Ithuba Arts Gallery in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, became a hub for collaboration and connection between South African and British art scenes. Ithuba, in partnership with British Council Connect ZA, invited three innovative, independent artist-run spaces from the UK to create work in response to the city of Johannesburg.
In February 2014, Lavendhri Arumugam, Director of Ithuba Arts Gallery, visited the UK, meeting with independent or artist-run gallery spaces in London, Norwich, Birmingham and Glasgow. Travelling with Katrina Schwarz, Curator, British Council, the intention was to learn about the British scene, to introduce the work of Ithuba and the wider context of the arts in South Africa and, ultimately, to identify collaborative partners.
As a result six artists, representing three pioneering UK galleries, were invited to visit South Africa in November 2014. The artists were:
. Kate Cooper, Marianne Forest and Marleen Boschen from AutoItalia, London
. Ami Clarke from BannerRepeater, London
. Gavin Wade and Stuart Whipps from Eastside Projects, Birmingham
The artists were hosted by Ithuba Arts Gallery and the British Council, who introduced the visitors to the local arts scene through studio visits with local artists, site visits to Johannesburg’s public, commercial and independent visual arts spaces and to sites of architectural and historic interest.
Building on this scoping trip each institution came up with a proposal for a project that was realised at Ithuba Arts Gallery in March 2015: LAB: An exhibition in three parts.
The contribution to LAB of artist Stuart Whipps, with Eastside Projects, was to resurrect a long obsolete Johannesburg photography lab Photo Colour Services.
Auto Italia created a large-scale banner for the façade of the Ithuba Arts Gallery. The image riffed on ideas of materialism, and of social and technological mobility.
Ami Clarke of BannerRepeater collaborated with designer /artist Jamal Nxedlana and style crews led by Pinky Tsotetsi and Don Dada to present a new clothing label, brand experience,a prayer to high fashion and a style battle throwdown #YaSho
At the heart of this project is a desire to connect innovative South African and UK galleries and practitioners in collaborative exchange that enriches the arts scenes in both countries.
The British Council’s Connect ZA programme celebrates twenty years of democracy in South Africa and marks a new way of working for the British Council. This new approach includes innovative ways of collaborating in a digital age, with an emphasis on reaching new and diverse audiences, pioneering a new way of seeing and understanding the world through culture and creativity