Let us follow the humming bird

On our way up

Let us follow the humming  bird[i]  to find access to  sustainability and anchor the wave of Global interest for “out of Africa” Contemporary Art

The Southern African Art World and the African Contemporary Art all together has been canonised by a phenomenal wave of global interest and acquisitions for its depth, wealth and diversity.

This unprecedented formidable tide reached our shores during the last few weeks[ii]. The later had been generated by the alchemy emanated from a combination of a few factors as inter alia:

  • The quality, the depth and the diversity of the Contemporary Art on the African Continent.
  • A true interest.
  • A global artworld fatigue.
  • A relentless and gigantesque appetite for the new.
  • The constant need for value creation in an exhausted growth-based system in general and more specifically in the art market[iii].
  • The breathlessness of the Chinese wave.
  • The frenetic progress of the Information Technologies and the Social Media diffusions.
  • The multiplication of the Art Fairs.[iv]
  • The escalation appearance of African Contemporary Artworks in public, corporate and private Collections in Africa and globally.
The interlacing of these vectors, to name but a few, offered a fantastic nest for a fully celebrated delivery of a golden egg.  With an enormous amount of work, passion, love and care this egg will hatch our true inclusion in the Global Contemporary Art reality.

It is now our duty to underpin the wave by substance and content on one side and the growth of the audience on the other. Furthermore, it is essential to deeply root our buttresses in the many layers of our young democracy and of our art world.

When we succeed, queues will signal the approach to our museums like in Paris or New-York. If we want to sustain internationally, we will have to start by ensuring a phenomenal progression of our own domestic support. Which is already burgeoning at an Afrocracy level through the relentless efforts of Pulane Kingston and a few others.

Therefore, we need now to make sure our children are invited to our museums, artfairs and galleries and wish to come back with their parents to slowly erase the threshold and liberate the access to the African Contemporary Art. We need to include the university students and young professionals in our talks, presentations, debates and social media diffusion. We need to convince the public and private sector to display genuine artworks in the work environment and stay away from useless printed decorative matter. We need to establish a true and fruitful collaboration in between the variety of sectors of the Southern African Art World and blur any potential boundaries… as Wendy Fisher so often reminds us of. Let our art be proudly sold in our respective African currencies as a true decolonisation measure ( a euro or dollar price conversion can always be indicated in brackets for the global collector ). Let us furthermore encourage our artists to mature from the selfie’s age and, while rooted in our own heritage,universalise  their quest. There lie some of the keys to the sustainability of the miracle[v].

Without this genuine domestic support, enthusiasm and following we have no chance to remain at the table. As my father told me: we can if we want if we want it for long enough…

A special thanks to the voices of the artistic dispersion being the artists, gallerists, curators and to Pulane Kingston, Wendy Fisher and Josh Ginsburg, Wendy Luhabe, Mandla Sibeko, Laura Vincenti, Jochen Zeitz and Mark Coetzee, Standard Bank, First National Bank, their team and so many others who made these two memorable weeks a celebration of the beginning of a new chapter in our Southern African Art adventure.

In most artworks the work may reside in private custody but the art remains everyones treasure – Pierre Lombart

[i]The legend of the humming bird: One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest – a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest.As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless.

They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes.

Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.

This particular humming bird decided it would do something. It swooped into the stream and picked-up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire.

Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again.

All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, “Don’t bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can’t put out this fire.”

And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, “What do you think you are doing?” And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, “I am doing what I can.”

[ii]For two consecutive weeks we received some of the cream of the global art aficionados or the 10thanniversary of the Johannesburg Art Fair and the opening of the MOCAA in Cape Town. The closest we came to this level of global enthusiasm rests in the vivid souvenir of the first and second Johannesburg.

[iii] In the same way, the breathless socio-economic system ruling the world today is looking for growth potential in Africa to sustain a few more seasons, the quest applies to the Contemporary Art World…. Here is a comment made in August on “Our addiction for growth is killing us.” Jason Hickel on BBC News night on 10th of August : For years I have been waiting for the present economical and socio-political system to acknowledge their defeat and simply surrender. It is not enough to follow Macron’s example and change the people but not the system. I have also been waiting for the people to find the willing and able thinkers of our new models of society. I know this time is around the corner. I remain full of hope and trust in our genre. Anyway, life will continue its Journey with or without us. Is it that important. If the answer is yes, if we want to remain part of life, let’s together establish our new ways of being. It is becoming urgent….
[iv] The number of Art Fair around the globe has exploded. In many ways, this has had a phenomenal effect on the economic support to the art system. I am however perturbed by the creation of so many African Art Fair. It is time and far more appropriate to celebrate the Contemporary Art created in Africa by simple and genuine inclusion in the more “generalist” Art Fairs. Any risk of a form of Apartheid must be squashed…

[v]This is how I depicted the selfie in “For the love of Being…”: The Selfie is a cry of despair from a youth no longer able to believe in their own existence and their own worth unless proven by instant appearance on the web.

Written by Pierre Lombart