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Art, Fashion and Futures

Africa Day at the Iziko South African National Gallery

By Andrew Lamprecht.

Iziko Museums of South Africa commemorated Africa Day on 25 May 2023 by hosting an exhilarating fashion runway show to launch the artist-in-residence programme which form part of the exhibition: “Breaking Down the Walls – 150 years of collecting at Iziko, currently on show at the Iziko South African National Gallery (ISANG).

This Africa Day fashion showcase was a fusion of art, culture, and style inspired by more than 150 years of cultural heritage. The unveiling of the Phetoho Collection is an extraordinary line of garments created by the designer, Thabo Makhetha. Renowned for her sustainable fashion brand, Thabo Makhetha’s designs are an embodiment of African ingenuity and craftsmanship. Each signature piece from the collection possesses the power to transform, transfer, and transcend boundaries.

Africa Day fashion show at the Iziko South African National Gallery © Iziko Museums of South Africa/ Nigel Pamplin

The show was attended by numerous artists, designers and fashion aficionados as well as the general public to much acclaim. It was a wonderful bringing together of two worlds – fashion and art – in the space of “Breaking Down the Walls” and rooms of ISANG.

“Thabo is much more than a fashion designer who produces garments: she is a sustainability activist, whose creations fly in the face of a ‘throw away’ culture for high fashion as each outfit can be worn in over a dozen new ways, allowing new variations each time they are put on. She is an artist who positions her creations within a burgeoning arena where the boundaries between art and adornment – rightfully – are merging and as new technologies make for endless possibilities’ said Ms Rooksana Omar, CEO Iziko Museums of South Africa, during her welcome address.

Welcome address by Ms Rooksana Omar,  CEO © Iziko Museums of South Africa/ Nigel Pamplin

Thabo’s residency is based on original and ground-breaking research conducted since 2009 into the 150 years of history and culture of Basotho blankets. Thus, it is most suitable that she joins “Breaking Down the Walls”, which reflects on 150 years of art collecting at Iziko, and perhaps goes some way to filling in a gap that exists as a result of the painful colonial past that still haunts our permanent collections.

As one of the “Breaking Down the Walls Artists-in-residence,” Thabo will be participating in various engagements for young people, emerging designers and students, African writers and the public linked especially to national commemorative days. She will be in residence until Heritage Day this year.

Inspired by more than 150 years of cultural heritage  © Iziko Museums of South Africa/ Nigel Pamplin

The next iteration of Thabo’s residency will be the launch, on Youth Day, June the 16th, of an augmented reality “sculpture” showing social influencer and former Arts and Culture spokesperson Mashechaba Khumalo wearing one of Mkhetha’s creations. Visitors will scan a QR code and see the model in virtual reality in one of the rooms of the Gallery. Only visitors to the exhibition will have access to this work and the realisation of this project was made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Friends of the Iziko South African National Gallery.

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