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MATTERS OF OBSESSION

Art-Mapper: What to see this December, in Johannesburg and Cape Town

A WU XI TIVI LEXI NGA MBILWINI YA MANI II (You Don't Know What Is In My Heart II). 2021. By Phillemon Hlungwani. Image courtesy of the Everard Read Gallery.

The holiday season is finally here, which might mean a little more time to enjoy the finer things in life. Maverick Life suggests an incomplete yet interesting list of exhibitions that you can indulge in this December.

CAPE TOWN 

Everard Read Gallery:  Open December 3-31 December – Oasis: 25th Anniversary Group Exhibition 

Art: On 3 December, the Everard Read Gallery in the V&A Waterfront opened an exhibition in honour of their 25th Anniversary. Boasting names such as Lucky Sibiya, Faith XLVII, Martin Tose, Speelman Mahlangu and William Peers (among many others), the exhibition promises to be an eclectic showcase of the gallery’s influential history. 

Titled Oasis, and a conceptual ode to the importance of galleries as a community space, the show will embody the dynamic and diverse identity that the Everard Read embraces, showcasing the old and established, alongside the new and cutting edge. An Oasis, reads the gallery’s website, is a sanctuary, a confluence, “a meeting place where ideas are shared; a watering hole for thirsty souls; a permanent place for the transitory — and a transitory place for the permanent.” 

Natural beauty: We haven’t forgotten that it is, in fact, summertime. Now that you’ve feasted your eyes on man-made visual treasures, perhaps it’s time to get a little fresh air. A few hundred metres from the gallery space is the Cape Wheel, from whose capsules you can see the entirety of the city bowl on one side, as well as the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Open until 11pm at night, the Wheel offers a range of Cape Town visuals, from white horses in the ocean at midday, Table Mountain at golden hour, to the sparkling city lights at night.

Fine taste: You’ve walked through the Everard Read Gallery, taken a spin around the wheel to watch the ample city lights, and now, to end your night of sophistication, why not grab a drink and a bite to eat at Cause and Effect Bar? The extravagant cocktails, shaped like rockets/ flamingos/snow globes and steaming with dry ice, are sure to keep in line with your day or evening of visual awe.

My Heart Dreams, 2021. By Nicola Bailey. Image courtesy of the Everard Read Gallery.

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Zeitz Mocaa: Johannes Phokela: Only Sun in the Sky Knows How I Feel – (A Lucid Dream) 

Art: On exhibit at the Zeitz Mocaa (Africa’s largest contemporary art museum harboured in an architecturally spectacular refurbished grain silo) is an extensive survey of Johannes Phokela’s work, marking the artist’s first institutional show in over a decade. 

Born in Soweto in 1966, Phokela is known for oil paintings that emulate the style of old Dutch and Flemish masters (notably Rubens). Phokela inserts African faces and references from popular culture into the immaculately mimicked classics, thus subverting our learned notions of what constitutes the canon. By blurring lines between the global north and the global south, high-brow and low-brow culture, as well as the past and the present, Phokela asks us to question our assumptions about image-making. Which images are considered profound and lasting? Who created them, who do they belong to? How is this inextricably tied to histories of imperialism and violence? 

While you are in the museum, be sure to check out Alfredo Jaar’s The Rwanda Project. 

Natural beauty: Like the Everard Read Gallery, the Zeitz Mocaa is based in Cape Town’s iconic V&A Waterfront. That being said if you need more of an ocean fix than the old harbour gives you, why not check out the Two Oceans Aquarium. The penguins, sharks, colourful fish (galore!) are certainly a visual delight; great for adults and kids alike. 

Speaking of kids: the Zeitz Mocaa (free for everyone under 18) is hosting a variety of child-oriented workshops this holiday season, including book and textile making classes. If you happen to go on a workshop free day, and maybe need a few hours to yourself to really delve into the difficult concepts that Phokela and Jaar explore, you might consider dropping your little one off at the Superpark, an epic guided playground for children under twelve. 

