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He's a cultural activist, curator of Johannesburg Art Gallery and an avid traveller. Khwezi Gule chats to us about music, Morocco and more.

5 Minutes With the Curator of JAG, Khwezi Gule

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Khwezi Gule is the chief curator of the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), one of the country's most important museums of modern and contemporary art. For our #HLMyJoburg Johannesburg-themed issue in December 2018, we talked to him about the state of the arts in South Africa, and much more.

Khwezi Gule | House and Leisure

5 Minutes With the Curator of JAG, Khwezi Gule

What has been happening at Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) since your appointment as curator?

I have overseen the staging of three exhibitions and public programmes, forged new partnerships for the gallery, re-established contact and cooperation with our surrounding community in Joubert Park and galvanised the staff to work towards a common vision.

What is your favourite thing about your job? And the least favourite?

I like what I do because it is a tremendous opportunity to redefine what an African should be and look like, and because art gives me access to other worlds: the world of imagination and creativity and the world of ideas. The worst part of my job is having to leave in the afternoon to go home.

What's your view of the state of contemporary art in SA at the moment?

Art in South Africa has become more dynamic, with more artists popping onto the scene as quickly as others are opting out. Social media has made art more accessible to the wider public, but it is also harder to discern what will stand the test of time.

Any young artists you have your eye on?

I’m watching all of them at the moment.

What are your hidden gems in Joburg's inner city?

The Joubert Park GreenHouse Project (GHP) – it's on JAG's doorstep – as well as House of Movements (where the NGO Khanya College is based), Windybrow Arts Centre and Drill Hall.

What is the most exciting thing about Joburg for you?

This city is not only about survival, but means witnessing people from all over the world fashioning a new way of life. When I’m tired, I go to the Afrikan Freedom Station in Westdene or The Roving Bantu Kitchen in Brixton, or I visit African Flavour Books in Braamfontein.

What are your kitchen-cupboard staples?

Extra-hot masala, cumin, ground black pepper, rosemary, garlic and ginger.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

It was from artist Robin Rhode, who said, ‘Take care of art and art will take care of you’. Working in the arts has taught me patience – you have to take a step back from the forest to see the trees.

You're an avid traveller – what do you make sure to take with you when on the road?

I always travel with a novel.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Native Life in South Africa: Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion by Sol Plaatje.

And listening to?

Harari, the ’70s funk band of which Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse was a member.

If money were no object, what would you treat yourself to?

The entire Brenda Fassie songbook.

Which are the places that you've travelled to that you know you'll never forget?

Fez in Morocco, Valparaíso in Chile and Dakar in Senegal. From my trips I always bring back a locally made scarf or shawl for my mother.

And what's your next dream holiday destination? 

Lalibela, Ethiopia.

If you could change one thing about SA, what would it be?

The legacy of spatial segregation and dispossession that ensures the continued existence of ghettos. When I was younger, I used to think that the cowboys were the good guys and the ‘Indians’ were the bad guys… until I realised, as the African-American writer James Baldwin said, the Indians were me!

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Khwezi Gule | House and Leisure
A street in the Medina in Fez, Morocco.


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