art, Interviews

Tumelo Mosaka on the local art scene

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tumelo mosaka Tumelo Mosaka

For five years, one of the Cape Town Art Fair’s missions has been to showcase emerging art in Africa and its diaspora while developing a healthy South African art market. Under the direction of new chief curator Tumelo Mosaka, the vision has become more focused – to make Cape Town a global, singular destination to showcase cutting-edge contemporary African art. Mosaka began his curatorship at this year’s fair by presenting Unframed, an innovative section dedicated to large-scale sculptures and interactive installations. ‘We felt the need to offer a viewing experience that went beyond the booth – something that couldn’t easily conform to conventional presentation,’ he says. Having spent the past two decades in the United States working as an independent curator, an associate curator of exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum in New York and a contemporary art curator at the Krannert Art Museum in Illinois, Mosaka took on the Cape Town Art Fair curatorship out of an intense desire to reconnect with his home country – and continent – both personally and professionally.
Nicholas Hlobo ‘Igqabhuk ’Imiphunga’ by Nicholas Hlobo

What makes Cape Town Art Fair unique? Its location in Africa strengthens local art markets, offers a platform for local and regional dialogue and establishes Cape Town as a gateway to the world. Artists from Africa and the diaspora want their work to be shown and collected locally, so this encourages buying and an appreciation of contemporary art in South Africa. How did you get into the arts? I became interested in art in the ’80s when censorship and police brutality were the order of the day. Protest posters, banners and pamphlets brought a different kind of awareness about communicating through images.
Jackie Karuti ‘You Don’t Look Like You’re From Around Here’ by Jackie Karuti

What could South Africa do differently to support the arts? We need to endorse existing cultural institutions and education, which provide a much-needed perspective of who we are and where we’ve come from. Has living in New York changed your perspective on African art? I’ve become more aware of my many identities and am now better informed about how I’m viewed and the ways I position myself. We have to be careful how we assign categories: they tend to either empower or discriminate. Do you experience the Cape Town and Johannesburg art scenes differently? They are very different. Joburg is a more dynamic, economically vibrant city with many artists and thriving galleries. Cape Town has a smaller art scene, but with a more international collector base, and artists tend to collaborate and use public spaces more. Do you have your eye on any new artists? Marcia Kure from Nigeria, Maurice Mbikayi from the DRC and Jackie Karuti from Kenya. Which local artists are doing well on the international market? By sales, William Kentridge is probably on top. Others, such as Nicholas Hlobo and Dineo Seshee Bopape, are getting a lot of attention. What’s your favourite piece of art at home? Something my four-year-old daughter draws on a good day. Something unbashful, bold, abstract and beautiful made with love, passion and desire.