Uncontained: opening the Community Arts Project archive

  • Posted: Aug 4, 2012

Uncontained: opening the Community Arts Project archive

‘Uncontained: opening the Community Arts Project archive’ runs at the Iziko South African National Gallery from 16 August – 30 September 2012. The exhibition is curated by the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at UWC, a major research platform dedicated to the reconstitution of the study of the humanities in Africa.

The title of the exhibition, ‘Uncontained: opening the Community Arts Project archive’, refers to the opening to the public of a collection of artworks that has largely lain dormant in the storerooms of CAP and AMAC, and the re-activation of the archive from neglect by mainstream cultural history.

Most of the prints on exhibition are from the turbulent 1980s, the decade marked in history as the final push against apartheid. Many of these are visualisations of the anti-apartheid struggle, and were made, not simply as personal expressions, but as interventions to create awareness about people’s resolve to overcome their oppression and dehumanisation.

On the one hand, the resistance works on the show are reminders of an era in which artists responded to a crisis of the human condition resulting from apartheid. On the other, they offer us the possibility for thinking about the post-apartheid present, given the dehumanising legacy of apartheid. In both respects, they invite a re-imagining of political society in the face of unemployment, poverty, disease, unequal education, persistent racial divisions and new class polarisations.

These works therefore remind us that the question of the human condition is still at the heart of understanding post-apartheid society. They also draw attention to the silence of cultural resistance in contemporary times.

The exhibition, however, is not limited to narratives of resistance and issues of politics as it presents a broad array of subjects and concerns. As such, the show provides an open-ended and complex narratives about human experience, imagination, and social and personal relations in the world of apartheid and in its aftermaths.

In 2008 the CHR acquired an important and historic body of artworks – the Community Arts Project (CAP) collection, which consists of over 4,000 paintings, prints, posters, sculptures and drawings. ‘Uncontained: opening the Community Arts Project archive’ features a selection of prints from the collection, mainly linocuts, a medium intimately associated with the now defunct Community Arts Project movement and with modern black art practice in South Africa.

CAP’s emergence in 1977 coincided with the rise of the Black Consciousness movement and the new, more determined upsurge by urban youth against apartheid, symbolised by the student uprisings of 1976. CAP’s members spanned a range of anti-apartheid organisations and political persuasions. It was also a project subscribing to non-racialism and was aimed at constituting communities of a post-apartheid future. Open to anyone with an interest in creativity, CAP’s particular mission was to provide accommodation, facilities and arts training for marginalised artists and learners, and to develop the cultural voice of Cape Town’s oppressed communities.

In the 1980s, CAP artists played a prominent role in shaping the notion of “culture as resistance” to apartheid and promoting the idea of “people’s culture”. After 1994, CAP became a more formally constituted education NGO for unemployed adults and youth. Later, CAP and its offspring, Media Works, amalgamated to form AMAC (Arts and Media Access Centre), providing training in the arts and media to people from marginalised communities. When AMAC closed its doors in 2008, it brought an end to a chapter in South African cultural history characterised by a firm commitment to the idea that the arts had a vital role to play in the humanisation of systemically disadvantaged people.

‘Uncontained: opening the Community Arts Project archive’ is accompanied by a book, with contributions by mainly academics but also creative writers and intellectuals from cultural organisations and NGOs.

ENDS

EDITOR’S NOTES

Iziko Museums (Iziko) operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and 3 collection specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections which reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation which brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, as well as unlimited free access to individuals aged 18 and under (excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium).

COMMEMORATIVE DAYS – FREE ENTRANCE (excluding Iziko Planetarium and Castle of Good Hope)

 

  • Human Rights Day: 21 March
  • Freedom Day: 27 April
  • International Museum Day: 25 May
  • Africa Day: 25 May
  • Youth Day: 16 June
  • National Women’s Day: 9 August
  • Heritage Week: 24 September
  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December

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