ARTISTS’ GUIDE TO CAPE TOWN
WITH CARLYN STRYDOM
Interview written by Valeria Geselev
What role do you play in the Cape town art world?
Currently, I work as a Curator/Gallery Assistant at Worldart Gallery. My role in this position includes mostly selling contemporary art to local and international buyers and promoting the artists we represent. But more than that it has afforded me the opportunity to engage with new artists, helping them navigate the art-world and to become successful full time artists. So, I kind of feel like my role is actually to help unestablished artists figure out where to go to better market themselves and how to approach galleries. 9 times out of 10 the work I get shown doesn’t fit within the genre at our gallery and I don’t like to be the person that just says no, so I always offer advice.
Which artwork tells best the story of contemporary Cape Town?
Some of my favourite works are those of xcollektiv who are telling a subversive story about Cape Town. They operate in the inner city and are vocal about the continued gentrification of Cape Town, which leads to displacement of many families and communities.
Where would you take a visitor, if you had one place to choose?
I would take them to visit my grandmother, who lives in Mitchell’s Plain on the Cape Flats, so they can see how other people live outside of the ‘pretty’ parts of Cape Town. There is a war raging on the Cape Flats that the government can’t seem to control or is unwilling to control or intervene in. I think that Cape Town needs to be seen for what it is besides the mountain and the beach. It’s a rough place for many people who are not privileged to live in ‘well off’ areas.
How do you see the role of arts in the social life of Cape Town?
Art comments on the social life of us living here. That is the role of the arts. There are two things to think about with this statement. First, if you visit any of the galleries in the inner city you will notice that the art on the walls is generally art to sell, so it’s appealing, it’s easily marketable, it’s sellable (although this isn’t all they are most times) but this also brings people together. Like at exhibition openings and on First Thursdays. These events bring people into art galleries to socialise and appreciate art. It encourages people to visit art spaces (with the help of some free wine, of course). So there is a real social aspect to it.
Then there are more socially active and aware artists, like Lhola Amira, Ronald Muchatuta, Jody Brand, ect. Who are commenting on more difficult topics, such as the female black experience, land dispossession, immigration, etc. (There are loads others, these are just a few I’m obsessed with at the moment). Which is what I think art should be about. It can be appealing, yes, but it must also be socially relevant. It’s an educational tool. So, art does two things here: it’s socially aware (educational) and it brings people together.
What is the most interesting thing that happened in the local art world recently?
Definitely the Dean Hutton ‘Fuck white people’ saga. It’s probably one of the more ridiculous things that have happened in recent history. So the story is that Dean had an art work in the National Gallery that said ‘fuck white people’, The Cape Party were offended and took Dean to court on the charge of hate speech but ultimately lost the case. It’s just another example of white people not understanding or even bothering to understand CONTEXT, of white people ignoring structural racism and of wanting to be the loudest voice with the most power.