Durban artists Cameron Platter and Callan Grecia. Picture: Kim Kandam
Durban artists Cameron Platter and Callan Grecia. Picture: Kim Kandam

Keeping art alive in the city

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Mar 6, 2021

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Durban - The Covid lockdown has had a devastating financial impact on galleries and museums in the city, and they are now trying to re-ignite the sector.

After a widely-shared appeal for funding on Facebook by KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts (KZNSA) Gallery, director Angela Shaw this week said they had a good response.

She said by using a three-pronged approach ‒ on their social media platforms, in their newsletters and in personal letters to members ‒ they had brought in small donations which have so far raised R30 000. They also engaged with companies to donate funding from which a business can benefit in tax, held art sales online and in the gallery, and supported the gallery's well known café in Glenwood.

"We are extremely heartened by the many comments of support and these ongoing community contributions," said Shaw, adding they also planned an art auction fund-raiser.

Local artists spoke out this week about the possible closure of such organisations forcing them to move to other cities to sell their work.

Local artist Yasmien Mackay says Durban could lose artists to other cities. Picture: Paulo Menezes

Artist Yasmien Mackay, who exhibited for the first time at the KZNSA in 2018 during her third year as a fine arts student, said the organisation "has aided me immensely as they've provided me with opportunities that have formed a foundation for my artistic career.

“The gallery represents and provides a platform for many local artists to exhibit their talents. The implication of the gallery shutting down includes many local artists losing motivation to practise within Durban because of lack of representation and creative space. Durban will lose many of our local artists because they will be forced to relocate to other cities to be represented by other galleries to earn an income. If the KZNSA were to shut down, the livelihoods of many local and upcoming artists will be gravely affected," said Mackay.

Artist Vuyolwethu Ndakisa says there is value in the gallery experience. Picture: Petrus Alexander Smith

Vuyolwethu Ndakisa, another artist whose first art sale took place through the gallery, said: "We haven’t been able to participate in physical exhibitions, actual exhibitions that offer our audience an experience that engages almost all the senses. There is value in the gallery experience.

"Artists lost the chance to engage with audiences and prospective collectors. We have had to adapt and rely on digital media. KZNSA has provided a platform for artists and opportunities that jump-start an artist's career," she said.

Artist Callan Grecia became involved with the gallery in mid-2019.

"They've created a space that fosters connection and collaboration without any of the pretension usually associated with a gallery space. It would be a massive loss to the arts in Durban as a whole, let alone the artists. Besides the gallery itself and the loss of that infrastructure for artists in Durban, we'll be losing a cultural stalwart. For artists, it provides access that we cannot necessarily get ourselves, as well as inside knowledge that helps young artists navigate the industry more effectively," said Grecia.

Durban artist Cameron Platter said the impact of closure of the gallery would be "devastating. Dire. Death. It would, in effect, be the extinguishing of the visible presence of contemporary art in Durban“.

Artist Lindani Nyandeni says the KZNSA in Glenwood is a benchmark for SA art. Picture: Supplied

Lindani Nyandeni said being chosen to be part of the KZNSA Young Artists Project 2 provided "a lot of exposure and assisted in launching my art career" with his first solo exhibition. His work has featured in exhibitions at the gallery since 2015 and Nyandeni said the gallery "has played a huge role in my journey as an artist. It has been a vessel of art, a source of inspiration and a benchmark for art in Durban and nationally“.

Phansi Museum director Paul Mikula said the organisation remained open, but would also be migrating towards a digital presence, adding the organisation was on an extensive fund-raising drive.

"Regardless of our financial trouble due to Covid-19, we are still continuing with our outreach project called ‘Jobs from God’ which so far has taught 40 senior learners from Klaarwater and Clermont how to work with clay and leather in the traditional way. Furthermore, 4000 of our 2021 Cultural Calendars, named after this project, have again been distributed to rural and township schools as it has been done for the past 27 years.

“We remain committed to our educational element and hope our digital transformation will help to make us more accessible to learners

"In these circumstances, our outreach projects are constantly having to adapt to new circumstances that make it impossible to plan ahead. We have decided to take this time to transform the museum to adapt to the new conditions which have affected most museums around the world," said Mikula.

Meanwhile pop-up, The Gallery in Ballito, will close on Tuesday March 9 after two exhibition seasons. Gallerist Jane Digby said they would go out "with a bang" which included a 10% discount on a large number of their artworks.

She added that their social media platforms would continue with "promoting workshops, artists and art related ’fireside’ chats“.

The final event at the Gallery will be the Durban Book Fair tomorrow.

The Independent on Saturday

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