Thursday, 12 October 2017

Opening Night | Sol Plaatje Art Exhibition

The memory of Sol Plaatje is a giving opportunity by his followers, scholars and enthusiasts all over the world. A man of a giant stature in his kind deeds, remarkable literary work, and love for his fellow man. Often undertaken at his own personal sacrifice…..that was Sol Plaatje, a man loved by his people.

Noble Existence opened on 4th October 2017 at National Art Gallery; the William Humpreys Art Gallery and is open till 3rd November 2017. The opening was attended by scholars of Sol Plaatje, friends of the gallery and stakeholders including family and the Sol Plaatje Education Trust. Sabata – Mpho Mokae an Author of the book “The Story of Sol T Plaatje’ published in 2010, made the keynote address that spoke to the heart and core of what art means to our society. Find his keynote address speech 'An artist as the righter of wrongs" on our blogspot.

The mood was definitely edutainment, such an informative, light spirited and unifying ambience as guests consumed art while appreciating the memory of Sol Plaatje, through a fine artist's interpretation of the man in a visual narrative about his life and times.

Visit the William Huphrey's Art Gallery to experience Sol Plaatje's Noble Existence. Opened 4th October - 3rd November 2017.

Adult fee: R5 Kids: R2

To get in touch with the coordinators please contact Publicists Guy PR

An Artist as the 'righter' of the wrongs

An artist as the ‘righter’ of the wrongs
Sabata-mpho Mokae

When a nation emerges from an era of repression, it has to go through the process of correcting that which had gone wrong and create a new programme for a better future. In 2017, the post-apartheid South Africa is merely twenty-three years old. It is a new nation, crawling out of the clutches of what the United Nations had termed “a crime against humanity”. Any major political programme, apartheid included, relies on the arts to get into the nation’s DNA. The arts give such political programme wings to fly. Paintings are painted and exhibited, music created and played, books written and read and films produced and watched. The programme to negotiate a new order, rebuild a broken people, will need the arts to give it impetus and be its lifeblood.

One could ask a question: what is the role of the arts in a transition?
Writing in Mohlomi: Journal of Southern African Historical Studies in Lesotho in 1990, South Africa-based Nigerian writer and academic, Bankole Omotoso points to the Western critic who wishes “to see African writing in the light of concerns of Western writing – the pursuit of the psyche of the individual torn from the community”. May I suggest that we paraphrase Omotoso and replace “writing” with “art in general”?

The argument here is that the post-colonial, and indeed post-apartheid, artist is expected to ‘right’ that which had gone wrong and produce the kind of art in which there would be no doubt that the artist himself shares common humanity with those he tells the story about. This argument holds water because it is common knowledge that there was a way in which the oppressed were depicted, through art and literature, and that the optical value of that was that the devaluation of these people made its way into the DNA of both the oppressed and the oppressor.

One ends up agreeing with Omotoso that the African writer, as well as the African artist, needs to have a political commitment to the rebuilding of what was once called “the dark continent”. Omotoso asks a question that he suggest we, the creators of the art intended for public consumption, need to ask ourselves: “how has your political commitment helped … to create viable and stable institutions for the achievement of the dreams of your people?”
Perhaps an artist in a nation that is negotiating a new order is, in Omotoso’s words, “a ‘righter’ of the wrongs that foreign domination and exploitation have inflicted” on his nation.
He also urges us to create “the basis on which later generations could consume”. This means that at the time of creating art, the artist is paying a debt to the future. In this instance, an artist is serving future generations. He is indebted to those who are yet to be born.

In the poem I Will Keep Broken Things, African-American poet and activist Alice Walker talks about keeping – and also owning - “broken things” as well as painful memories. She says “their beauty is they need not ever be fixed”. In creating art about the past, as uncomfortably honestly as possible, the artist helps us to accept a past that got us where we are. The oil-on-canvas visual narrative of Sol Plaatje by Giorgie Bhunu helps and leads us to accept the iconic Sol Plaatje the achiever as well as Sol Plaatje the broken man. It also facilitates our acceptance of the history of the South African liberation struggle that is so intertwined with Sol Plaatje’s personal history and individual struggles. It leads us into the past that we can draw lessons and inspiration from.

In an attempt to answer the question I asked about the role of the artist, let me quote what Holly Daffurn wrote in Times Have Changed: the Evolving Role of an Artist: “Art can be an escape from reality, art can be used as a chronicle of the times, art can be something we all can relate to, it can be a catalyst for change, art can be instinctive, it can feed our culture, it can reflect nature, it can soothe the soul. It can be an absolute indulgence and luxury, it can be anything you want it to be. The role of an artist is as mercurial as the artist’s inspiration and ideas, it changes constantly, evolving as the years churn by and adapting with the same frenetic pace as society.”