Fine taste: Nobu, considered one of Cape Town’s finest sushi restaurants, is right around the corner. And if you’re looking for something a little more low-key (and wallet-friendly), popular seafood restaurant Willoughby & Co is just as close.

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Norval Foundation: Irma Stern – Zanzibari Years (3 November – 28 March 2022) 

Art: For something a little more traditional, an exhibition featuring a collection of paintings by Irma Stern — one of South Africa’s best known (and most extravagantly priced) artists — opened at the Norval Foundation on 3 November. The collection features works that Stern created during her stay in Zanzibar around 1939-1945, which are widely considered the crescendo of her creative output. 

The exhibition showcases Stern’s colourful renditions of men in prayer, in groups at the mosque, sheikhs, merchants, fishermen, and portraits of fathers and sons. But the real power of the assemblage lies in Stern’s portrayal of the Zanzibari women, who she captures dancing at weddings, sitting in meditative states, or engaging directly with their portrait maker, and whose beauty and sensuality embody Stern’s exploration of the power of femineity. 

Natural beauty: Based in the rolling green hills of Tokai, the Norval Foundation’s permanent sculpture garden is a definite bonus when visiting the Museum. Get your fix of both natural and man-made beauty (as well as that good summer sun) all in one go by taking a packed lunch to eat next to an epic work by Villa, Steyn, Kentridge, and works by many other renowned artists. 

Need a little more? Silvermine Reservoir is a short eight-minute drive (and easy but beautiful hike) away. Take a dip in the lake, whose waters are far less icy than those of the Cape Town beaches, and which is still and safe for kids.

Speaking of kids: Like Zeitz Mocaa, Norval Foundation is dedicated to involving kids in the fine and contemporary art experience. Further, it’s not too out of the way to stop at Muizenberg beach on the way home to let your little ones jump around in the waves.

Fine taste: The Norval Foundation boasts its own fine dining in the form of the highly commended Skotnes restaurant. Also close by is Tryn, fine dining, located on Steenberg wine estate. Its rolling lawns and games promise a fine time for all ages.

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99 Loop Gallery: Chris Denovan — Escape Island Right Now! (1 December – 22 January 2022) 

Art: On 1 December, 99 Loop Gallery opened an exhibition that displays the talent of young and upcoming Cape Town local, Chris Denovan.

Titled Escape Island Right Now!, Denovan’s work invites viewers to join him on an imaginative journey to an alternate reality painted in the bright and playful blue tones of an island paradise. Mixing figurative symbols of antiquity and the contemporary moment into abstracted shapes and colours, the exhibition is an immersive moment of escapism, a definite pull after the stress of the last year. 

The work also touches on a major theme that has come up over the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic: what does it mean to be trapped? What does it mean to escape? As we’ve all become increasingly aware, it doesn’t take a desert island to feel alone and stuck. But maybe, as Denovan’s work insinuates, it doesn’t take a beach to escape to an island paradise, either. 

Natural beauty: A slow ten-minute walk from the gallery are the company gardens, one of Cape Town’s oldest urban greenspaces, and full to the brim of both greenery and history (great people-watching opportunities, too!) 

Fine taste: 99 Loop is located in the centre of town and is thus, understandably, surrounded by masses of wonderful eating opportunities. In the mood for fine dining? Try out Chef’s Warehouse. Something more casual? Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room. Want to stick with the theme of a tropical getaway? Grab some lobster at Burger & Lobster or a perfectly plated fish at Sea Breeze. Or maybe you just want a nice cup of coffee/hot chocolate… And Honest Chocolate is the place for you.

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JOHANNESBURG

Stevenson Gallery: Paulo Nazareth: Intaka Endala Ephezu’ Komkhombe Omhlophe (27 November – 28 January 2022) 

Art: On show at Stevenson Gallery Johannesburg is a solo exhibition by Afro-Brazilian artist Paulo Nazareth, whose work dutifully follows the sticky traces of colonial violence in the contemporary (postcolonial) moment to their dark and ugly historical base. The title of the exhibition, which translates to “an old bird on top of a white rhinoceros” is a fitting metaphor for a visual investigation of the difficult relationship between immediate needs of life and the assumed requirements of a contemporary moment that is governed by white supremacy in the Global South. Which aspects of colonial legacy are valuable today? Which are parasitic? 

