This would become the prelude and substrata from which new forms of collaborative engagement took off. The formation of nonracial initiatives, such as Medu Arts Ensemble in the early 1980s; Imvaba in the mid-1980s; and similarly, the more independent structures such as Thupelo, Funda, and Community Arts Project, were community-centred initiatives that not only taught arts in communities, but became critical banks for new forms and sensibilities, thanks to their “social and political backgrounds, in which they exist in the community” according to David Koloane. They were widely lambasted by white critics and “comrades”, for shifting from the dominant political and representational mode — an approach that had proven to not only be “useful” for the party line, but also for the market in the 1980s. “The implication of this discriminatory censure would seem to be that only artists from other race groups are capable of transcending realistic expression,” Koloane once wrote.
Ironically, most of these alternative community structures have now disappeared under the new South Africa, with the exception of Greatmore and Bag Factory Studios. With the pressure of gentrification and new forms of discriminatory publics, the very idea of “the community” places is indeterminate, unstable, and attenuated.
Though new structures of artistic training and collaboration have been created, it remains disturbing that black artists, as Steve Biko once said of black workers, still have to commute to the inner cities. Though a transitory mode, the recursivity of collectives, then and now, is predicated on the impulsiveness to react to present contradictions.
Though not politically affiliated, groups such as 3rd Eye Vision and Gugulective, in their articulateness, practice, and locatedness, mirror parts of the pre-1994 collaborative endeavours.