Visual Art Exhibition: Continuing Conversations

The UJ Art Gallery is hosting ‘Continuing Conversations’, an exhibition of portraits from the permanent collection of MTN and the University of Johannesburg, as well as selected portraits from MTN and UJ’s joint Emerging Artists Portrait Development Programme.

The exhibition opens on 17 October and is curated by Niel Nortje, manager of the MTN Art Collection, and Annali Dempsey, curator of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Art Collection.

Following last year’s successful ‘Shifting Conversations’ exhibition which engaged with works of colonial and post-colonial narratives, the curatorial focus in ‘Continuing Conversations’ is on portraits depicting concepts of power, the juxtaposition of power and powerlessness, identity and body politics, perceptions of the other and the exotic, memory, and the masks we wear. Works included in this exhibition are by artists such as Gerard Bhengu, Reshada Crouse, Wilma Cruise, Phillemon Hlungwani, Maggie Laubser, Judith Mason, George Pemba, Cecil Skotnes, Irma Stern and Edoardo Villa. About 40 works have been selected from across the UJ collection, consisting of 1 500 artworks in total; and the MTN collection, consisting of 1 400 artworks.

Neil Nortje offers some context: “The MTN SA Foundation believes that forming strategic partnerships with reputable institutions such as the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, enables both institutions to maximise the impact of their art collections and ensure increased visibility for both. Furthermore, it strengthens relationships; broadens the pool of accessible services and resources to the arts fraternity; expands stakeholder engagement opportunities; supports the curation of meaningful mentorships in the field and enables the dissemination of knowledge for arts education utilising Information Communications Technology (ICT) solutions.”

In their aim to extend the reach and scope of this exhibition, Dempsey and Nortje facilitated three programmes specifically aimed at developing participation in the portraiture conversation: a Mentorship Programme, an Emerging Artists Portrait Development Programme and an Educational Programme, as Nortje explains, “Following on the success of previous collaborations with the UJ Art Gallery, MTN is proud to once again be working with this trusted partner. In 2017, we saw a successful exhibition titled Shifting Conversations, featuring works from both institutions’ art collections. The 2018 exhibition, aptly titled Continuing Conversations, sees not only artworks from both collections again being displayed, but also brought to fruition: a meaningful mentorship programme; an educational drive accompanied by an exhibition catalogue and learner material; and a platform for emerging artists to showcase their talents and interpretations of contemporary South African portraiture.”

For the Emerging Artists Portrait Development Programme, the curators invited artists – through a public call – to submit an artwork in response to, or in conversation with, modern and contemporary South African portraiture. Ten works selected from the 30 entries received will be shown as part of ‘Continuing Conversations’, alongside the Bhengus, Hlungwanis and

Masons of the world. The ten artists, in alphabetical order, are Lana Combrinck, Mogau Kekana, Hemali Khoosal, Neo Mahlangu, Modema Mayhew, Keneilwe Mokoena, Henrietta Scholtz, Nonukuleko Sibande, Selwyn Lloyo Steyn and Devlin Tim. Portraits in a surprising variety of media were selected – from oil on canvas and oil and sticker vinyl on mirror to microscopic prints and a video installation. The most promising artist will be awarded prize money of R30 000 and the other nine will receive R3 000 each, towards the development of their artistic practice. The winner will be announced at the opening of the exhibition.

In collaboration with UJ’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), the Mentorship Programme facilitated by the curators and the project manager, Rika Nortje, offered three FADA B Tech students in visual arts – Mia van Schalkwyk, Nico Ras and Alexia Ferreira – master classes in curating, on collection management, practical in-house label making and marketing. These courses provided the mentees a first-hand experience in curatorial practice.

Under the mentorship of the project manager and two curators, the mentees were also expected to design and run an Educational Programme. They had the opportunity to decide which age group should be targeted for this particular exhibition (and give reasons why), set up the educational programme and run the programme for the duration of the exhibition. An important part of the educational programme is to include school groups who regularly visit the UJ Gallery and to work within the budget constraints.

Continuing Conversations’ is showing at the UJ Gallery, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, 17 October to 21 November 2018.

OPENING: Wednesday 17 October 2018 at 18:30 for 19:00

Please RSVP via For any RSVP queries, please email or call the UJ Art Gallery on 11 559 2556

GALLERY HRS: Mon–Fri: 09h00–16h00

Closed weekends and public holidays

LOCATION: APK Campus, Cnr Kingsway/University Rd, Auckland Park CONTACT: UJ Art Gallery: 011 559 2099 or at

MTN Collection: 083 222 5325 or at Lindsay McDonald 076 1010 421 or at lindsay@invictuscomm.comVISUAL ART EXHIBITION: CONTINUING