In Noble Existence: an oil-on-canvas visual narrative of Sol Plaatje, Bhunu is narrating the story of one of Africa’s most dedicated servants, a literary and journalism pioneer, the promoter of sobriety, a family man, a political activist, singer and stage actor. In this case Bhunu is joining the band of troubadours who wrote biographies of Sol Plaatje, from Modiri Molema in the 1960s to Brian Willan in the 1980s. Only in this instance he used a different art form to write a biography of Sol Plaatje, visual art. He assumes the role of an artist as the teller of tales, a chronicler of the nation’s stories.

But Sol Plaatje did not fall from the sky, nor was he an island surrounded by nothingness. He came from a people and his life and work became part of a people’s conversation that has been going on long before he was born and continued long after he was buried. It is perhaps worth noting that Bhunu has included, among works on Sol Plaatje, those who lived and worked with Plaatje. These include Plaatje’s father Kushumane, his wife Elizabeth, his children, his protégé Modiri Molema, his comrades in the South African Native National Congress and others. By so doing he has created a context, a Plaatje context. This exhibition’s importance cannot be over-emphasized. 

Thank you, Giorgie Bhunu for this important and timely work. Those of us who appreciate the work that Plaatje did and the lesson drawn from his life, will be forever indebted to you. 

(Mokae delivered this speech at the occasion of the opening of the ‘Noble Existence’ art exhibition by Giorgie Bhunu at the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley on October 4, 2017. The exhibition is on until the beginning of November)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014


Noble Existence a solo exhibition of 32 life-size oil-on-canvas paintings on the life and times of Sol T Plaatje by local artist Giorgie Bhunu opens at Stadt 1 Methodist Church on 9 October 2014. Plaatje was undoubtedly the most acclaimed African of his time as writer, journalist and fervent campaigner against the ills of colonialism. 

He was influenced in his political career amongst others, which saw him later being elected first Secretary General of what came to be eventually known as the African National Congress and delegated twice to petition the British government in England on the disastrous consequences of the 1913 Land Act, by his experiences as interpreter in interactions between colonial authorities and Batswana Kingdoms and chronicler of the effects of the Anglo-Boer War on Africans especially during the Mafeking Siege years. Plaatje lived in Mahikeng, misspelled Mafeking by colonial authorities, between 1898 and 1910, years that saw the whole country evolve into a Union and the foundation of the Apartheid years firmly laid. His first articles as a journalist were published in the Mafeking Mail and he went on to become editor in one of the first black newspapers, Koranta ea Becuana owned by Silas Molema. He also wrote his first book Mafeking Diary at that time. Sol Plaatje went on to write more books, tour the world and meet some of the most influential leaders in black history including Marcus Garvey and W E B Dubois.

Noble Existence is a memorialisation of the story of Sol T Plaatje in images, celebrating the concept of leadership exemplified by his life, captured in Modiri Molema’s definition of him – morata wabo, lover of his people. The images are largely taken from old photographs, a process which at times called for creative interpretation and improvisation on the part of the artists.  Stadt 1 Methodist Church was opened by Kgosi Montshiwa in 1885 and located in the original capital of Barolong boorra Tshidi is in Bhunu’s view the perfect setting for reincarnating the spirit of the time. 

Sol Plaatje stayed for some time in the house of the Molema’s known as Maratiwa, but finally moved to live with his family at Seweding.  Bhunu believes in community-centred art that sees his work as part of the history of Barolong, dictating it be located and contextualized within their midst. He is a graduate of the former University of Bophuthatswana where he specialized in visual art influenced by the works of the pioneers of black art like George Pemba and Gerald Sekoto.  The exhibition, the first of its kind, is part of a greater three-themed project involving Walls that Teach – a series of murals – and Veneration of Images, a celebration in sculptures of the history of local Magosi. Bhunu is advocating for the adoption of Stadt as a Cultural Precinct envisioned as a special creative economic zone.

The exhibition will run until the 7th of November 2014 and is produced by LG Creative Artists in collaboration with the Mmabana Arts, Culture and Sports Foundation, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF).  Among those expected to benefit most from the event are scholers, cultural tourists and general public – entrance will be free. For further information contact Publicists Lerato 0712748983 and Keaoboka 0726700711

Thursday, 17 July 2014



This signature project has been well received by the Barolong community, in its third phase #wallsthatteach has focused on a theme relating to literacy and the role that it has played in empowering the well educated Batswana old folk from the era of the first black man to fly in a hot air balloon Kgosi Montshioa (late 1800) as well as the legendary Sol Plaatje, and the Molema lineage. Amongst the first published newspapers in the Southern hemisphere “Koranta ya Becoana” is featured along with some of the most revered Setswana literature books that have shaped the preservation of the language in the Tswana region.

