Susan Woolf’s taxi hand signs, South Africa’s 12th official language

Susan Woolf's Taxi Hand Signs Booklet

Susan Woolf’s Taxi Hand Signs Booklet

Every day thousands of hands stretch out along commuter routes across Gauteng speaking a silent language of taxi hand signs. The upraised index finger, indicating you are headed to town and the hand turned palm-side up, the fingers grasping an invisible fruit to signify your destination is Orange Farm, are read by minibus taxi drivers all the time and are the framework for a complex system of transport routes. Developed from necessity, and with ingenuity, this silent exchange of signs is the fundamental unit of communication for millions of minibus taxi commuters.  Continue reading

Willem Boshoff’s SWAT at the Goodman Gallery

The last time I wrote about artist Willem Boshoff I called him a messiannic bergie, and I meant that in the nicest possible way. Last night he was at it again, this time outside the Goodman Gallery in Parkwood, as the crowds rolled in for the opening of his latest exhibition SWAT.

SWAT, 2011 by Willem Boshoff


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“Space” opens at Museum Africa

# 201 Prove me wrong. I spent the evening at the opening of Space: Currencies in Contemporary African Art – Joburg’s big exhibition for 2010, at Museum Africa in Newtown. An exhibition with many weighty and connected sponsors, an exhibition for a world class African city. I have hesitated while writing this. I have thought of backtracking, of just being quiet. Continue reading

Joburg Art Fair 2010

#193 Look forward to one of my favourite events in this city – the Joburg Art Fair. Now in its third year the Fair has done for Joburg what the Design Indaba has done for Cape Town – made the city the capital of edgy contemporary hip-ness for a few glorious days. Last week I got a chance to talk to its founder, Ross Douglas of ArtLogic at his office/home — a real urban fashion statement in Milpark overlooking the huge circular tower of Egoli Gas.

Lawrence Lemaoana's Dancers on the Wall, 2009

Lawrence Lemaoana's Dancers on the Wall, 2009

Douglas previously co-produced William Kentridge’s 9 Drawings for Projection, and worked in film and TV. He came to setting up the Art Fair “through a strange series of steps” and was determined to see if he could wrest some sponsorship for an art event in a country where the big corporate money had long been earmarked for sport. The Fair was conceived of as a place where corporate South Africa and the contemporary art world should meet.
When he first started selling the idea one famous gallery owner remarked “I don’t know if anyone will come to that“.
An introduction to Paul Harris, First Rand CEO – FNB has been the Fair’s major sponsor since its inception – was the catalyst.
The challenges of holding an Art Fair in South Africa are not small. “How do you position an Art Fair in Africa?” says Douglas. For one thing there is no neighbouring art industry. Unlike in Europe, the US or South America the continent does not have a gallery system and most people’s perception of African art is that it is “craft”. The Joburg Art Fair was determined to change that – to shift the focus away from the folksy cliches of tourist art and onto contemporary work – art that makes a statement about “the time we live in and the place we live in”.
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The messianic bergie at Circa 2009

#167. Take in Joburg’s newest and hippest gallery space. Saturday morning and the sun was shining, the jacarandas dropping purple snow while artist Willem Boshoff held court outside the Circa gallery looking part messiah, and as a friend remarked part “bergie”.
I have spent months driving past that corner on Jan Smuts Avenue growing ever more intrigued by the ambitious oval-shaped building with its clean lines, spiral concrete staircase and it’s finned exterior. No cupolas, no Toscana Afrikana pretensions — just clean, beautiful lines, as they should be.

Circa Gallery, Rosebank

Circa Gallery, Rosebank

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Joburg's sculpture garden

#117. Go gardening with William Kentridge. With the temperature having plummeted to 7 degrees and the sun having packed its bags  for the Northern Hemisphere, hibernation has become the course of action du jour. Continue reading