uphold the African diaspora,” commented Mokae.
The creative artist has a degree in Sociology and in Visual Communications and has worked for various magazines as an editor. She worked as a social worker for 10 years and in 2016 she boldly moved on to the less glamorous and male dominated field of construction. Her tale is one that depicts her versatility, determination and hard work, “This whole project has been a dream come true, I am looking forward to the growth that comes with creating conversations across mediums and to provide artists with the opportunity of exhibiting their work on an international platform with artists from different walks of life,” states Jowhari.
Rendering to a friend of Jowhari, Kelly Pascal, she says that the curator is one of maybe a dozen black female curators who contribute to the success of new and established artists, “She is fully committed to eliminating the gap between the two worlds through art and literature. South Africa has become like a second home to her, so it was only natural that ArtLit debuts its first exhibition there, by marrying the two worlds of art and literature, history has truly been made,” expressed Pascal.
Mokae says that once the ArtLit is established as an annual exhibition it will hopefully make the governors of the two cities see a need to establish and maintain a sister city relationship, which will open doors for artists and entrepreneurs in the arts and thus facilitate growth.