Natural beauty: To fully digest the intensity of the exhibition, we suggest that you take a tranquil stroll around Zoo Lake — the fresh air, still waters, and gleeful shouts of families enjoying the park might offer some perspective. 

Fine taste: Try out the close-by La Boqueria, whose website claims is a “love letter to Hispanic food.” Offering a huge variety of market food (from Mexican to Argentinian, to Peruvian and more) La Boqueria promises to cater to a wide range of tastes. Remember to bring your friends — La Boqueria “leans towards feasting.”

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David Krut Gallery: ‘Creature Feature’, group exhibition (6 November — 29 January 2021) 

Art: Even if you do not have a beloved pet awaiting your return home, a visit to this exhibition will certainly have you musing over the special connection that humans have shared with other species of the animal kingdom since before recorded history.

Artists such as Nina Torr, Claire Waters, Adele Van Heerden, and many more explore these multiple but distinctive relationships through depictions of human observation of animal and vice versa. Baboons in suits portraying human traits, people growling like dogs, self-portraits with pets; the visual manifestations of these relationships are multitudinous. An added bonus is that you will surely meet one of the four resident cats that stalk around the gallery, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of “the robin”, a friendly avian regular. 

Natural beauty: Speaking of avian friends, an eight-minute drive away from David Krut gallery is the James and Ethel Gray Park, a former bird sanctuary whose luscious forest is still home to many a gorgeous feathered friend. Take a picnic blanket, some snacks, and a pair of binoculars to get some quality bird-watching time. 

Fine taste: If you don’t feel like dining in the great outdoors, Gabriella’s Tea Room and its cosy, plant-filled interior might offer some form of in-between. Go for breakfast and order a cup of tea, a slice of homemade cake or the gluten-free vanilla-scented crumpets and feel as if you are eating at a loving relative’s house with a cat purring on your knee. 

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Goodman Gallery: Clive Van Den Berg: Underscape (20 November — 15 January 2022) 

Art: Underscape, a series of paintings by artist, curator, and designer Clive Van Den Berg opened at the Goodman Gallery on 20 November, showcasing the artist’s experimental take on landscape art. Den Berg is accustomed to working on large scale projects that combine the knowledge of a diverse range of experts such as urban planners, policymakers, and architects. 

This holistic approach to creativity is reflected in Den Berg’s landscapes, whose ruptured patterns and scratched surfaces look very different to traditional works of the genre. The artist separates land into two spheres: above ground and below. Conceptually, the above is the idealized surface of the earth, and relates to oppressive colonial means of mapping and depicting occupied land. The below, on the other hand, represents the brewing, broiling, and unresolved issues found beneath. Den Berg’s representations attempt a “peeling back” of the surface, or a porousness of land. Like bodies, landscapes carry scars and memories — Den Berg’s landscapes ask us to question what these mean to us in a postcolonial context. 

From Luanshy, a small mining town in Zambia, and now living in Johannesburg, the “largest of all mining towns”, Den Berg writes that “perhaps it is the occasional shaking of the land […] or indeed the sudden appearance of sinkholes, the most compelling of negative spaces that first made me curious about that other landscape, the underscape.”

Historical (un)beauty: In line with themes of land and memory, just around the corner is the historical site of Constitution Hill, a museum that commemorates the site of the old, oppressive prison that once held the likes of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Thambo and many other freedom fighters. Take a wander around the museum’s sites to better understand the unresolved below of South Africa’s not too distant history. 

Fine taste: Another, more (literally) palatable way of connecting to the history of our nation is through the quintessentially South African food served at award-winning restaurant, Marble. Boasting the slogan, “meat and flame enthusiasts”, the restaurant’s major pull is its massive woodfire grill on which all of the food is artfully and meticulously roasted. DM/ML

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