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Stitching the stories – Keiskamma Art Project Retrospective update

The much-anticipated Keiskamma retrospective opens at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill this 24 September 2022. With only a few months to go until the launch of the retrospective, the curators have shared an update on the progress of the exhibition, the workshops leading up to it and the condition of the Keiskamma Tapestry following the parliament fire. Read the full update from the curators below.

Dear Friends,

The Keiskamma Tapestry has been condition-checked following the fire in Parliament and at last formally approved for travel to Johannesburg. We’ve had confirmation of the generous loan of additional iconic pieces, such as the Democracy Tapestry in the Wits Art Museum Collection. Works based in Hamburg, including the magnificent Keiskamma Altarpiece, are in the process of being crated for the exhibition and transported to Johannesburg. And we are delighted to have received an additional grant from Business and Arts South Africa, for our exhibition marketing materials.

While we are still seeking sponsorship for the catalogue / foundational archive, we have been very grateful for the offering of written contributions from inter-disciplinary commentators from South Africa, Nigeria, the US, Canada and the UK, who have engaged with the curatorial themes in illuminating ways. We’ve also been very fortunate to have had Dawn Garisch, Founder and Director of the Life Righting Collective, conduct an intensive, three-day storytelling workshop with the artists at the end of June, as a personal donation to the project. This facilitated powerful expressions of the artists’ connection to the artworks they have made over the past 22 years. The sharing of stories was generous and sensitive, a cathartic and poignant experience. Hearing of the personal journeys, triumphs and tragedies, that have guided the artists’ creative process and shaped the artworks, we were reminded again and again of the relevance of the central themes of the retrospective: Dying and Rising, Light and Dark, Hope and Despair. We look forward to sharing some of these stories with you, with the artist’s permission, when we are in a position to compile the catalogue. A huge thank you also to writer and educator Kholeka Sigenu, who drove from Queenstown to contribute to the workshop and brought with her a deep knowledge and understanding of Xhosa folklore and storytelling traditions.

What a fantastically productive and inspiring week it was! In another studio, we had some of the younger Keiskamma artists working with Ree Treweek, award-winning animator, artist and sculptor, making digital artworks on an iPad. This workshop was an experiment to see how we can translate tapestry and drawing into the innovative world of digital art.

Keiskamma Art Project Retrospective
Keiskamma Art Project Retrospective

One example was a moving inter-generational, mother-daughter exchange between Nozeti and Sino Makhubalo, with Nozeti passing on her iconic cow motif that was transformed into a short animation by Sino.

These works are in progress and we will definitely be developing this idea in some exciting way. If David Hockney can do it with his computer drawings, there’s nothing stopping the artists from Keiskamma! In true Keiskamma style, both the writing and the digital art workshops allowed for deeply meaningful exchanges and learning opportunities, adding to the rich tapestry of life experience that defines the Keiskamma Art Project.

And so here we are, and the countdown to the opening has begun. Save the date of 24 September, if you haven’t already, for the launch of the retrospective at Constitution Hill. We will soon be in a position to send more details, including the opening time and formal programme of events. We so look forward to seeing those of you who can make it!

The Curators.

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