There will be specially organized tours come heritage month(September) and in counting down to the solo exhibition of Giorgie Bhunu called Noble Existence which is a body of work relating a narrative about the Life of Sol Plaatje and the Barolong Monarch. Famous for his memoirs relating a black man’s account of the “Siege of Mahikeng” that lasted several months with women and children massacred in concentration camps and thousands of Barolong who perished from the war famine. His book ‘ Mhudi’ amongst many other authors has been captured on the walls-that-teach Murals.

PAYT Trust has followed this project’s progression with close interest as it sparks an exciting era in Mahikeng’s historical background that is yet to be fully explored. As we spotted the wall murals under construction we also took a sneak peak at the state of affairs inside Lotlamoreng Dam. Needless to say that what was once a haven for cultural artists has diminished into a lost kingdom and Arts in wellness space that served a higher purpose through its originator Credo Mutwa during its time, now under threat of being wiped out of our memory and sight! 

PAYT Trust is part of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with LG Creative Artist, the Barolong Tribal Authority as well as the Department of Arts and Culture and various stakeholders, in creating a task team and cooperation between industry, government and civil society to develop this urban renewal project further. The essential characteristic of PPP models is the co-existence and governing through a shared economy versus an ownership model that benefits a minority instead of the majority. PPP is not an objective in itself, but an instrument for carrying out important projects that require capitalization and enabling a supportive environment.  
PAYT Trust invites you to visit the Old Town Mahikeng, a true cultural destination and a historical Batswana capital. In the summertime, it becomes a stage for open air concerts, shows of theater troupes and a gallery for painters.  Romantic lanes going down to Modimola and Disaneng Dam, while witnessing the breath taking sun sets, a perfect setting for moments of relation and after hours spent at #Walls-that-teach (drive by public art exhibition)
Mahikeng is also a paradise for sacral art lovers, a tour inside Lotlamoreng Dam will bring your spirit closer to the ingenuity of public art spaces designed to inspire and heighten your creative existence.
For more information regarding the Educational Tours and the #Walls-that-teach project email or   

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The journey to 'Veneration of Images' Part 1


An incredible "steel&plant" gallery museum offering a unique point of view to the rural existence and en-route to Groot Marico is a significant reference for the beginning of our journey.
What is found to be endearing is the perspective and use of materials in the subject matters at the Museum, items that would otherwise constitute our waste products such as used tyres for trucks, have been given a new meaning hosting an array of plants and living organs, symbolizing the undeniable cycle of life.

Concepts of the 'dead serve the living' can be interpreted in dialogue within the displayed gallery, which judging from the location of the Museum, is no more a visible attraction on the N4 between Zeerust and Groot Marico than a low key roadside nursery. To our suprice there is life and plenty of it....

As we make our way with our intended destination for this leg of the trip being the studio house of Masterpiece Sculptor Johan Moolman who is based in Groot Marico.The dialogue on the road trip did not disappoint and reflected on the minds of the young people living in South Africa. Suggestive input in these conversations indicate that the next coming general elections will mark the beginning of opposition to the status quo. Like any other trip conversations, scenery and good company are the x factor to any memorable experience....

'Veneration of Images' is a public art project that is founded by LG Creative Artists in North West South Africa, and in a collaborative effort with PAYT Trust as a Public Private Partnership (Triple P) initiative, that aims to tell the stories of the Indi people through genuine art. An African practice that has always existed which today is tagged Public art, through sphinxes, rock arts and artifacts that are shared objects, continue to define civilizations.
'Veneration of Images' features an extensive context into the rural life of the Batswana people in the form of Mural and sculpture artwork with immense contribution to traditional preservation.

The Project is in its second phase and can be seen at the Lotlamoreng Dam, a cultural village in the historic town of Mahikeng. Keep posted @paytafrica.blogspot for more on this journey. As we document this road trip it became very clear that there is allot to be discovered and published in rural SA.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Art in Black Africa

The art of sub-Saharan Africa has a long history, although it is difficult to reconstruct precisely because many works, being made from wood and earth, have disappeared without a trace and archaeological excavations, which could enrich our knowledge of the region, are still rare.

To fully appreciate the meaning of these artworks, it is necessary to relate them to the forms of life, societies and religion or beliefs that led to their creation or use.

Although they may vary from place to place, some elements seen to be recurrent and common to all African artistic tradition, statues are often figures of ancestors or deities and sacrifices offered to them to maintain communication with the other world, between gods and human, between the prescribed notion of the living and the dead.

Those Masks which are brought into the village from the forest are also displayed during invitation rites believed to guarantee social order, importing the value of community and punishing transgressors. The fertility of women and the fields is a recurrent theme expressed by Art. In societies with no writing system art offered material support for word, thus facilitating for the transmission of traditions.

While much attention is often paid to the forms, objects and themes of Art culture in Africa, it is very clear that the Artwork is almost never created solely for pleasure. These works are not the expression of the artist’s free imagination nor are they intended for the individual enjoyment of the collector.  Far more ambitiously, their creation and purpose is to contribute to the order of the world – the well-being of the community and to maintaining life.