/ 24 April 2024

Capital Art Fair Tshwane – A toast to curiosity, imagination and courage

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CAFT Chief Curator Lethabo Gumede in conversation with Dr Sechaba Maape, as part of the public talks programme.

The platform showcased the talent of local artists and fostered a sense of community and collaboration

Ever felt like you are part of something big, something very special? That is exactly how it felt at Capital Art Fair Tshwane (CAFT). It was not just an art fair, it was like a visual love letter to our capital city, Tshwane.

American art curator Thelma Golden once said something profound about building institutions not just in bricks and mortar, but in ideas and feelings: “As cultural leaders, we have built institutions not in the physical structures, but in intellectual, emotional and dare I say spiritual structures for years.”

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Restoration – Acrylic and Glass – by Thabo Mofokeng.

That is exactly what CAFT was all about. It was the culmination of years of dreams, passion and dedication by people who see endless possibilities of how to shape the city’s cultural landscape.

Walking through the fair, you could feel it — the excitement, the hope, the buzz. Need we talk about the frayed nerves? Perhaps some other time. It was not just about the art, though there was plenty of that, it was about something bigger. It was about celebrating our city’s diversity, creativity, and potential.

But none of this would have been possible without the incredible people who made it happen. From the artists who poured their hearts into their work, to the team behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to bring it all together to the supporters who cheered every step of the way.  

What almost marred the event was the last-minute change of venue from Menlyn Maine to rooftop of the 10th Floor by Summit, still in Menlyn. Despite this unexpected challenge, the organisers quickly adapted, reconfiguring long-standing plans to accommodate the needs of the event and ensuring that CAFT went ahead with as few glitches as possible. 

The inspiration behind CAFT was to create a platform that not only showcased the talent of local artists but also fostered a sense of community and collaboration within the city. The fair aimed to explore the connections between culture, art and humanity, inviting participants to engage with a diverse range of artworks and ideas.

And ideas were in abundance during the public talk sessions.  Reflecting on what Pretoria adds to the art landscape in South Africa, artist, curator, and lecturer Shenaz Mahomed from UP had this to say: “Tradition. That is definitely one of the things that is strong in Pretoria. By that I mean an interrogation and reflection of history and the Masters. If we think about the major art spaces in metropolitan areas, we think high-end contemporary art galleries. Pretoria has a more traditional take on art.  It’s not because it’s not keeping up with the times. What’s really appreciated or favoured here is skill and technique. Mastering skills and technique is important. We have a lot to learn and take from the historical collections in Pretoria.”

Dr Sechaba Maape, architect and senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), also pointed out that in our march to modernity, we should not lose knowledge of how to respectfully tap into the spiritual realm and give due regard to those who have been tasked with cultivating this treasured wisdom. He emphasised the importance of honouring our cultural heritage and recognising the profound significance of spirituality in our lives, urging us to maintain a balance between progress and reverence for tradition.

Blending that tradition with younger artists’ vision and innovative artistic skills, you get to understand a bit better what CAFT is trying to craft here. This fusion of heritage and innovation not only enriches the artistic landscape of Tshwane but also reflects the dynamic spirit of the city itself.

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Captivating pieces by Sandro Trapini and Arthur Dlamini.

One of the defining features of CAFT was its commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. From established artists to emerging talents, the fair showcased the work of individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines. This diversity was reflected not only in the art on display but also in the attendees who flocked to the event, eager to experience the richness and creativity of Tshwane’s art scene.

Throughout the fair, there was a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation. From the stunning photography of Arthur Dlamini to the thought-provoking sculptures of Sandro Trapani, each artwork sparked conversation and reflection among attendees. Whether it was the vibrant colours of Thabo Mofokeng’s paintings or the intricate designs of Collen Maswanganyi’s sculptures, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

The Sip and Paint session curated by PastelMint was a major success. Taking place against the panoramic vista from the balcony of the Summit venue, the budding artists chilled and focussed on their craft with the intent of creating their own masterpieces to rival those of exhibiting artists.

Not to be outdone were the children, who had their own fun in the dedicated kids’ corner. Paint and water and laughter everywhere. Way too much excitement, reminding one what it is to be carefree and have boundless enthusiasm.

But what is even more exciting? The future. As we look ahead to next year’s event, there is a sense of anticipation in the air. We have started something special here, and we cannot wait to see where it takes us. Let us keep writing our city’s cultural story together, one brushstroke at a time. 

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Rhudzani Madzanga guiding patrons through the Paint and Sip part of the art fair.

CAFT organisers have been diligently crafting partnerships with various stakeholders.  But one glaring gap has been with regards to securing funders.  The lack of financial support for the arts has emerged as a pressing issue, one that has only grown more pronounced in recent years. 

Despite the undeniable value of artistic expression and cultural enrichment, securing funding for creative endeavours has become an increasingly uphill battle. As budgets tighten and priorities shift, the arts often find themselves relegated to the sidelines, forced to fend for themselves in an increasingly hostile economic landscape.

What we know without a doubt is that a hostile economic environment breeds uncertainty and anxiety for artists and cultural institutions alike. It is a constant struggle to secure the resources needed to sustain artistic endeavours and bring meaningful cultural experiences to the community.

But even in the face of these challenges, there is hope. Hope that with perseverance and determination, we can overcome the obstacles that stand in our way. Hope that by rallying together as a community, we can usher in a new era of support and recognition for the arts. 

Visit the CAFT website here.