In the broad understanding of the term, a raconteur connotes an impeccable and skilful storyteller. Such is what we are presented with in this noteworthy exhibition, composed of alumni and lecturers from the North-West University (NWU). We see the kind of storytelling that is mindful, intricate, and in some senses humourous. Yet this exhibition also has a serious bend to it in that it is of artworks that are essentially created during, and partly in response to, the COVID-19 pandemic affecting South Africa and the world at large.
This pandemic has, in multiple ways, affected not only our economy, but has also severely impacted our social lives and our psychic well-being, both as individuals and as a nation. This exhibition becomes an intervention in a fleeting moment of time – an intervention that requires us to reflect on our delicate forms of fragility during this precarious time. It is from this understanding that the curator, Amohelang Mohajane, presents this exhibition where she prompts us to take seriously the idea of story-telling.
In this exhibition, Mohajane attempts to stretch our minds and make us appreciate the importance of telling stories during times of crises. Through narration, there arises an opportunity to not only depart from the quotidian, which can in itself be exhausting but to further explore possibilities of how else to live – how else to persist during this time of uncertainty. Henceforth, in a sense, this exhibition is an invitation to explore the generative power of imagination and to understand therapeutic importance of narrating our feelings, troubles, aspirations, fears, uncertainties and the small victories that saturate our lives during this pandemic. The very act of story-telling thus becomes important as a curatorial undertaking as much as it is as an artistic one.
While it is uncertain what the eventual impact of this pandemic will be, and while the uncertainties that pervade our lives continue to persist amidst this crises, this exhibition invites us to pause, reflect and make sense of and work through these uncertainties with some degree of contentment. The artists and alumni – the raconteur’s of this exhibition – through their diversely rich works, all aim to pursue this task by rendering meaning(s) to this present moment.