The Nirox art park and complex, nestled in the ancient and beautiful Gauteng landscape around the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, has become a welcome fixture and important destination for arts and culture fans locally and internationally.
Since 2014 Nirox has presented an “Open Laboratory” winter sculpture exhibition, featuring a core installation of curated public sculpture in the beautifully manicured grounds of the park. Each iteration of this exhibition is carefully and critically considered, and this year’s is called “Good Neighbours”.
Following on from 2021’s international collaboration between SA, Morocco and South Korea, Nirox is presenting a show that brings in universities, public and private institutions across SA, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and Botswana to co-develop and present an evolving programme of exhibitions, residencies, workshops, talks and a concert.
The invitation to universities across the country to each appoint a curator to develop their own take on Good Neighbours, as well as private and public institutions in neighbouring states to submit contributions that examine the subject from their perspective, all brought together and given shape by Nirox’s in-house curatorial team, provides the unique angle on 2022’s theme.
Ambitiously, the “Good Neighbours” theme aims to provide a reflection on the relations among South Africans and our neighbours, by simultaneously focusing on the global destruction of commonality and the rise of xenophobia and parochial or selfishly individual concerns.
The idea of neighbourliness and what it means, the exhibition contends, has become central in a world where habitats are inexorably being destroyed; social media advocates and encourages narcissistic and disengaged interactions with others, including routine abuse; and the political classes seem similarly set on encouraging local and community division rather than co-operation. The upshot, argue the curators, is an attack on the idea of the “commons” — not only common interests but common spaces in which communities can mingle and interact productively. Certainly Nirox provides a great example of such a common space.
The exhibition and its supporting programmes interrogate and encourage such relations among South Africans and our neighbours to foster peace and commonwealth in the face of this growing global instability, but most urgently ways in which we can better understand and prevent the xenophobic reactions currently bedevilling SA sociopolitical life.
The exhibition supports the work of more than 30 artists in the main programme, 24 of whom have received production grants from The Claire and Edoardo Villa Will Trust to produce new work that reflects on the given theme. Collaborating institutions include the University of Cape Town, University of Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria, University of the Free State, Tshwane University of Technology, ELA-Espaço Luanda Arte, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, and the National Gallery of Namibia. The exhibition is also supported by the Portuguese Embassy to SA. Each participating institution has curated its own take on the thematic of the exhibition, making for an unusually dynamic mix and interesting array of work.
As is now customary, the opening weekend of the sculpture exhibition presents a dizzying array of related and curated film screenings, walkabouts, performances, workshops and talks programmes, which will continue over the coming weeks. Throw in gourmet food from the on-site restaurant, And then there was fire, as well as a range of artisanal food and drink offerings in the park, and it promises to be the unusual unmissable weekend and ongoing addition to Gauteng’s cultural landscape.
The opening weekend of the exhibition is May 7-8 and it goes on until August 31.
Visit here for bookings.