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A free-spirited raconteur: Meet NWU Gallery Curator Amohelang Mohajane

CF: NWU Gallery’s current exhibition, Raconteur, curated by you, centres on the importance of stories and storytelling. Why is storytelling, both in the art-making and curating processes, so important to you?
AM: As a curator, you tend to become a storyteller with the different shows that are exhibited in a space, and since we have had to adjust to a new normal and learn to cope with the changes that presented themselves during this time. I personally had learned to deal with a few personal struggles like depression and I started a community project whilst in lockdown. I made handsewn masks to bend the curve and sold them to make money to buy vegetables for the disadvantaged. I thought it would be interesting to see and know how other staff/students and alumni members, were coping and what they were doing during this time. So, I conceptualised the Raconteur exhibition and opened a platform for everyone to share their stories and what creative things they have been busy with.

CF: In choosing the artworks for Raconteur, what criteria did they have to meet, or was there anything specific you were looking for?
AM: There really wasn’t a criterion, you only needed to be a previous student or staff to be able to participate. I was looking at any form of story that came from the individuals lived experience, any form of creative work that was produced during this time. And shuuuii. I was amazed at the skills level and creativity. The work was skilfully made.

CF: Why did the word ‘raconteur’ appeal to you and the NWU Gallery team as the title of this exhibition?
AM: I am a free-spirited soul, and through thinking of the title, the word just made sense in this regard – telling the different lockdown stories.

CF: What role do you feel art-making and the curation of exhibitions should/can play in times of crisis or general trauma?
AM: I think those two things are extremely important as the human is a creative being. We create stories to tell and re-create scenes in an expressive way. Be it film, theatre, poetry, visual arts, the creative industry has been the one that has kept us going.
     We find common ground and stories through these unprecedented times, I think that we have also dealt with our traumas very well.

CF: Could you tell us one artist, or perhaps one topic/subject matter, that is on your wishlist to exhibit?
AM: I want to start exploring international artists, but if I could host Mama Ester Mahlangu, Noria Mabasa or Gladys Mgudlandlu, I would be extremely fulfilled – that would be the highlight of my career.

Go back to page 1 of our Q&A with Amohelang Mohajane.

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