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We talked to visionary art entrepreneur (and bagel lover) Mandla Sibeko about the African contemporary art scene – and what makes a great dinner party.

5 Minutes With Art Entrepreneur Mandla Sibeko


Mandla Sibeko | House and Leisure

As the founding director of FNB Art Joburg, Mandla Sibeko is the cultural force behind one of the country's premier art fairs – events that are, as he argues, 'important because more than 40% of sales are now made globally at art fairs... [and] in South Africa, they play both the role of supporting a creative economy of artists and of education'.

We chatted to him prior to the recent publication of our annual art issue about this, and much more.

5 Minutes With Art Entrepreneur Mandla Sibeko

How would you sum up FNB Art Joburg?

FNB Art Joburg is a moment to allow us, after 12 years, to reimagine ourselves and our futures as South Africans when it comes to our art. 

And what about the contemporary art scene in Africa in general?

It's vibrant and finally getting the world’s attention – however, the most important moment will be when Africans themselves understand and celebrate this art scene on African soil. Art fairs are important because more than 40% of sales are now made globally at art fairs. In South Africa, they play both the role of supporting a creative economy of artists and of education. Viewers will be able to see the best of South African and African art from around the world. Visitors this year can expect content that is of the highest standard and a generally open fair for all residents of Johannesburg.

What have the most exciting recent changes in the art world been?

These have included Okwui Enwezor curating the Venice Biennale, and the change to build a brand-new fair from scratch.

What does art mean to you?

Art to me personally is our culture. When we are gone, all that remains is our culture. Artists are truth tellers.

What's your favourite aspect of living in South Africa?

A highlight of living in South Africa is that you can go through a full range of emotions in one day, from despair to hope!

Any hidden gems and must-visits spots in Joburg that you can share with us?

My hidden gem in Johannesburg is Service Station Café in Melville, which has been operating for 20 years. The best view in South Africa is from Westcliff during jacaranda season.

ALSO READ: Joburg's New Wave Of Talented Graphic Designers Pay Tribute To The City Of Gold

What does a perfect weekend include??

Running, walking, reading, spending time with family and, every once in a while, travelling out to Franschhoek or Stellenbosch, or anywhere in nature.

What makes a great dinner party?

When the guests come from varied backgrounds, and enjoy excellent wine and food.

What are the most treasured possessions you own?

A treasured item at home is my Italian chandelier from the 1800s, and my art and book collections.

Who tells the best stories?

The greatest storyteller is a tie between Ben Okri and Hugh Masekela. Both brilliant.

What do you most enjoy about travelling?

Travelling abroad is always inspiring and allows me to dream of what could become of my country one day. And I never miss a chance to eat a bagel when landing in New York City.

ALSO READ: A Colourful, Art-Filled New York Apartment

How would you define your style?

My personal style is fit for all purposes, from meeting a president to hanging out with artists.

And the code you live by? 

I invest my time and money in my passions.

What are you currently reading?

The autobiography Cyril Ramaphosa: The Road to Presidential Power by Anthony Butler – an inspiring story of Ramaphosa’s life. It matters who our president is. 

ALSO READ: Sir David Adjaye Discusses His Hugh Masekela Memorial Pavilion in Johannesburg