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19 Nov 2015 10:04
Opening of the Nando’s Broken Monsters Charity Art Exhibition in Harrington Street, Cape Town. (Supplied)
It is hardly an unusual occurrence to find lengthy queues running along Cape Town’s Harrington Street, although the crowd
amassing in the late afternoon of Thursday, 12 November was noticeably different
to the usual throng of Assembly-goers. Instead, this gathering encompassed a
more art-inclined demographic, eagerly awaiting the Nando’s Broken Monsters
Charity Art Exhibition.
The exhibition won’t open for another half hour, but
the line is already snaking around the block. It is clearly still fresh in
everyone’s memory that the previous charity exhibition in 2013 sold out in 20
A staunchly democratic affair, there is no secret VIP preview and
artworks are sold on a strictly “first come, first served” basis with a limit
of one per person. Those in line are
waiting for the chance to purchase an original artwork by artists such as Brett
Murray, Conrad Botes, Kilmany-Jo Liversage, Liza Grobler, Roger Ballen and more
than 130 other well-known and emerging local artists for the paltry sum of
Some of the artworks on sale at the Broken Monsters Charity Art Exhibition.
All proceeds from sales are directed to the
children’s literacy NGO Book Dash, with each sale covering the printing and
distribution of 150 books aimed at children who are usually denied the
privilege of owning their own books.
Facilitated by Lang, participating artists
were sent one or more pages torn from a copy of Beukes’ most recent novel, Broken Monsters, using these however
they saw fit to produce artworks. As can be expected, there were a diverse
range of results. Some chose to stick to their established visual vocabulary,
others responded to themes in the book (such as doors between physical and
imagined reality, social media simulacra and bodily violence), while a few opted
to work with the text printed on the pages which they received.
Reflecting on this cycle of inspiration and
interpretation between her text and the artists, Beukes observes that “It’s
very humbling to have people engage with your work like this and put in such
time, effort and generosity for a really great cause.” She adds, “The idea of
collaboration ties into the themes of the exhibition. The whole point of
reading is that it is a kind of telepathy and you bring your own experience,
vision and your own perspective”.
Artwork made from the pages of Lauren Beukes’ book Broken Monsters. (Supplied)
Beukes has arranged fundraising initiatives
for all of her books, linking the recipient charities to the content of each
book. For instance, her previous novel The
Shining Girls centred on a time-travelling serial killer who targets girls.
The accompanying fundraising exhibition (which set the template for the current
one and was also curated by Lang) raised R100 000 for Rape Crisis. A central
theme of Broken Monsters is “the
power of story-telling and the ways in which stories allow you to be more than
you are” (as Beukes puts it) and it was decided that a children’s literacy
charity should be the beneficiary, settling upon Book Dash.
Book Dash’s co-founder Michelle Matthews
concurs that the two were a perfect fit. “The metaphor of opening doors to
other worlds is a strong theme and we aligned that with the ideas of literacy
and imagination. We want to reduce the friction in getting books to children so
that they can feel that the books are theirs
and can reach those first steps of feeling comfortable with information and
applying their imaginations”.
6pm strikes and the doors are opened as
excited viewers flood into the space to locate their artwork. Held in a vacant
shop, this year’s version affords more room to move around than the narrow Cape
Town School of Photography space which housed the Shining Girls exhibition. What follows is a bit of a frenzy –albeit an extremely civil one – as works
are quickly snatched up. The constraint of being limited to a single piece from
a rapidly diminishing pool adds a sense of high stakes pressure to proceedings;
hesitate and your work is gone. Of
course this is all part of the fun.
Of the 150 artworks on display, 120 were
sold on opening night. The remainder found homes sporadically over the next few
days. In total, the Cape Town exhibition raised sufficient funds to cover 21 000
children’s books. The Johannesburg incarnation, taking place on Thursday, 26
November at the Nando’s Central Kitchen in Lorentzville, will hopefully double
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