Nasty Partition by Bongani Khanyile.

The KZNSA Gallery’s latest group exhibition What u say ’bout what? sees the coming together of new artistic voices from leading KZN tertiary art learning centres and secondary schools. It offers a fascinating juxtaposition that raises, but does not attempt to answer, the question: where do South African artists come from?

In keeping with the gallery’s ethos of “incubation, transformation, activation”, the curatorial process is facilitated by five intern co-curators selected for a mentorship programme under independent arts and culture activator, Bren Brophy. They are Mhlonishwa Professor Chiliza, Bongani Khanyile, Zinhle Khumalo, Jessica Bothma and Sumayya Rawat.

Tonight chatted to Rawat and Bothma about the exhibition.

Rawat says the exhibition is a platform from which young artists can have their voices heard: “The exhibition emerged out of the KZNSA’s aweh! programme which is a movement activated by educationalist and photo-grapher osmosis Liza (Liza du Plessis) with a vision of bringing together emerging and established young creatives of KZN. We wanted to know directly from young South Africans growing up in this fledgling democracy exactly what it is they’re thinking about, what it is they’re concerned about and what they’re doing and saying about these issues. Are these concerns being expressed? If so, how, and who’s listening?

“With Youth Month upon us and the aweh! programme gaining steady momentum, this exhibition promotes actively listening to the young voices around us and then acting upon what is heard.”

In terms of the contributing artists, Rawat feels the work is of a high standard, both technically and conceptually.

“Certain pieces in particular stand out when you consider that they were made by young adults at secondary school level, no older than 16 or 17, and in some instances with very limited access to funding and materials,” she shares.

As for Bothma, a DUT BTech student and KZNSA aweh! committee member, she has always known she was a creative person: “Being an artist is who I am. It is part or maybe most of my being.”

But like many artists, Bothma has also faced some obstacles along the way. Her biggest challenge as a young artist in South Africa, and more specifically Durban, is that there is a complacency among people and little support for artists.

“It is felt across the spectrum from a municipal level. Artists and their artworks are not supported (Andries Botha’s elephant sculp- tures at Warwick are a case in point), and so it trickles down. The ‘art’ crowd in Durban is tired and minimal and most people tell me to pursue my art in Joburg or Cape Town. The KZNSA aweh! committee are going to change that.

“The other factor is funding. As a young artist, I have big dreams and vision. Materials and tools are seriously expensive in my field and there is little to no support from my institution. But, art making is an enlightening process; sometimes you just have to make and then you realise what it was you were saying or feeling. We think not only in words and people forget this.

“Words can often confine our thoughts,” she says.

• The exhibition ends on Saturday at the KZNSA Gallery. Call 031 277 1705.