16 December 2020

Well on 2000 people passed through the doors of the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg to view Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation’s public art exhibition, On Main Road, held from 21 November till 15 December 2019 in commemoration of the Foundation’s 15th anniversary.

Themed with relevance to the purpose of the Foundation, which is to foster an inclusive society that is empowered, the exhibition featured some 70 works of fine art, posters, photography, video, craft and design that spoke to the themes of inequality, inclusion/exclusion, fragmentation/cohesion, and borders and boundaries.

“We chose in addition to other activities to commemorate our 15th anniversary with an art exhibition, because art offers stimulating and challenging insights into these national issues that occupy us,” Mmabatho Maboya, CEO of Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, said.

“Among the works displayed for example were photographs by two 14 year old children from Sitjwetla informal settlement near Alexandra. For me, their works challenge one-dimensional representations of informal settlement communities,” she said.

According to the Foundation, the exhibition made for “a thoughtful interrogation” of the ‘main road’ “that divides us and connects us and that seems to define the aspiration and terms of an inclusive society”.

Other works, by the likes of Diego Sillands, seemed to posit the challenging fluidity of youth against the strictures of establishment; Dudu Bloom More evoked the violation of the sacred space of women and Ilse Pahl, their demonisation and subjugation. Mario Soares represented the marginalised yet dynamic inner city in the shadow of conglomerates, and Thuli Lubisi’s beautiful abstract, Breaking Borders I, spoke for itself in title. The dynamic of atomisation and communalism was evident in the exquisite technique of Sam Nhlengethwas’s Mbombela, as it was in Shumani Sidogi’s Irreplaceable II. The latter, like the works displayed by Nkuli Mlangeni, was also suggestive of the transformation of our known reality and the very human being by rapid technological change.

The Foundation hopes to build on this contribution of the arts to the national discussion on inequality, inclusion and cohesion.

Above left: Mario Soares, Even People of Johannesburg Still Fighting Against Poverty IV.

Above right: The untitled photograph of fourteen-year old Molly Lebea of Sitjwetla informal settlement.

Above left: Thuli Lubisi, Breaking Borders I. Above right: Dudu Bloom More, Pink Things.